In 1977 I graduated high school in Rockville, Maryland. It was at that time I felt God calling me to consider full-time youth ministry. I had no idea what youth ministry would look like for me over the years but I knew God was leading me. About the same time a man in Santa Barbara, California was beginning his full-time youth ministry. Little did I know that our paths would intersect and he would become a mentor to me in long-term youth pastoring.
After graduating college, then seminary, Nancy and I surprisingly moved the entire length of the country and settled in this coastal town for my first full-time ministry assignment. In September of 1984 I attended my first Santa Barbara area youth leaders network meeting. It was there, for the first time, I met Dennis Santos. He had started paid youth ministry later in life but had loved youth many years before. Here began an enduring relationship between a Catholic youth director and Protestant youth pastor. Over the years we did activities together, ate many lunches and prayed for one another. On Saturday, October 25, 2008 I had the honor of attending Dennis' retirement party . . . from youth ministry!
Dennis "finished well" and I know he is still not finished. We'll have many more lunches. This man of God who has impacted hundreds and thousands of youth will continue to love, pray for, care for, teach youth and care for me. Thank you, Dennis, for all you have taught me and for the inspiration you give to finish strong and finish well. I'm right behind you.