Only 32 Years Late

Thirty two years ago, this past Monday, A guy I had never seen before walked over to my lunch table, at Livingstone College, where I was a freshman drum major, and asked if he could sit down. (My goal in life at that point was a bigger afro, and to play drums in a band like Earth, Wind and Fire, or The Commodores.) He sat down and introduced himself as Vernon. He shared his story of what Jesus had done in his life and how Christ wanted all of us to have a relationship with God. It was a story that would change the entire trajectory of my life. He prayed for me that day, I transferred to Catawba College three days later and I never saw him again.

This week, I decided to try and track him down, to say thanks. I know, 32 years is a long time, and all I had was a first name. I made a bunch of phone calls that led to dead ends. Then some guy on Facebook wrote me saying, “I think you might be looking for Vernon Clark. He was around back then.” Now I had a last name. Two hours and dozens of calls later, a Pastor in Chicago said, “I have his number. He’ll be glad to hear from you.” I called and he answered the phone. I said, “My name is Stefan Youngblood. I know this is odd, but I think you’re the Vernon Clark who sat down to lunch with me 32 years ago at Livingstone, and that conversation changed my entire life. I just wanted to say a very late…thank you.” He said, “I know exactly who you are. You don’t meet a lot of people named Stefan. You dropped out and I always wondered what happened with you.”

We caught up for about ½ an hour. I told him of the blessings of family and ministry, the struggles through detox and divorce, and the always present God of second chances who kept my anchor in Christ. He said, “I’m the Principal of a High School now in Illinois, it’s the first day of classes, and I’ve been too busy to answer the phone today, but something told me to pick up the phone. You have no idea how much I needed this call today.” 

These past few weeks I’ve heard a lot of stories. Two weeks in a row now, just before service, I’ve run across people just sitting alone in our church. Both times, the story similar. “I’ve never been here before. I just moved into the area and heard about The Gathering.” Well, their story was now meeting mine. A lady said to me after church, “Stefan, I’ve been in prison 9 times. But now I feel like I’m starting brand new. I love coming here.” Again, stories connecting. I ran across another friend I used see regularly at church, who opened up saying, “Well, I stopped doing the church thing. I just don’t believe that stuff anymore.” I loved his honesty. Another divine encounter.

Chances are there’s someone waiting for your call, or time, today. If we could see into the hearts of each other, we’d probably respond with more kindness and compassion. But since we can’t, why not look into the heart of Jesus today? See His face and hear His call to you, to love your neighbor, embrace transparency, impart hope, grace, kindness, and mercy, to all those you see today. Got a story? Tell it. Got a blessing? Share it. Need a story? John 3:16


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