Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My 20th High School Reunion

Faithful Reepicheep readers no doubt noticed the lull in posts from last Friday through Monday. I was in Western New York (Buffalo area) to attend my 20th High School Reunion festivities. We had events Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

I graduated from Grand Island High School in 1989 along with approximately 300 other graduates. My good friend and fellow pastor at Redeemer, Nathan Currey, also graduated from GIHS that year. Religiously, Grand Island is predominantly Roman Catholic. The vast majority of my friends, including myself, were raised Catholic, most would still consider themselves RC. A few of us left Romanism for various evangelical churches, but not many. Out of my class of 300, only Nathan and I are ordained ministers of any stripe, something I find interesting.

My last couple of years of High School were a bit complex for me. Christ gripped my heart when I was a young teen but I struggled to live out my faith until my junior year of high school. The main catalyst in helping me grow in Christ and start to be less of a hypocrite was the accountability of a bible-preaching church, a caring youth pastor, and friends who were of like mind and pursuit. Still, I struggled with any kind of consistency in those years of high school. I think friends knew I was "religious", but I don't know if they could tell much more. I dropped out of the party scene by the time I was a junior, friends noticed and acted a touch differently toward me, but by no means did they ditch me. People generally didn't move from Grand Island so most of my buddies were long-time friends. Most would say they were "Christians" of the Roman Catholic variety, however they would balk at the notion of fundamentalist Christianity that seemed to sport a "holier than thou" attitude with all sorts of bible-talk. I might have carried myself like that a little as the church I attended identified itself with fundamentalism and struggled with some inexplicable legalisms (e.g. they were pretty outspoken on the purported sin of alcohol...something relatively hard to understand among the people I knew...and to me still). I was never completely comfortable with the idea of being a fundamentalist, but I wasn't comfortable with being Roman Catholic either. Eventually, as you know, I settled in to the Reformed tradition because I think it has the best biblical balance of life and doctrine.

All this to say I had only maintained contact with a few of my high school friends these 20 years since graduation. Many of my fellow graduates stayed in the Western New York area, from time to time I would hear about their lives and whereabouts. The ones who left WNY generally went further East, some south, but none to the Midwest that I am aware of. I figured some heard I was a pastor and probably laughed a bit. I don't blame them, I still laugh myself.

Then, about six months ago I got on Facebook. It seemed like a huge wave of re-connections followed as I found myself back in contact with a hundred or more of my former GIHS classmates. At the same time reunion plans were being announced dozens of my former classmates were re-uniting on Facebook. I started to have meaningful interaction with a dozen or more old friends. I discovered many friends had gone through or were presently going through very difficult times related to their health, marriage, or vocation. I found that quite a few of my old friends were now trusting Christ and growing spiritually. I learned that quite a few more seemed to be searching spiritually, looking for truth. I have sent several copies of Tim Keller's excellent book, A Reason for God, to dear GIHS friends of mine.

Sometimes Christians will suggest you can't have genuine friendships with people who are not also Christians. I agree that Christian friendships go deeper than all others because of our mutual, eternal union with Christ, however, I have some very faithful friends who would say they do not trust Christ as I do (or as Scripture requires). This time I have just spent with many of them has grown my love for each of them and my desire for them to be in a right relationship with God through Christ. At each of the events this past weekend I tried to make contact with everyone I knew just to learn of what was happening in their life and to know how to pray for them. I don't know what God's will is for my old classmates, but I do earnestly desire that He would give me some opportunities to be a vessel of His grace to them and see many come to faith in Christ. I think I get what Paul means when he said-

Romans 9:1-3 I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.


Rick Calohan said...

What a small world, I graduated from Northeast High School in Kansas City back in 1985, we too (Northeast) are Home of the Vikings are colors are purple and white and for a school that started in 1920s that was prior to the Minnesota Vikings stealing our color scheme, mascot, and logo. Majority of the people in our neighborhood grew up in lower to middle working class blue collar neighborhood claimed Italian lineage and were raised Roman Catholic.

