Reflections on our trip to the Bay Area

June 6. I haven't written in a week. It's been a difficult week to describe. We woke up Wednesday morning for our 6:40 am train from Spello to the airport in Rome and caught our Delta flight at noon. We changed flights in JFK and arrived at SFO at 11:15pm. It was a long day--we were picked up by friends who took us to another friend's home and loaned us a car for the weekend. We're grateful for good friends who are willing to help.

As we thought about coming back to California for Geoff's memorial service, we had to figure out whether this was a distraction to our sabbatical or a new leg of our sabbatical designed by God. I don't think this hasn't been a distraction from our sabbatical--it has been a highlight. If a pilgrimage is traveling to a destination for the love of God and it includes seeing God at work, being surprised, being led and celebrating God's work, then I wanted to reflect today on how this has been part of our pilgrimage.
God was at work in the orchestration and timing of the service. Geoff's dad, brother, four friends, Matt, Emily and Kate, described Geoff's contributions, his personality, his faith and his passion. Amy and I had the chance to get caught up with Kendra and the rest of the family, to reflect on Geoff's life and prepare a message that honored Geoff and the Lord at work in and through Geoff's life. There were 1300 in attendance.

God is always at work and it's a privilege to be there when he's doing it. When we were leading high school and junior high students twenty years ago, who knew the relationships, the faith, and the futures God was creating? Geoff's passion for Christ made came out in the way he cared for people, showed interest in others, enthusiastically welcomed people into their lives, invested in his kids and created with Kendra family memories that will last forever. Geoff and Kendra took seriously their call to impact the community: the high school baseball team with sectional playoffs in the afternoon came to the service in the morning, neighbors showed up because they loved the Haskells, 35 year old men share with love and tears about their friend who encouraged and inspired their lives.

Letting go was part of our trip back. We had to let go of our desire to be totally disconnected and reconnect in meaningful ways with many we haven't seen in years. We were able to enter into the grief and sorrow over a twenty year old friendship and of a whole community and ask God to help us be there for others. God gave me a great gift early Saturday morning of having time alone to read over my notes and weep for Geoff and Kendra.

We also saw God at work in the layers of relationships in ministry. Relationships established twenty years ago tell of God's faithfulness and transformation. The greatest story is that God is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or imagine… He was at work through our efforts because we focused on Christ, loved kids, gave away ministry to student and adult leaders, cast vision for the church beyond our walls, and showed up. That's a great story that will be retold over and over again. I was surprised by the kind of reunion it was and the part Amy and I played in the conversations after the service: adults who attended from MVPC were parents of students, adult leaders, leaders in Mexico or staff who worked with Geoff and me. Students said their friends are only their friends now only because of the relationships formed in senior high fellowship. I was also so happy that Brendan, Connor and Sherianne were able to join us for the weekend.
Randy flew out from the east coast. He had been a Christian and out of college a few months in 1990 when I invited him to be an adult leader. He brought to the service a picture of Geoff, Maynard, himself and me from the early 90s. He said, "Mike, I just realized you were only 30. What did you really know back then?" We laughed. Then tearfully Randy reminded me that he and I are the only ones still alive in the picture.

Amy and I definitely knew we were supposed to go back to the bay area for Geoff's service; he asked and we wanted to be there with Kendra and the kids. We met with Kate, Matt and Emily on Thursday before the Saturday service. I shared with them my own experience of a memorial service when I was nine years old. I remember a lot from that service and I wanted to make sure they were prepared to cry and laugh and celebrate their dad's life. I wanted them to know we love them and they are special to us.

Our conversation with Geoff before we left on sabbatical gave me all the people, scripture, special music and the theme of the service to put together, so I felt led to boldly share about Jesus in Geoff's life and call people to follow him. I shaped the sermon around Geoff's two life verses: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you home and a future" (Jeremiah 29:11) and "If anyone is in Christ they are a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Geoff's desire was that people left his service knowing that, in spite of the fact that he wasn't healed, God is a good God. God did not abandoned them, but gave them strength and courage. God was good to bring good friends and helpful support to their family. Most importantly, God is a good God who welcomed Geoff into heaven and gave us all the strength to celebrate and mourn together.


Amen.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the musings, Mike. I wish my family could have been there to mourn and celebrate the life that Geoff led and the impact he had on my as I was forming my ideas of godliness and husbanding. Although I have not seen Geoff in eight years, I must confess that I did tear up when I heard of his passing.

    To God be the glory, now and forever...

    -Luke

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  2. Mike...there was only one person who could have helped make sense of everyone's feelings of loss and betrayal. You were the one who had the thread of continuity with Geoff and Kendra and in the course of the wonderful tribute paid him, you tied it all together. I was moved (but not surprised) by the large crowd. My goodness... Geoff had such a profound impact on so many lives in such a short period of time! And it was a wonderful reunion. So many familiar faces from a time gone by. Wonderful memories of Mexico and the incredible opportunity to share in ministry with you and Geoff. Thank you and Amy for all that you do. Our prayer for you now is that the remainder of your sabbatical is enriching and relaxing for both of you.

    In HIS Name...

    -Paul

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  3. God works in amazing ways. My prayer is that many will draw closer to the Lord, or will establish a relationship with Him as a result of Geoff's witness, and the witness of ALL the speakers at Geoff's memorial.

    Part of the scripture at Sunday's worship at MVPC was: "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace." (Acts 20:24) How fitting a description of how Geoff lived his life here on Earth!

    Thank you, Mike and Amy, for being such a strong presence for God in so many people's lives.

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