I had been 18 for just about 6 weeks when, as a new freshman at Baylor, I went by the student center to look at the job board. There on the board was a job opening, written in pen on a piece of notebook paper and fastened to the board with duct tape, for a youth director position at a small church about 45 minutes from Waco. I immediately called the number with unwarranted hope and set up an interview. When it turned out that no one else applied, I got the job.
That week--my first week in ministry--I met a little boy named Bubba. Ten years old, sandy-haired and wide-eyed, Bubba came from a loving and difficult home and I think church was sometimes a refuge for him. He was full of faith and hope and love for God and love for our little church and the church loved him right back. I loved and discipled all those kids but Bubba was special. Three years later, just before I graduated, Bubba preached the youth sermon at my going-away service.
I thought of Bubba so often and wondered what happened to him. We stayed in touch by letters for a few years and then his family started moving around and we lost touch. I would check about once a year but never could find him on Google or Facebook. Then this week, I got the email I had hoped for with the subject line: Thornton. He asked if I was the TT who had been the youth director at that little church. He said he'd like to talk to me. I smiled so big.
We talked for about 45 minutes. Life has been both good and hard for Bubba. He changed his name and also moved around constantly as a teenager. He became a country musician, which isn't an easy life. His marriage broke down but he has several beautiful children. Not too long ago, he went back to college and got a degree. He's now working on a master's degree in counseling.
Life kind of hammered down the hopeful faith of his childhood but lately, he found God again and another little church that he could love and that can love him. The pastor of this little church asked him, "Do you happen to play any instruments? We have some instruments but no one who knows how to play them." And that's how the former country musician became the new guitarist/drummer/singer at the little charismatic church in a little west Texas town.