This past Sunday, our beautiful church took time to acknowledge and celebrate our past 15 years of serving in Youth Ministry.  It was a complete surprise to Jeremy and I, we had no idea what was going on and found out at the end of church when our new pastor, Kaleb Kemper stood up to make the announcement.  What followed, was a time of sharing and then the most incredible 15 minute video I could have ever imagined.  Put together by one of our former students, Sam Nankervis, it was the most touching journal of video messages from some of our past and present students.  We laughed and cried through much of it and it was probably one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

And ever since then, I’ve been trying to find a way to process what that video meant to me.  Because really, truly, it was more than just a nice thank you for the years we’ve been blessed to serve at Eastport Bible Church.  For me, it represented so many incredible interactions and conversations and time spent together and trips taken with some of the most wonderful people on this Island and in this world.

I wanted to think of a way to then express my thanks and that would be what will follow.  A forewarning.  This is a long post with a lot of pictures that I spent the past day looking up.  Because I wanted to do all I could to honor our amazing friends and youth group students who took time to say thank you.  So here goes…

Hey Eastport Bible Church and EBCYG,

Thank you for thanking us this past Sunday.  But honestly, we’re the ones that should be thanking you.  Thank you for letting us be here for 15 years, loving and serving Jesus while reaching out to the incredible teens in our town.  What follows are a lot of pictures of most of the people who sent in their videos.  I don’t know why, but for me, I just wanted to share these pictures to acknowledge how much each person has meant to us.  It’s mostly pictures because there are a ton of them, but I figured I’d also share a few words here or there as well.

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I did want to thank you John Caprari… for coming to Youth Group and for sticking around.  Thank you for being one of my husband’s best friends and for watching all those sports with him for all of those years.  Thank you now, for loving Jesus so much that you answered His call to Africa where you and your family are now serving.

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Zack Skarka, thank you for being on that very first Breakaway, and for pretty much coming around for everything after that.  Watching your faith stay strong through two different cancers strengthened our faith and the faith of so many around you.  You are one of the best people we will ever know and for that, we are incredibly thankful.

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Zach Rado, we know every single story you mentioned, and love you that much more for all of those memories.  Those moments all built up into seeing you grown and loving Jesus and your new baby and we are so very proud of you.

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15 years in ministry gives you the chance to watch kids grow into deep and meaningful relationships with Jesus and really, there is nothing greater.

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And so you know, I started crying the first time when I saw your video, Victoria.  It was an incredible blessing to get to be your friend and to watch you love and serve Jesus.  And it still is, my friend.

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And oh, Matt Mattia…  Thank you for your video!  You were there at the very beginning when we basically had no idea what we were doing.  So thankful to know that Jesus used us, even then and we loved getting to spend that time with you and your family.

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Sam Nankervis, we loved having you in Youth Group and then to help us serve in our ministries as well!  The video that you put together was just incredible and we could not be more thankful to see you using the amazing gifts God gave you.

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And Emily Prott, this whole thing was your idea and it will have forever blessed our hearts.  Your dream gave us such joy and we thank you for that!

But also, thank you for being so amazing and for having the most wonderful heart.  We saw it from the very beginning and has been so blessed to have gotten to see it throughout these years.

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On a personal note, thank you for loving not only us, but also our kids as well.  You’ve watched them grow up and have loved and supported them every step of the way, and as a parent, that means the absolute world to me.

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Once there was a student named Ryan Daley that we knew and loved right from the beginning.  He’d sit in Jeremy’s office and make the weirdest faces because he was just awesome like that.

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He’d run over to our house barefoot and sneak in through our attic.  We’d know and love him for years and years and considered our lives to be that much greater for getting to be a part of his.

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As I’m writing and looking through these pictures, I have an incredibly overwhelming feeling of gratitude.  Which fits nicely  because it’s technically almost 2am on Thanksgiving Day.

And if I could just take a minute I want to share the incredible value that comes in long term ministry.  When we arrived at the church, I was told that the average time in a church for a youth pastor was 18 months.  So I just figured that we’d be moving around an awful lot.  But 15 years later, I’m thankful to say that that has not been our story.

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When you serve in a church longterm, you get to watch people grow.

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You get to see them as little ones, attending your program.  And then years later, they come back and help in those very same programs that they attended.

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You get to go through the good times, but also the hard times too.  But it’s in those times, that the most beautiful things happen.

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Serving in ministry gives you the opportunity to love on some of the most wonderful families you could imagine.

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It also sometimes gives you the opportunity to watch people that you know and love grow to go and serve in Youth Ministry too.

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All those years ago, I would have never guess that we’d get to stay and raise our family for so many years in the most wonderful church on Long Island.

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And if I’m being transparent, which is something that I try to be, I have to admit that for me, there have been a lot of ups and downs these days.  Raising our own teens has given me a whole new challenge and a whole new perspective on just how hard it can be.  But this 15 year celebration and the beautiful video made was just what I needed to be encouraged and refreshed in what we do and why we do it.  I’ve learned that I cannot fix all that’s wrong or hard in the world, but I can love Jesus and reach out and help others to love Him as well.

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So in closing…  How do you best show the gratitude that you have for 15 years of serving in ministry with a church that you love?  With an incredibly long blog post full of pictures from the past and present because that is just who you are and what you do.  From Jeremy and I, thank you for the beautiful service and for the amazing video that shared so many of your stories.  We love you all so very much and will continue to love and serve at Eastport Bible Church in all the ways that we can.

Written by lauraherr8

I love Jesus, my Youth Pastor Husband and our two beautiful children. I'm a professional photographer and I love people, especially kids. My best days include time with my family, Hot Yoga and a Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream cone.

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