I want to share with you a private note I sent last year to someone you may not know. His name is David Sparks.
I’m sharing this with you for three reasons. I’ll give the first reason here––the second two after the note.
First – we learn a lot from seeing other people’s examples. I want you to learn from David’s example.
To give some background to this note, David was my middle school youth minister. Several years later, when I became a youth minister myself, he was one of the first calls––calling to tell me I was the perfect person for the job, to tell me he’d do anything he could to support me, and to invite me to a weekly youth ministers’ breakfast at Bob Evans (which he started and kept going until he moved away from Lexington).
Here’s what I wrote to him last year…
I’ve thought of you a number of times over the past several months. I think getting my head above the day-to-day workings of the church has given me a chance to see the bigger picture and especially to be thankful, and I wanted to send a quick note.
You have been one of my most consistent supporters and encouragers for nearly 20 years now. You gave me some of my first real encouragement as a leader early on in middle school. You were probably my most consistent support throughout my first few years in youth ministry. Bob Evans breakfasts were a highlight in my week. And then as you took your conference position, you gave me opportunities to get involved at the conference level. Looking back, I know you went out of your way to accommodate me in some of my early learning, and even when I was stubborn or cynical. And you’ve continued to send random texts, tweets, etc. of encouragement….
I’m glad you’ve always considered yourself a youth pastor, regardless of the official role. I’d imagine there are many others that you got to know in youth ministry and then have continued to encourage. I’m sure they’re getting much of the same at Bethany [his current church] now. So thank you!
Oh – and thanks for twisting my arm to keep playing Fantasy Football when I wanted to quit. I’ve got a feeling this is my year. [It wasn't.]
You see a lot there about support and encouragement. David believes in people. Sometimes that’s all we need. Just someone to believe in us––to tell us we can do something, to challenge us to do it, to keep rooting us on. I think that will be David’s greatest legacy.
Why has he done that? I think it has to do with how David believes in God––that God has created each of us with incredible promise and potential, that God can use us beyond what we would imagine, that God doesn’t give up on us despite all our past failures. That makes me recognize just how ungodly are any of my cynical attitudes, when I fail to trust people or give up on them too quickly.
So I’m sharing this with the hope that the rest of us might follow David’s example. Who will be able to send me a note twenty years from now and say, “You never stopped encouraging me”?
The second reason I share this – I sent this note last year because I kept thinking about David’s influence on my life and started wondering whether I had ever expressed my gratitude to him. For someone who had been such a consistent support, I wasn’t sure he knew how much I valued it.
Is there anyone in your life who might fit that description? Can I urge you to jot them a short note before the end of this week?
The third reason I share this is to ask for your help. A month after I sent that note, David was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma. Since then, he and his wife, Dawn, have been a model of hope and perseverance. Even the most discouraging bits of news have come laced with hope, often with a smiling picture of David (or even a joking video). See their Facebook Page –– “Dave and Dawn’s Army of Hope.”
Just today, they announced that David will be entering Hospice care.
I know that many of you don’t know David, but would you please consider doing two things?
1 - Would you pray for David and Dawn? I’ve made it my habit every time I receive a health update just to place my fingers on their heads on my screen––the closest I can come to laying on hands––and to pray for them. Would you do that, too?
2 – Would you consider making a donation? I hate that along with everything else, cancer can leave a family with an enormous stack of bills. Some friends have begun a YouCaring fundraiser for David and Dawn here.
That’s David Sparks. Real life example. May you follow that example. And thanks for your prayers and financial support for David and his family.