Last month I took time off to attend a memorial service for a church planter I met 13 years ago. At that time I had no idea how much he would influence the direction of my life. It's not that he led me to faith in Jesus, but he had a contagious vision for community engagement that had not been a key part of my life to that point. We were moving to his city from a smaller town and were intrigued to join the launch team of a brand new church poised to reach out to the community.
He invited us to his home, where my husband and I met with him over coffee and told him the story of why we felt called to move 150 kilometres away from our existing home. The day we moved into our rental house, he was there to help unload boxes from the moving van. This man walked the talk.
He shared with us the vision that Christians could reach out to their neighbours through existing community groups. One of those was the YMCA Host Program. We signed up to be a Canadian mentor to a family new to Canada and met a wonderful couple and their son from Iran. For almost a year we met with the family regularly to walk alongside them and help them with the cultural transition. The program was brilliant and had been running in the community for years. When we were finished our "term" with this couple, we connected with two other families. One was from Sudan and the other from China. These people continue to have a place in our hearts.
He told us about a small scale ministry to refugees that needed volunteers, and I volunteered there for two years. That exposure to the needs of real people behind the news reports grew compassion in me, culminating in opening my home to a person fleeing oppression in the Middle East.
In the handout I received at Pastor Adrian's memorial service it said of him that he was "an accidental and intentional mentor to many." The description "accidental mentor" resonates with me; this man was probably unaware of the influence he had on my life because circumstances and providence led us not to join the church he was planting. We did not have regular contact with each other, but whenever he came as a guest preacher he demonstrated enthusiasm for caring for other people, especially those on the fringes of society. He taught me what it can look like if ordinary believers get involved in their communities and not simply attend functions where they will meet people of the same ethnic or socio-economic group we are part of. His influence lives on, even as he lives on in the arms of his Saviour.