Twenty years. Twenty years is a long time. As our twentieth anniversary at GCC has been approaching, I have been amazed at the comments people have made. Ones like, “No one does anything for 20 years anymore.” Or “Did you start ministry when you were 10?” Generally people have been shocked, not realizing Rob and I have been at GCC for that long.
I was 19 when we came to Granger, Rob was 21. Mark and Sheila Beeson have given us a place and space to grow and change over the decades, finding ourselves, finding Jesus, and leading others in the Jesus way all the while.
Last Friday night, we celebrated our 20 year anniversary with some friends from GCC in literally “The Party Of The Century.” We were humbled, amazed, honored…there truly are not enough words in the human language to express the way our hearts exploded with the outpouring of love from the staff, friends, and family who came along to celebrate.
Several friends sent video messages, Pastor Paul Wirth from Relevant Church in Tampa, Florida, Dustin Holiday from Christian Fellowship Church near Washington DC, and Pastor Rick Warren from Saddleback Church in California. Rajendran from India recorded a message about how grateful he is for Rob’s faithfulness when it comes to serving the people of India…it was all so very meaningful.
There was an amazing media piece with stories from our lives told by others, photos someone had stealthily stolen from my house (with a little help of 3 young accomplices) draped on a clothesline at the GCC property. It was stunningly artistic, and took our breath away.
Our girls had made a secret media with the help of Elle White and Kristin Baker. It brought both Rob and I to tears. It was so beautiful and funny…we are so grateful.
Rev. Dan Gute, our youth pastor made a surprise appearance, speaking words of life and hope into us, and his lovely wife Dianne came too. We could not believe it. Both sets of our parents came, along with Rob’s sister Lisa, our brother in law Jim, and our niece and nephew. What a blast to have all of us in the same room together!
The Senior Management Team each took a minute to say a kind word to Rob and I, and we were humbled by the gracious things they said. The Culps made a special Rob and Michelle tribute, and we laughed so, so hard. I was touched when the Culps were transformed back into Dan and Lisa, and they sang the Song “Captivate Us” by Watermark, and played the You Tube video I made of my Instagram pics. It was a fabulous surprise.
The shock of our lives came when Trace Rorie and the GCC band began playing an old school Petra song. Those who know Rob well know what a huge influence Petra was on his early faith in Jesus. Whenever he tells the story of how he deditcated his life to Jesus, he talks about the Petra songs that sunk deep down and made him think, change, and grow.
As Trace began singing the song, all of the musicians started looking sort of nervous. I felt bad for them because I thought these old Petra songs must be “new” to them and they might not know them so well. I felt even worse when they really messed up and had to stop the song. Then it clicked. I put my hand over my mouth as Trace said something about “Four time Grammy Award Winning Artist…” and JOHN SCHLITT FROM PETRA WALKED ON THE STAGE!!!!!”
I don’t know if either of us will ever be able to recover from the shock. John Schlitt is a super-mega-famous Christian Rock star, and has been for decades. BUT, to us, he’s way more than that. We went to his concerts as high-schoolers and middle-schoolers ourselves, acted crazy and had fun…but always left profoundly impacted by Petra’s love for Jesus and their compassi0n for kids like us. John Schlitt was the guy who sang to us while we worshipped Jesus alone in our rooms, or listening to headphones while walking to high school. Petra’s songs literally ignited our faith and gave us courage to stand up for what we believed in. The voice of Petra brought each of us to our knees in countless moments of standing before Jesus.
John Schlitt’s presence with us there on Friday night was so symbolic of our lives coming full circle. It was crazy.
I have to tell you, one of the funniest moments of my life is captured in this photo below, where Pastor Dan (our youth pastor), and Rob’s mom are talking with John Schlitt. His mom is telling John how she “put up with that loud music” for so many years, and Dan was telling John how he used to drop us off at Petra concerts and drive around the block about a thousand times so he wouldn’t have to stay and listen to the loud music. John just laughed and laughed and thanked them over and over again for doing a great job in raising us.
I respected the man from afar for all these decades, but when I saw him speaking to these two, I was deeply moved. I was standing next to John when he spoke to my own dad. He spoke to my dad like they were old friends. He thanked my dad over and over for allowing us to listen to his music growing up. He said, “I know Chicago was a dark place to grow up. Thank you for allowing your children to listen to our music, hopefully we brought a little light.” His words were profound and heartfelt. He spoke to each of our girls with respect and admiration, thanking them for how they celebrated us as their parents through their words on the video, and the letters they had each written us.
John’s humility and compassion were so obvious, and we are so, so blessed by the staff of GCC for allowing this to happen, and for everything they did to make us feel loved and honored.
Our worlds were rocked…literally…on Friday night. Thank you to each person who came and celebrated with us, and those who celebrated with us by watching the service live stream at gccwired.com . Our lives are permanently rocked by this amazing celebration.