Goodbyes are never easy ... so I'm saying "See you later, Kingman!"
Yes, I want to say thanks to you, Kingman. And in the midst of trying to list all of you, and what you have done for me, and how you all have changed my life for the better, I will say a few things in general because I do not want to leave anyone out.
To the people of Kingman: You have given Wendy and me a fine home for the last eight years. You have showered us with friendship, challenges, promises fulfilled, and an unequalled sense of acceptance. You have taught me about the wisdom of town fathers and mothers, and the values that pioneers instill in their people. You have also taught me the pleasure of being known around town.
I used to say, "I have to behave - I can't get away with anything in Kingman!" But I would rather see it all as an overwhelming friendship and acceptance of someone (me) as "one of their own."
And for all of this and more, I am truly thankful.
To my congregation at St. Johns United Methodist Church: You have taught me to be a better pastor, teacher, preacher and care-giver. You have also taught me how to supervise a church staff - a very sensitive responsibility! We have sought answers together. We have celebrated many successes. We have held each other up in the midst of failures. We have cried together. We have laughed together. And we have continued to seek God's will for us in all things.
Perhaps most important is that you have allowed me and Wendy to be an integral part of your family - you all have invited me on a regular basis to be a part of struggle, anger, joy, celebration, death, illness, confusion, sadness and thanksgiving. And for all these things and more, I am truly thankful.
To First United Methodist Church of Gilbert: You have opened your arms to receive me and my family. You have communicated to me the excitement you have for the future of your church, even as you say goodbye to your current pastor and friend. I have a sense of what you're going through - your pastor was there for my family when my father died. You have been gracious and kind and helped me and Wendy feel wanted, and have been willing to receive my leadership as your next Senior Pastor - and for that, I am truly thankful.
To my family: To you, Mom, for your confidence in me - for your willingness to lean on me during the untimely deaths of both your daughter (my sister) and your husband (my father). Thank you for all the times you and Dad came to Kingman, the fun we had and the memories that will always be with me. You and Dad have always supported us in ministry, and especially during our stay in Kingman. Indeed, I am truly excited by the future that we will share together being only 30 minutes apart. For all these things and more, I am truly thankful.
To my loving wife, Wendy: Babe, you have been ever so patient with me. There were many, many times you were second-place in my life. I quite often allowed the needs and priorities of ministry to get in the way of our marriage relationship, yet you have continued to stay by my side - to love me - to support me - to be there for me. You have often stood back so that others could have their needs met, and you have loved and fully supported the people of Kingman, specifically, those in the St. Johns congregation. And for all of this and more, I am truly thankful.
To God in whom I fully trust: You have been my rock, my comforter, my source of wisdom, my deliverer, my strength, my teacher, my Savior. I have gone to you frequently to say "Thanks," "I give you glory and praise and honor," and quite often I have said "Lord, what would you have me do this time?" You have empowered me with your unfathomable presence many times, especially during occasions of preaching and teaching. Yes, Lord, I am truly nothing without you, and to you I offer unending thanks and praise.
"But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head." Psalm 3:3, ESV
Finally, Kingman, I do not say "goodbye" as if we will never see each other again. Where I am going I am taking you with me every step of the way. I am a different person because I have lived here in Kingman, Arizona. And perhaps your lives are better and richer because Wendy and I have had the privilege to be with you these eight wonderful years!
I'll see you in church, the grocery store, working out at the gym or around town until June 20, and then I'll see you when you least expect it!