Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for your encouragement in my last letter. I pray it was an encouragement to you. I make mention of you often in my prayers. I am indebted to you in so many ways.
I've learned something since becoming a shepherd. I've learned how selfless you were. You gave me one of your most valuable resources: time.
Do you remember spending time with me while on the ship? Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night you had a Bible study for us. You didn't have to do that. You gave up your evenings to teach and shepherd me. You took me through the Scriptures. This was time you spent with me that was above and beyond what anyone expected of you. To be honest, I took it for granted. I did not realize how many hours you gave up to disciplining young Christians.
You showed your love for this young sheep by spending time onshore as well. On the ship, "downtime" can be justified at night. But on shore, when you were back with your family, you still gave me your time. Thank you for letting me stop by your office and talk with you after work. You were so patient with me. I remember when talking with you two or three times a week. These were not quick conversations, but you spent quality time disciplining me. Thank you for taking the time to answer my very basic questions. They were basic theologically, but the truths of God were changing everything my world was built upon.
These times of discipleship would have been enough for thanks. But, you gave me so much more of your time. You shared not only the Scriptures but your life. Thank you for inviting me into your home. You once said, imitate me as I imitate Christ. You brought this stranger into your home and displayed your walk with Jesus. Thank you for showing me what it looks like to disagree with your wife and how to work out differences. Thank you for spending time with your children and letting me learn what it meant to look like a godly father.
Do you remember when you let me borrow your car? You didn't just let me borrow your car, but you taught me how to drive a manual transmission. Who does that? You had only known me for a week, and yet you spent a few hours making sure I would be safe to drive in the snow.
There are a few resources we have in this life that are incredibly scarce. Money is one, and time is another. Money comes and goes, but time always goes and always seems to be in slim supply. Yet time and again, you gave me time. You sat down with me and discussed creation over lunch. You even took me with your family to the lake on Memorial Day. You invited me to your home after church on countless Sundays. When I didn't have a family, you opened your home and invited me over for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. I look back over those days and thank God for you spending time with me.
You did not only spend time with me, though. You spent time with my family. Thank you for shepherding Olivia and the kids. Thank you for playing with the children while we talked. Thank you for teaching them. Thank you for seeing how busy the young families of the church we were and volunteering to do Pastor's Day Care & Knight school each week. Those two hours were a huge blessing to our family in so many ways. This was a sacrifice. I recognize it even more fully now and am so thankful for you. We could not have made it without this time. Thank you for spending the time to shepherd Olivia. You were not satisfied with shepherding the husband but were also faithful in giving time to ask Olivia how she was doing. Thank you for taking the time to shepherd our whole family.
I can honestly say that I would not be where I am were it not for you. You showed initiative and effort to spend time with me. You gave up countless hours to disciple and counsel me. You prioritized our relationship and invested the time into me. I thank God for the hours we have spent together. You are still giving me time now. Thank you for your emails and phone calls just to see how the ministry is going. Thank you for even now taking the time to pray for me and my family. May the Lord richly bless you as you have invested your time well. May He who gave you little, reward you with much.
The saints here give you their greetings. They enjoyed getting to spend time with you when you visited. Thank you for taking the long detour to visit with us. I pray that things are going well in your new home. Please let Janey know that we had a great okra harvest this year and learned how to fry it like her's. How is Jim doing? I'm excited to come and see you all again next year. There is more I would like to write to you but will wait until we're face to face.
May God richly bless you and keep you. May you walk in the peace and assurance of Jesus.