Recently on Facebook quite a few friends have been posting a series of musical Albums that have either influenced their taste in music or have been significant to them. I declined to participate, although someday I may post a listing of my favourite ten Bruce Cockburn albums. There are after all 36 to chose from!
Since I was first tagged three weeks ago, I have been thinking what was meaningful to me, and I have decided to participate in a different way. In this time of a world wide pandemic, life seems way to fragile. So instead of posting Albums that have influenced me, I am going to be creating posts about people who have influenced, inspired, or have been otherwise significant in my life. Rather than do one a day, I will be doing one a week. A couple may make there way on to Internet Monk, but generally I will be sticking to Facebook. I did however want to post the first one here, to maybe get us talking about who is significant in our lives, and to maybe encourage some of you to think of doing something similar yourselves.
So without much further ado, let me introduce you to Mitch Sylvia.
Mitch has not yet released an Album. His vocal talents, or lack thereof, means that we should not expect one imminently. He has not been chased by paparazzi, starred in a movie, written a book, or even created a blog. He is not a socially media influencer, rather, he has yet to post on Twitter or Instagram.
So why does Mitch top my list of people who have inspired or influenced me?
Well, in short, Mitch has been my Pastor, and friend, for the past 34 years.
Back in 1986, I was attending University and was going through a particularly dry time spiritually. I ended up in a Bible study small group that Mitch was leading. He was a young student himself. After I described my struggle to Mitch, he offered to meet with me weekly, for as long as I needed to help me through my difficult time. Ever since then, whenever I have had issues, people, or circumstances that I was struggling with, Mitch would always be there to lend an ear. No judgement, sometimes sage advice, but always present. We have not lived in the same city since 1993, but he has always been available by phone, whenever I needed someone to call.
Mitch did become a Pastor. I could not think of anyone more suited for the role. Because he lived some distance away, I have only attended the churches that he pastored on rare occasions. But when I did, you could see how meaningful Mitch was to those in the church. In his first church I saw him investing himself in the lives of the youth, right from the age of junior high, and seeing them grow up into adults and joyfully participate in their weddings. In his next church I saw how he reached out to seniors, and welcomed them to his church where they had been pushed aside in the churches they had come from. It didn’t matter if someone was nine or ninety, Mitch was there to care for them in a way that few do.
Mitch is not a theologian. That is not to say that theology isn’t important to him, but theology has always taken a back seat to ministering to people, and that desire to minister to people has taken him across a wide swath of denominations over his life, always seeking to serve others, and not getting hung up on denominational distinctives, whether that was in an independent charismatic, Presbyterian, or Baptist churches.
I mentioned paparazzi a few paragraphs back. I had the privilege of being a reference for Mitch when he was last looking for a new church to Pastor. I can’t remember all my comments, but I remember saying this. “Mitch is a man of God… You are never going to have to worry about Mitch being involved in some sort of scandal, it is not in his character… If I ever had the opportunity to live in the same city as Mitch, I would want him to be my Pastor.”
His wife once said to me, “If anything ever happened to Mitch, I don’t think I could ever get married again, because I don’t think that I could ever find another Mitch.”
I couldn’t agree more.
So let me ask you. Who inspires you? While I have used the example of being inspired by a Pastor, many of the other people on my list are not Pastors. In my list I am only choosing to list people who I have made a personal connection with, but I won’t limit you in the same way. Would you be interested to make a list like this yourself?
“Every person you meet is a gift… If you notice the message.” – J Andy Szakony
As usual your thoughts and comments are welcome. I also want to add that these are difficult times. If you are going through a struggle or particular difficulty, any comment expressing that will not be considered off topic and will not be moderated. I know Mitch would not want it any other way.