Dale is the Preaching Minister at the Greenlawn church and not only is he my friend, he's my mentor. When in was in junior high, Dale was my youth minister. From that initial relationship has formed a friendship for which I will be eternally grateful. For two summers during college, I lived with Dale and Lauri in West Virginia, where Dale began his preaching career. Those two summers molded me and shaped me as a minister; it was there I learned what study and ministry were all about.
As Dale dropped me off a the airport yesterday afternoon, I told him, "I think I'd be a much better minister if we could get together twice a year!" From marriage to parenting to books to ministry to outreach to Jesus, no stone was left unturned as picked each other's brains and, "like iron sharpens iron," we encouraged and challenged each other in our ministries.
To better understand the depth of Dale's life upon mine, I share with you a letter I wrote to him in February of last year. I was asked to write to both Dale and Lauri as a surprise encouragement gift as a part of a weekend marriage-building retreat. Here's what I wrote and it conveys my heart for a man whose imprint is all over my life:
I know you and Lauri are having a wonderful time this weekend on your marriage retreat. While you are retreating together, I am at the Weekend of Champions Men’s Retreat with Prentice Meador at the Westover Hills church in Austin.
When I think back over my life and the people who’ve played a key role in helping me become a servant of Jesus, outside of my immediate family, I rate you as the most influential person in my life. Your faith and love for Jesus has forever impacted me as a person, a servant, a husband and a father.
You’ll never know how often my eyes were trained upon you during those two summers we spent together. I watched how you treated and loved your wife. I watched how you cared for your newborn son. I watched you as you studied God’s Word. I watched you when we made visits together. I watched you as preached the Word. Everything I saw so impressed me because of your integrity and faith through every circumstance. Sure, I thought you were a little tightwad with your money at times (why couldn’t we go to Dairy Queen more on Wednesday nights after church?) and I often wondered why, given that heart of gold, you didn’t let me win more in our competitive games of 1-on-1. But then I remember back to the times you allowed me to cut the grass on the riding mower while you slaved away on the hillside with the push-mower and that makes it alright!
Seriously, the integrity of your ministry made an indelible impression on me. I think back to the way you spent time with the Rollins boys, carving out of your schedule quality time to invest in two young boys who were basically “fatherless” and am reminded of your genuine faith.
Thank you for believing in me, for investing in me, for caring for me, and for teaching me in living color what a godly man, husband, father and minister looks like. During my stay in Hot Springs Village, there were countless times when Buddy and Jo Childers would say to me, “You remind us so much of Dale Mannon.” They never knew those words were such a supreme compliment and endorsement of everything I hope to be!
Paul dared to call the Corinthians to “follow me because I follow Christ.” Throughout my life, I have had an unwavering desire to follow you because I know you follow Christ.
I will continue to pray for you and Lauri throughout this weekend; that God will bless you richly in love for Him and for each other. Thank you for having such an impact on me. I love you for that and will remain eternally thankful that God saw fit to bring our lives and ministries together.
Do me a favor today and remember Dale's dad, C.E., in your prayers. Mr. Mannon is in failing health and the prognosis is not good. Dale's parents live in Virginia and C.E. has been a long-time minister in Floyd, Virginia. The family needs our prayers and I ask that you find time today to remember this godly family and godly man before God.
Speaking of friends, Rick and Gail Northen are preparing to set sail on the Ship of Life. Like Dale and Lauri, Rick and Gail have been gifts from God to me. Rick retired from full-time dental work, sold his practice, and now he and Gail are devoting their full-time energy to the mission of Jesus in Cambodia, taking the gospel to the poorest, most remote villages of Cambodia. You can read about their journey here.