When I was in ninth grade, I remember sitting at the lunch table with all my friends, and a college student named Mary came and sat with us. Mary was a student at Davidson College, right down the road from where I lived. At first I thought it was a little odd that a college kid was hanging out with a bunch of high school freshman, but after spending some time just chatting, I learned a lot about Mary. First, she was bubbly. She smiled a ton, and seemed to be genuinley happy. Second, she seemed interested...in me. Third and most important, Mary loved Jesus more than anyone I ever knew. I still to this day have no idea what Mary majored in, or much about her life outside of our relationship. But I knew Mary loved Jesus...and that was enough.
Mary was a Young Life leader. And she quickly became a friend, mentor, and spiritual leader in my life. I was raised in a Christian home, and went to church, but Mary taught me what it truly meant to have a heart seeking after God, and walking with Him daily. I started attending Young Life "meetings," small group Bible Studies called Campaigners, and went on weekend camp trips to Windy Gap in the mountains of North Carolina. I can say today that my experience in Young Life is responsible for strengthening my walk with the Lord and helped to lay the path for the rest of my life.
Mary graduated, moved to China for a year, met a boy and got married, had a baby (named Katie!), had another baby named Caroline, and remained a close friend through it all. She was there when I became a Young Life leader myself in college, and led high school freshman girls to weekend camp at Rockbridge in Virginia. She was there when I made the tough decision to step down from being a leader to focus on nursing school more closely. Mary was there.... It was the type of relationship where we talked through email and occasionally on the phone every few months...but picked up right where we left off and always had a closeness that I couldn't really explain.
Last year Mary and her family made the decision to move back to China full time to persue mission work and their passion for ministering to the people of China. I got to see her a few weeks before they left, the first time I had seen her in over 4 years since she got married, and the last time for...well, possibly forever. John and I made the decision to financially support her family while they were there, and we recieve monthly updates on her and her family and their life in China now.
Mary changed my life, and helped make me into the girl I am today. She is a woman that I admire, respect, and love so dearly and am so thankful that God brought her into my life through some of the hardest years of my life.
I'm sitting here thinking about Mary this morning, and her family. Landon is upset and I am trying to come up with a song to sing to him to calm him down. The only song I can come up with is a Young Life song, and when I sing it, I think about Mary, because she sang it so many nights at club. And I think about her family, across the world, loving on the people of China. I hope and pray that Landon has a "Mary" in his life one day. That teaches him to walk with the Lord, that its okay to be different in high school, and that teaches him to be a boy following hard after Christ in a world that says not to.