I just left a Marco Polo for Bradley. Some 30 years my junior, Bradley is one of the men God has placed in my life for me to pour into. He and I have begun to enjoy leaving frequent MarcoPolos for one another day by day as we encounter life, have needs for prayer and encounter questions in our lives.
In January 2010, Karen and I attended his and Bryna’s wedding, one of our daughter’s college friends. After meeting Bradley that day, I became part of a group of people receiving Bradley and Bryna’s prayer letter. The two of them, first, were serving a local church’s youth ministry, then, left to serve in the Peace Corps. I responded to their letters, praying, asking questions and we began to build relationship.
Their first assignment ended when a war in their country forced a return to the states. We scheduled a time to connect and share. God bonded us. They had become dear friends.
Bradley and I began to meet for long walks and talks. In these we both shared our hearts and lives with one another. Relationships are multi-directional. Within months, they left again this time for Bryna to pursue a master’s degree in the states. We again kept in touch. We sat down for coffee before they left for another Peace Corps term in an African nation. Early in this term of service, Bradley came under such spiritual attack, it necessitated an early return. We, then, met for some sessions of healing prayer and deliverance.
When the Lord led them to stay in the area, as Bryna landed a job and Bradley pursued a master’s degree, it gave Bradley and I more time for deepened connection. Over the years since, what a depth of relationship has grown! He calls me his mentor, but he is mine as well. In a recent phone call, I was unraveled from a life situation, and he offered to pray. In his prayer he said, “And Lord, help Brian operate from an adult not a child’s perspective in this situation.”
It was one of those brilliant moments of insight, illustrating to me what a gift it was to have such relationships. His prayer uprighted my heart that day.
Bradley is one of a few other men into whom I get to pour my life, and who continue to pour their lives into mine.
Sam entered my life when he was 19 years old nearly 25 years ago, seeking direction for his desire to attend seminary. That first phone call birthed connection, as I sat chatting with him at my office desk at the Banks Community UMC looking out at the sunshine and beauty outside the east-facing window. We talked many times over the years as he met and married his wife, Helen, attended seminary, welcomed four children, headed to the mission field, and encountered major life challenges. Over the years, he has battled cancer, faced off with addiction and found deliverance and healing. He’s called me internationally, before that was commonplace; I’d become as safe a refuge as he had become for me. Now, other than frequent emails and letters, we meet for long walks whenever he is in the country.
Matthew attended the funeral of his grandmother in Devon, England, in 2016, and there met and connected with a man who turned out to be my good friend David. Hearing of Matthew’s plan to move to Portland, Oregon for his doctorate, David gave Matthew my contact information. After hearing from Matthew, we invited him to stay with us until he found his own lodging in the area. The first night in May 2016, after dinner, as he and I washed dishes, I looked at him and asked, “What is this? It feels like I love you already, as if I have always known you all your life, but we just met.” He smiled and said, “I don’t know, but I feel the same way. It is as if you are my dad, I just hadn’t met you yet.”
Thus began a father-son relationship for us, which has continued through some difficult life circumstances in his world. Karen and I are bonus grandparents to his son, Noah. An overflow of blessing. Matthew’s birth parents are thrilled to have me in his life. “We could not replace you,” his dad told me, “even if we tried.”
God brought Caleb into my life through answered prayer.
I was struggling with a rotator cuff injury and my Naturopathic Doctor suggested getting physical therapy along with his treatments. I had begun to pray where to find one, when Caleb called the office with mediation questions. After I answered his questions and we chatted further, he shared he was a physical therapist. I said, “Well, I may need to contact you!”
A week later, I remembered to email him. Caleb, I discovered, had specialized training in using physical therapy to enhance the very type of treatment I was receiving from my other doctor. It was a God appointment.
When we met at his office, like with Matthew, it was like we had always known one another. He too calls me his mentor. But I gain as much from the relationship as he does. I’ve enjoyed worshiping with him in his church community and meeting up for fellowship and prayer long after my treatments have ended. He’s a brother from another mother, but we share the same Father.
I had known Michael for years, ever since he married one of our bonus daughters over a decade ago. He and I are involved yearly in a February retreat, and I have prayed many times with him at those events. Last September, he hit a wall and needed more guidance. We began weekly phone calls as I led him through steps of healing and recovery. The work healed and freed him up on so many levels, bringing him a new approach to life. In addition, it bonded us more fully together as brothers, deepened our friendship and opened the door to the blessings flowing between us.
God is good.
Looking back over these and the many other men I have mentioned over these weeks, I’m struck with the work God has done to take me from a place of brokenness and pain to a place of wholeness! And God did this through many means, but mostly through the gift of life-on-life interactions which continue.
There were, of course, other men God used in addition to the ones included here. Men who may have been part of brief conversations and interactions whose lives impacted my own. Like Kevin, a flight attendant today, whose joy in life, laughter, kindness and care shown me blessed my life. I’ll be carrying Kevin and his interactions with me.
This is the remarkable part of how God uses new relationships to heal the old, broken ones. It does not take a long time to bring impact. Like 25-year-old Zack I told of in another blog post who said a hug I had given him when he was 18 counted as one of the 10 most significant things which had happened in his life!
It reminds me of the constant need to be self-aware for I never know when my life might impact another’s, nor do you!