There is an older lady that runs by our house every morning. She’s got a distinct joy-filled aura about her. Smiling contentedly, she shuffles slowly along, her hunched over frame suggesting that it’s seen some mileage. She’s not the fastest runner, nor the one with the best form. In fact, your first impression wouldn’t be one of shock and awe; it might not even be memorable. Not until you saw her day in and day out, scuffling along in sun, rain, snow or ice, would you really begin to appreciate her. That’s how it was for us, anyway. As her daily grind turned into months and months into years, our family lovingly dubbed her as ‘Old Faithful’.
She doesn’t know it, but Old Faithful has inspired me often on my own runs. Many a day, I want to call it quits before I ever get out the door. ‘I’m too tired… My feet hurt already… My body is just getting too old for this…’ The myriad of excuses come at me ten-fold.
But then Old Faithful comes to mind, her hunched-over steadfast and resolute frame, and I think, ‘if she can do it, so can I!’ I make my way out to the street, remembering that I don’t have to be the best or the finest and it doesn’t even have to look pretty. It’s just about showing up, being present and consistent—faithful to the cause.
As I was running this morning, my mind was on the fact that one of our finest student ministry teachers, Keith Nelson, is getting ready to step down from teaching for a bit. He has been teaching for almost twenty years and feels like God is calling him to join his wife in her Sunday School class. I thought about how many lives he has touched over the years and how much the kids love him. Just the day before, the boys in our youth group had broken out in a spontaneous chant: ‘Keith! Keith! Keith! Keith!’
These thoughts were mulling about in my head when I spotted Old Faithful. She was slowly inching toward me, patient and determined. Just as our paths crossed, I was suddenly struck with a revelation. Old Faithful and all that she stood for was the epitome of who Mr. Keith has been for the past twenty years in our student ministry.
Mr. Keith is not one to ever take the spot light, nor does he want to (in fact, I doubt he’ll be all too keen on having an entire blog post written about him). He’s not flashy or loud and you might not notice him at first. He quietly tends to the background, looking for ways to serve those around him. There’s no telling how many chairs he has stacked on a Wednesday night in the past twenty years. Jesus tells us in Matthew 9:35: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” I definitely think of Mr. Keith when I hear that verse.
He might be a man of few words, but Mr. Keith sure can belt out a powerful yet tender prayer—the kind that’ll leave your hair standing on end. Maybe his prayers are so impactful because he says “Lord, Jesus” at least a dozen times throughout them.
If you spent much time with Mr. Keith, it didn’t take you long to realize his passion for pointing others to Jesus. And that’s exactly what he did day after day, week after week, year after year in our student ministry. If you were fortunate enough to be in his Sunday School class, you heard him preach it. If you were around him on Wednesday nights or at youth events, you saw it through his loyal servant-hood.
The more you were around him, the more you began to appreciate Mr. Keith. You began to notice the little things he did, like making sure others had their coffee before he got his own. Week in and week out, he was there with a smile, a pat on the back, or a word of encouragement. I’m sure he doesn’t realize it, but he has made his mark on those around him. First, he’s taught and inspired us to put others first. Secondly, he’s been a living example of one who consistently puts the spotlight on Jesus and not himself.
If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it a thousand times: “Mr. Keith is about as faithful as they come.”
Consistently serving, consistently loving, consistently there. Old Faithful in the truest form.
Mr. Keith, we love you. You have touched more lives than you’ll probably ever know. We sure will miss you. You are always welcomed to come back and hang with us anytime. And please know that even though we might refer to you as Old Faithful, it does not in any way, shape or form imply that you are an old geyser.
Guest blogger: Maria Grogan, Student Ministry Leadership Team