A Special Thanksgiving Story
Here in this holiday season, I wanted to post a story that reminds us to reflect and look back. Recently, I’ve had occasion to consider all the people who positively impacted me—people like my fourth grade teacher who encouraged me to run for class president, my sixth grade PE teacher who took me to baseball practice, and my college campus ministry leader.
So often when we take the time to look back we get blessed by how we see God has worked in our lives even when we didn’t know it. In this Thanksgiving season, take a moment to consider your blessings. My hope is that you’ll be blessed by this story even though it might be a little longer read.
I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas and attended Arlington Heights High School in the late 60’s, when the Beatles, the Doors, the Rolling Stones, and anybody else with a drum and an electric guitar produced a lot of powerful music. I heard that music throbbing out of car windows from 8-tracks in the parking lot and reverberating from oversized speakers at school dances. But that was not the music that liberated me.
The music that liberated me was softer, quieter. I heard it one day on campus at the end of my junior year. On that spring day in 1968, Christ showed up. He showed up in a pair of Converse All-Stars, gym shorts, T-shirt, a handshake, and a smile. Several of us on the basketball team were playing a pickup game in the gym, and this young seminary student from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary worked his way into the game.
Over the weeks ahead he kept showing up. At lunch. After school. In the parking lot. And before long, he worked his way into our lives. His name was Scott Manley. He talked several of us into going to summer camp. and it was, as he promised, the best week of our lives. The following year I got more involved with Young Life, attending weekly club meetings, a Bible study called Campaigners, and the next summer I went to a Young Life college prep camp at Star Ranch. There, during a 20-minute quiet time after the last message, I gave what little I knew of my life to what little I knew of Christ’s. It wasn‘t much, I told Him, but what l had was His, if He wanted it, or if in some way He could use it.
In the fall I attended Texas Christian University, where I got involved with Young Life leadership. By my sophomore year I was leading a Young Life club and was involved in weekly leadership meetings. From that leadership group came many of my dear friends. And one who is my dearest. Her name is Judy. She had been introduced to Christ by a classmate who had become a Christian through her Young Life leader, who had become a Christian through my Young Life leader, Scott Manley.
I don’t recall any of the talks Scott gave at club meetings or in Campaigners. I don’t remember the lyrics, but the music, the music I’ll never forget. The music streamed into my ears, saying, I love you. I care about you. You matter. Your pain matters. Your struggles matter. Your life is sacred and dear to God. He has a future for you, plans and hopes and dreams for you, and blessings for you. My wife had never met Scott, although she had heard the stories from several of us who had been touched by him. She had thought a long time about what she would say if and when she ever did meet him. She had rehearsed it in her mind over and over again.
Two years ago, she finally met him. We were attending a conference with some friends and three of our four children. He had been introduced by the speaker, who had come to Christ in high school through Scott. After the meeting, Judy gathered the children and searched him out in the crowd. When she found him, she said: “You don‘t know me, but I’m Judy Gire, Ken Gire’s wife.” They hugged, then she continued. “There’s something l‘ve been wanting to tell you for a long time.”
Years of waiting emotion welled inside her. “Scott, you were instrumental in leading my husband to Christ. You led my Young Life leader to Christ. My Young Life leader led a friend of mine to Christ. And this friend told me about Christ. You are my spiritual heritage. These are three of our four children. This is Kelly, and she knows Jesus. This is Rachel, and she knows Jesus. This is Stephen, and he knows Jesus. And Gretchen, our oldest, she isn’t here, but she knows Jesus, too. All of us know Jesus because of Scott Manley. Thank you so much. Thank you.” Scott threw his arms around her, and together and for a long time they wept. (The Reflective Life by Ken Gire)