This happened a couple of weeks ago as we were having dinner with friends who I lovingly refer to as the 'other Nortons'. As the four of us talked, Dave casually mentioned that if it hadn't been for our close friendship with his sister & husband 12 years ago, we would never have connected with his entire family, the 'Nortons'.
Greg was very quick to correct Dave, it was not our friendship with his sister & husband that created the connection, it was Dave's Dad! I was dumbfounded at Dave's remark, how did he not know this? I recalled a post I'd written a few years ago for Gary's birthday and read it aloud so the facts were set straight.
In conjunction, we are often asked 'How do you know the Nortons?' To keep it brief we have a nutshell response but the truth is...its much more. In answer to this question and in honor of Gary's birthday this year, I am borrowing from the post I wrote to commemorate Gary's birthday then and now. :)
He doesn't have a church building.
He doesn't speak in front of a congregation.
But he is my Pastor.
We first moved to Arizona in 2002 and while it was exciting and adventurous, we never felt more alone or disconnected. We had no friends, no family, not even a church to speak of. After visiting numerous churches, we both felt comfortable at Superstition Springs Community Church (now Mission). The church was still meeting in a school and at the time was about 500+ people. We attended for a brief time, less than a month I think, before we met the Pastor. Gary. In our brief meeting, he suggested we get together for lunch. And we did. We ate at Fuddruckers and I could even tell you the booth we sat in. I don't know if Gary remembers this lunch, but I do.
The Thanksgiving holiday was just a few weeks away and days before, we received a message on our answering machine from the Pastor. Gary. He said he remembered we didn't have family in Arizona and wanted to invite us to Thanksgiving dinner at his home. We couldn't attend because our family came to Arizona that year but the gesture meant so much to us. I don't know if Gary remembers that invitation, but I do.
As time passed, we continued to receive invitations to special holidays, then family events and eventually to just their regular Sunday night dinners. I don't know if Gary knows the impact this had in our lives, but I do.
Later, we up and moved to Texas. And we found ourselves in trouble. Our Pastor, Gary and his wife, Elaine flew in for a weekend. And we were able to get our lives back on track. I don't know if Gary realizes how life-changing that trip was for us, but I do.
When we decided to move back to Arizona and we needed a place to live until we could purchase a home, it was our Pastor, Gary and Elaine who opened their home to us and had us LIVE with them for as long as we needed. I don't know if Gary understands how significant that was, but I do.
I've attended numerous churches, held member's status at many of them but there is only one person, I call my Pastor. It is Gary. Because he is the only one, that has truly been a pastor - a shepherd - to me in all senses of the word. He is a remarkable Pastor to this day. I don't have many heroes but Gary is one of them.
Happy Birthday to my friend, my Pastor. Gary. You are a hero to me and many, many others! :)