I write this today with the permission of its subject. In my four years of serving at First Christian in Greeley, I have both inherited and discovered a remarkable team of “part time” staff. It is rare that a new pastor, even one who started as pastoral-duct-tape, finds that all of the existing staff are pretty much exactly who I would have helped to select. Well, whether they were in place before I arrived, or whether I found them in our midst, my staff at FCC Greeley is a great team.
Todd did not fit the mold of how I envisioned a ‘Youth Pastor’. He is middle aged and wears cargo shorts all year long. It did not take me long to recognize his gifts. The obligatory “Youth Sunday” blew me away. It was without a doubt, the best I had ever seen, all put together with Todd’s leadership. Earlier I made a duct tape reference. Todd is better than duct tape. He is like that super goo stuff that patches boat holes, hangs pictures, and fixes flats. Todd quietly goes about his business, not only caring for our youth, but also many many of our older members. Whatever you need, Todd is willing.
On January 15th, I got a text from his wife Alicia, “Todd was admitted to the hospital with worsening Covid symptoms.” What?! I Not Todd, he is always so careful. The battle of Todd vs. Covid began. His symptoms worsened. Ten liters of O2 just to keep him going. The next step was a ventilator. I asked for permission to put this out on FaceBook. Everyday there would 150+ folks who sent their love and more. Todd has worked in our Disciples of Christ’s camps for at least 20 years. Every year Todd was there.
I want to tell the story of just one of those campers. Her family was our neighbor 30 years ago when we lived in the country outside of Alamosa. The youngest girl, Alex Rae, was born when we were in the midst of ministry there. I called the three sisters of which Alex was the youngest, “The Who Sisters”. They would always have their hair in the “Who Like” (Dr. Seuss) stubby little tufts. They were adorable. When we moved to Denver 24 years ago, the girls ended up moving to Breckenridge. Their mom wanted them to continue to attend DOC camps at LaForet, and so we would smuggle them in as members of South Broadway in Denver. It was there that Todd became a constant in their growth.
Another youth pastor started a Go Fund Me page so we could be there for Todd and his family. Help like dropping off food is not possible, because we are all quarantined and spread all over the Region. I began to see that much of the support was coming from the many many young people whose lives were touched by Todd’s warm caring spirit at camp. One of them was Alex. I began to put a bunch of pieces together of the way that our faith communities care for each other beyond our safe perches. There were well over 200 folk who carried Todd in their hearts.
Two days ago Todd was able to go home, O2 and all. Yesterday, I got a great surprise— it was Todd calling me. On the other end of the call, was a man filled with gratitude. What he went through, the pain, fear, struggling to breath and the worst (Todd hates needles) was that he became a human pin cushion.
Here is just one story from his 12 days in the hospital Todd said, “They asked me if I could try to eat something. They suggested a banana. It tasted like cardboard. I said, ‘what I could really use is some green chili and French Fries’. They told me that was not possible. I asked again. They got them. I could actually taste the green chili.” Every year since, I have been at Greeley, I bring Todd a bushel of roasted green chili from DiSanti farms in Pueblo. The man will put green chili on his French toast. Todd is beating Covid, and he wants you to know how grateful he is.
I just got my first Covid vaccination this afternoon. Earlier in the day, I was talking with a molecular biologist who is also a swimming coach. He has coached me on my back stroke. He said, “The only reason we were able to have a vaccine so quickly is because of 20 some years of dedicated science.”
I give thanks to all those who spend their lives in the trenches of research, development, nursing, respiratory therapy, and the dozens of other efforts that saved Todd’s life and maybe even mine.
Onward and Upward, Mark