By Rev. Elliot Smith, Thornwell President
You can probably name at least one caring adult who made a difference in your life as a child. Perhaps it was a parent, grandparent, foster parent, sibling, or another relative. Or maybe it was somebody completely unrelated to you like a teacher, coach, neighbor, or youth group leader.
Whomever it was likely demonstrated that they cared about you by their words and actions – offering a listening ear, providing encouragement, giving guidance and support, and modeling appropriate behavior. And yes, in my own experience, that included holding me accountable when better choices could and should have been made! Here at Thornwell we are blessed to be part of a ministry where every day we have the opportunity to make a difference to children and families!
While we can sometimes see the immediate impact of the difference we make in the lives of the children and families we serve, chances are the seeds we plant today won’t bear fruit, or more likely that fruit won’t be visible, until well into the future. Then again, we don’t plant, nor do we water to bring about the growth – that is the work of God (Paul said it much better in 1 Corinthians 3:1-9).
Yes, it is God that brings the growth and our responsibility, our Holy calling, and opportunity as I see it, is to labor side-by-side sharing the load. Sometimes we might be planting, sometimes we might be watering, and sometimes we might be tending. It is hard, often tiring, even downright messy work that we do. So, I confess I can get a little impatient trusting God to bring about the growth.
I wish I could personally convey to each of you how very blessed I have felt these last 10 years to have been in ministry – co-laborers in the vineyard with you all – planting, watering, tending. The decision to retire was not an easy one to make because of all the great people who serve at Thornwell, those who serve alongside us, and the work we have accomplished together.
You have affirmed my gifts for ministry, been gracious in my mistakes, and have helped me to grow in many ways during my time with you. My prayer is that God has used me in this place to touch the lives of the children and families we have the privilege of serving and that I have, in some small way, touched your lives as you have touched mine.
You and this ministry we share will always hold a special place in my heart and prayers. While I will be retiring and no longer serving alongside you, please remember that we are uniquely joined under the lordship of Christ, wherever God calls and grows us. I have no doubt that God will continue to work through the faithful service of each of you, using your many talents and gifts to fulfill our mission to prevent child abuse and neglect, build up and reunite families, and support healthy communities in the name of Jesus Christ.
Keep planting, keep watering, keep tending, all the while trusting God for the results. It makes an eternal difference.