I attended our 10 year reunion did not go to our 20th and next year will mark our 25th. Throughout high school I hung out with what would be a cross between the Brian’s and the Benders of the Breakfast Club fame, i.e. the geeks and hoodlums. We were not the rich kids, we were not Italians, we were not jocks, and we were not the popular crowd. We did not go to prom or the school dances we did not participate nor were members of the football, track, and baseball teams. Majority of us were from nominally Protestant church background. When we hung out we would listen to classic rock, drank whatever beer a 21 year old friend of a friend could get us, drove beat up used cars and manage to stay one step ahead of the cops. We were not actually criminals but like most misguided youths we did occasionally find ourselves to be doing things we should not have.

Most of my friends did get married, had children, work and to the best of my knowledge are not in trouble with the law. However, out of the group I can not honestly say I know who are in Christ and who are not. Sure, if asked, they would claim Christ as their Savior, but for whatever reason do not belong to a church, do not actively pursue finding a church, do not attend church, and probably spend their Sundays as far away from a church as they can. This is not to say they are any less of a Christian, it is just they were raised un-churched and for the most part belonging to a church is just something they can not bring themselves to do.

Out of the seven so-called close friends I had in high school I now only have contact with two on a regular basis and one of them did not even go to our school and graduated three years before us he is originally from Grandville, New York and he moved to our block in 1981. One of the seven from my high school was my cousin, who with exception of the 5th grade we were in the same schools. It was with his family that I attended church with and how I was introduced to the Presbyterian Church albeit PCUSA. I have not had much contact with him since he got married back in mid 1990s which considering prior to him getting married we would hang out all the time.

I pray for them, I pray that if it be God’s will the Holy Spirit will regenerate them to Christ. I know how Christ has transformed my life, I just wish they (my friends) could know and come to experience what Christ has to offer is far more than any baubles they will find on this earth.

Frontier Forest said...

I know you’re and Shari’s presence was a powerful witness! But not like you, I was the biggest nerd in my high school. I picked my date for the Prom a bit different than most guys. Instead of the girl I wanted to go with, knowing she would most likely turn me down, I picked the ugliest girl in school. Boy, it’s a good thing she didn’t say no! Talking about major rejection! Anyway, like you, I have really enjoyed getting back acquainted with some of the really “neat & elite” from the class of 67, and sharing what the Lord has done in my life. Amazing how time mellows out folks, putting ego’s aside and placing everyone on an equal playing field. I do rejoice in the confidence Christ has gifted me with. Openly confessing my passion for the Lord has brought many of the class of 67 forward, testifying themselves of a “changed life in Christ.”

Brother Titus said...

What a great witness for you and your wife. You must've had an excellent time, though you've probably grieved some since for some of your former classmates, too.

But, I also have some questions and a comment, in all seriousness:

Since you said that Pastor Nathan was in your class, did he go to the reunion? He's not in any pictures you posted.

Also, why didn't you have a picture nametag like some of your former classmates had in your pictures?

Also, the one guy in the one picture who looks like John Denver, did he look like John Denver in high school?

Lastly, you must have thought you were in, "Reformedland," with all those soul patches around.

Reepicheep said...

Nathan didn't want to go. He's not in to such stuff. He hung out with all the smart kids...plus, he's taking 2 weeks vacation pretty soon, he didn't want to use it on the reunion I guess.

I do have a name tag with picture.

HA HA...Dan Linenfelser as John Denver. No, he didn't look that mellow back in 89.

Jeff, the guy with the soul patch, is the lead singer of a heavy metal band named Deadhorse Breathing.

Brother Titus said...

D'oh, I focused on the one picture of you where your nametag is half covered. You do have a picture nametag.

Frontier Forest said...

"Dead Horse Breathing"? That really sounds like my kind of easy listening music! +But then there is "Matalica"! Give me and Tony Sr. the "Mills Brothers" please!