Eight years ago, Aaron saved my life. Kind of. But pretty much he did.
It was the summer of my 21st year. Aaron and I had been friends since his freshman year and my sophomore year. We lived on the same floor of Hodson Hall, played intramurals together, shared the same major, ate and hung out with the guys on our floor. As it turned out, Aaron and I were both influenced by our professor’s passion for backpacking. “Coach” was one of our favorite professors at IWU and was an avid ultra-lite backpacker. Coach’s stories of adventure led to Aaron and me borrowing some of his gear and driving out to Mt. Marcy in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York.
This was our first-ever backpacking experience and we thought we might as well go big with it. After my mom graciously paid for the $100 worth of junk food we thought we’d need for a four day, three night backpacking trip, we headed out to climb New York’s tallest mountain. Just before we parked to begin our journey, we stopped at a local store to pick up a few last minute items. Aaron thought it would be wise to buy a map. I thought that a map was an unneeded luxury. I eventually gave in, we bought the map, and, as evening approached, I’m so thankful Aaron decided we needed a map. According to the map we had a few more miles until we could camp at the designated shelter. In black bear-infested country, shelter is a very important part of backpacking! That night I awoke in terror as I heard rustling and heavy breathing next to me. I froze because only large animals like bears make those kinds of noises. Turned out that it was just Aaron. And this is the story of how Aaron more or less saved my life. I am so thankful for Aaron! 🙂
Beyond the adventures we shared together, what made the trip so meaningful were the conversations Aaron and I shared. We both were Christian Ministry majors and had heard God calling us to vocational ministry. Aaron and I talked about our calls, our experiences interning at Spring Lake Wesleyan Church together, and the humbling responsibility of being called “pastor.” We were so young at the time, but Aaron’s integrity and pastor’s heart shone even then. Aaron is a man of high integrity, deep love for Jesus Christ, and a passion to share God’s love with others. I am so thankful for the seasons of life Aaron and I shared together. I learned a lot from him and continue to give thanks for our lasting friendship.
After graduation, Aaron served a small Wesleyan church all by himself. He wasn’t married at the time, was fresh out of college, and had a passion to serve Christ. That was a difficult season for Aaron. Ministry is tough. Moving to a new town isn’t easy. And doing it “alone” compounds the struggles all the more. But Aaron persevered, served faithfully, and loved the people of that church. When that season was over, Aaron married his wonderful wife Lauren and the two moved to the greater Chicago area to become House Parents for at-risk youth. Wow! I am so proud of my friend, Aaron. His life makes the Scriptures come alive to me. When Jesus calls the little children unto him and tells his followers to not hinder the kids, I think of Aaron and Lauren. When Paul writes that his life is “poured out as an offering to God,” I think of Aaron. When I think of John the Baptist who “himself was not the Light, but came only as witness to the Light,” I think of Aaron. When I remember that “Christian” means being a “little Christ,” I think of Aaron. His life, love, and generosity remind me of Jesus. I am so proud of my friend, Aaron.
Aaron now serves as the College Ministries Pastor at a Wesleyan church in Brookings, South Dakota. Though I do not talk to Aaron as frequently now, I see and read updates on how he and his growing family are doing. Aaron and Lauren, like my wife and me, welcomed their first child into the world. I hope our kids get to meet one day, but I think Aaron and Lauren will have to come back to Indiana for that. South Dakota?? Seriously, Aaron? 😛
I am proud of you, my friend. Keep up the great work. Keep shining Christ’s light and sharing God’s love. Your life encourages me and I look forward to the day we get to see one another again.