Remembering Our Friend

Tonight my heart is heavy. I'm thinking about our friend Joel who passed away last week, whose life we will celebrate tomorrow along with his wife, his two boys, and the many, many people who loved him. He was my youth pastor for a time in high school, and I was surprised when we ran into each other about four years ago. Robby was searching for a college group for our recently graduated students, and we found Elevate, a young adult para-church ministry held at Cafe 210. On the very first night we attended, there was Joel, preaching. He was the one who began Elevate, recognizing a need for a place for young people in the Visalia area to connect and engage. Joel remembered me (pretty amazing since it had been close to fifteen years), and he and Robby quickly connected. He was eager to get Rob plugged in and serving, and almost immediately Robby started leading a small group. That led to playing on the worship team and becoming part of the leadership team. Last year, Joel felt that he needed to step back from Elevate (he was the new pastor of a church plant in Exeter), and Robby continued the ministry, staying connected with Joel and others in the Elevate leadership. Today, I remembered that I wrote about one of the messages Joel shared in that first year we attended. When I went back and found it, I couldn't believe that my post was from September 22 of 2010, almost four years ago exactly. That year was tough for Robby and me. One night Joel talked about Zechariah and Elizabeth, one of the passages of Scripture I hold most dear. This is what I wrote:
Two weeks ago at Elevate, the message was on Luke 1, the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth and God's promise to them to have a son, whom we know is John. I love that passage and even wrote a post about it earlier in the year. I can hardly hear it or read it without crying because I think of their desperate plea for a child, and God's gracious response to them, a response that was nothing they would have ever expected. I know God wanted me to hear that message and be reminded of His faithfulness and goodness. But something else stood out to me: the pastor talked about letting our dreams and plans go so that we may be part of God's plan. He said that God's plan will happen regardless of our decision, but we may choose to be part of what He is doing and let go of what we think our life should look like.
I can remember what it felt like that night, sitting at Elevate and hearing those words. They meant so much to me then, and even more to me now. I think of how Joel fulfilled what he preached, how he chose to be part of God's plan during his life, remained faithful and strong in the Lord even when life didn't turn out the way we would expect. Cancer is never what we plan or expect, is it? I am heartbroken over the loss of our friend, yet I am encouraged that he not only spoke these words, but believed them. He believed in God's faithfulness and goodness, and he believed that God's plan was always worth following. He made sure he was a person who was part of whatever God was doing, no matter what. That is what I'm holding to tonight: God is faithful and good, and His plan is always worth following. I want to be a person who is part of whatever God is doing, no matter what.


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