Happy Birthday, Mom.
My mom passed away in 1996 – but her presence and influence has never left me.
I am so thankful for a mother who saw past my craziness and energy and hyper-activity and saw only God-given potential. I can remember countless times when she would hold my head between her hands and though exhausted (exasperated even!) she would say to me, “Karl, if you can ever figure out how to focus all this creative energy for God – watch out world.” Even when my creative energy was getting me in trouble, she was instilling in me HOPE that God wired me the way He did for a PURPOSE – that I wasn’t a screw-up – that He made me for a reason! That I would someday help people, even if while I was young it meant getting in trouble for being misunderstood. Today my puppets do the things that once got me in trouble. People buy DVDs of toys doing things that I once got taken away in church. Through Kidology.org and the other things I do, I have so many creative outlets now to equip and encourage other kid ministers and impacts kids, she no way of knowing those things then – children’s pastors didn’t even exist then!
But my mom did. And I hung on to her words, sometimes daily, for hope when I felt discouraged. I am whatever I am today because my mom believed in me often when no one else did. (and dad too, but hey, it’s my mom’s birthday!)
Those who have heard me speak, have heard her words through me, even when I wasn’t crediting her. She is a part of me. They have heard the story of my call to ministry – when I said at age ten, “I want to me a children’s evangelist when I grow up,” and she said, “What’s growing up got to do with anything? You start next week,” and the kidologist was born!
I am thankful for a mother who saw past the boundless energy and unbridled creativity that exasperated most – a mother who through exhausted eyes and weary hugs only whispered in my ear, “Watch out world, when this boy learns to focus this creative energy, watch out world.” She gave me hope in my future when others told me to go stand in the corner, if only to get me out of the way. She caused me to believe in myself when others made me stay after school. She taught me there was nothing I could not do, if God was asking me to do it, and if I relied on Him for the strength, vision and ideas to see it through. She told me people would help me if I asked them. And they would follow me, if I followed Jesus. She implored me to make the Bible my guidebook for life.
On her deathbed she told me that God had given her a dream for her life as a young girl that she knew would now be fulfilled in mine instead. Like King David who wanted to build the Temple but had to let his son build it instead, she knew her dream would fulfilled in her children. My life was saved miraculously several times growing up, and those stories had become my bedtime stories… stories of her gratitude for me and of God’s Providence because of His Plan for my life. Stories that inspired me to live for something far more important than myself for as long as He would give me to serve Him.
To live for other children.
When I was ten years old, a children’s evangelist came to our church for five days of meetings. I loved everything I saw. (I even figured out a few of his magic tricks and built them at home in our work shed.) At the end of the week, I told my mom, “That’s what I want to do when I grow up.” My mother’s response: “What’s growing up got to do with anything? You start next Wednesday.” And she put me in front of the kids at our Awana club and coached me through planning my first lesson.
I’ve been teaching kids ever since. Literally thousands. All over the world. And I’ve been equipping and encouraging those who minister to children through Kidology.org – all because of a mother who didn’t think I had to “grow up first” to get started.
My mom went to be with the Lord on Christmas Day in 1996. On her deathbed, she shared with me that in Bible College God had given her a vision for a worldwide ministry to children. Like David, who had a vision to build a temple that he would not get to build but that would be built by Solomon his son, she believed her vision was to be fulfilled and built through her son. And it pleased her.
She was the first “Kidologist.”
Long before there was an Internet, she was equipping and encouraging those who minister to children, from Bethany Baptist in Chicago to Bellflower Baptist in California to Lorimer Memorial in Illinois to Moody Church in Chicago, and everywhere else in between. She was never well known, but her legacy lives on through every child I reach and every life I am able to touch. I must also include her sister, my Aunt Linda, who is pictured with her above and who was also a huge influence on me. She is now the Matriarch of our family. My mom’s ministry legacy lives on through my sister Melissa as well, who is pictured above as a kid next to mom dressed up for a pirate outreach. While she does not have an official kids ministry, she touches lives everyday by being a “big sister” to a needy girl, by befriending those going through trials, by loving every child who crosses her path, and by being the most awesome volunteer at whatever church is lucky enough to have her. I know, because I’ve had her as a volunteer in my own church, and WOW, what a volunteer she is!
I just needed to say, today, HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM, and thanks for making me a children’s pastor at age 10.
I’m still at it! Thanks to you, your vision lives on.