Calling this past month “a blur,” Jennifer Bond, Youth Parent Leader and active church member says that one thing she knows for sure about faith is that God showed up in FUMCFW youth ministries, the funeral and celebration of Chris Vardy, and so many other places that youth and their families were this week.
As she recalls the full year of dealing with COVID-19 and all its ramifications — being disconnected from routines, rituals, church family, family, friends, and so, so much more — Jennifer says the past month’s events including a COVID diagnosis in her own family; a crazy weather situation threatening their home (and the homes of friends) and well-being; and most of all, the terrible, heartbreaking, tragic loss of Chris Vardy, her friend, brother, and “framily” member, she couldn’t help but wonder, ‘What this is all about?’
“And then, as I helped my dear friend (along with my other two besties) plan a funeral for Chris, her husband, our “brother,” I was so struck by one element, one aspect, ONE PHOTOGRAPH. Five amazing disciples of Christ who masked up and, despite COVID-19, got on a plane and traveled back to FUMC FORT WORTH to celebrate and honor our friend, our brother, our framily.”
Referring again to these five amazing disciples of Christ, multiple “generations” of youth ministers who worked alongside Chris, most of whom have since moved on to serve other churches across the United Methodist landscape, Jennifer says, “They were honored and compelled to be present to share stories, celebrate our friend, and honor the servitude of our friend by being not only present but by bringing his story to life in his celebration of life.”
Jennifer points to this moment of “multi-generational” celebration of Chris and support of all who loved him as a reminder that what we DO and create in relationships and service transcends time, geography, and boundaries. “While we may underestimate what happens across the street at the Justin building,” she adds, “this week has confirmed for me and countless others that the impact of youth programs, youth leadership, and most certainly youth volunteers, makes a difference that transcends all boundaries.”
“We took some time that awful week on zoom to huddle up as a youth ministries family and share stories and memories of Chris,” reflects Kat Bair, Director of Youth Ministries. “I watched as youth past and present, youth parents past and present, and youth pastors past and present, joined by dozens of little squares on that call. There were smiles at getting to see each other’s faces, sadness at the loss that gathered us, and relief at not feeling quite so alone.”
“Chris wasn’t just a youth dad,” she continues, “Chris was the youth dad. He was like a dad to hundreds of teenagers that came through the Justin building. He wore silly costumes and led games and threw dodgeballs and cracked jokes and served dinners and took such good care of his people.
And we were all ‘his people.’
His big, warm laugh, bright smile, genuine joy made everyone feel loved, important, special, wanted. Exactly the way you would want a dad to make you feel.”
Melinda Folse Smoot is a writer, editor, collaborator, and content strategist. In addition to her work for FUMCFW, she has a deep passion for telling stories that make a difference. With a focus on faith, grace, hope, and spirit for faith-based organizations and other clients, Melinda is always on the lookout for people with inspiring stories to share. If you have a story of faith you’d like to share, please contact Melinda at firstname.lastname@example.org.