I took my last run around the streets of Anna Monday morning. Runs always give me a chance to think and reflect. This brought a twinge of sadness to my heart, and as I think of moving away from Anna and Shelby County I thought – with much joy – of the people of this area who have helped me along the way, supported me in many endeavors, been there when I needed help, and prayed with and for me many times.
My wife, Janice, and I graduated from Anna in 1973. We were both blessed to have been able to come back to Shelby County to pursue our passion – teaching. I taught in the elementary in Anna and Janice taught first graders in Botkins. For 35 years we were blessed to work in such wonderful, caring school systems. I had the pleasure of watching many young people see their hard work pay off in sports, as I coached basketball, cross country, and served for thirty-five years as the head girls track coach for the Rockets.
I started pastoring the Botkins United Methodist Church in February of 2010 and assumed the same role in the Anna United Methodist Church in January of 2012. The people of those two churches have been absolutely amazing as Janice and I have shared in ministry with them. But they are simply a reflection of the people of Shelby County, and I’m sure other area pastors would share this feeling.
The only reason we are leaving this area is to be closer to our kinds and grandkids, and while we are excited about being nearer to them, we still feel the sadness of leaving an area that has meant so much to us. So, I felt compelled to share my heartfelt thanks to the people of this county for helping me along the path of life and also issue you a challenge: Get back to being who you have always been!
I say this and issue this challenge to you because it seems that in recent years due to politics, covid, news broadcasts that leave us wondering what the truth really is – people have been more focused on the things that divide us. John 3:16 says that “God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Focus on the word “world.” The word doesn’t say he loves you more than me or this person more than that person, it says the world – all of us! Jesus said in John 13 that we are to love one another and in that way others will know that we follow Him.
There are so many young people growing up in Shelby County now that need the same things I received. I urge you to get back to being the people God calls us to be – people who aren’t afraid to show love to others and help them on the path of life. Put differences aside and just love each other.
Janice and I will miss you but will always hold you in our hearts and prayers. Thank you for being who God made you to be.
The writer is the pastor of the Anna and Botkins United Methodist churches.