As a 15 year old junior at Hanau American High School I lived for youth group night.
For a couple of hours we took over the gym of Hanau Middle School. We played huge, sweaty games, where two teams competed for the sake of having fun. Usually, there was pizza and soda. Then Dan played some songs on his guitar while Barb tried to figure out how the changing of slides on the overhead projector at just the right pace so Dan didn’t lose his place. We typically ended our time with a sweaty Dan sharing something from the Bible and praying together.
I idealized Dan and listened intently to everything he said.
But in the Winter of 1993, for some reason, Barb led our teaching time for a few weeks. She was clearly nervous as she explained that for the next few weeks she’d be reading from the Bible her favorite story and sharing a little bit each week on what that story meant to her. It was a dramatic change of pace. Run-run-run-eat-eat-play-play-sing-sing-STOOORRRRYYYTTTIIIMMMEEEEWIITTTHHHBBBBAAAARRRBBBB.
I thought I’d die from boredom.
Barb started reading in Genesis 37.
One chapter in and I was hooked. She read the story and shared from her heart how that related to her life.
As the days passed I started to look forward less to the silly relay games, the pizza, and the songs… and started to get more excited about Barb’s story from Genesis. Her love for God’s Word was spreading to my heart, too.
A couple weeks later, the series culminated with the reading of Genesis 50. I hadn’t read ahead so I had no idea what was coming. Joseph, having been sold into slavery by his brothers, reported for dead to his father, tossed into jail for not sleeping with his bosses cougar-wife, saved from the death penalty twice. And yet somehow God kept blessing him. Now, as pharaoh’s right-hand man his brothers were now before him begging for food but not recognizing him. Joseph had his opportunity for revenge. No one would blame him. And God would be able to use it as a great lesson for not selling out your friends.
But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.Genesis 50:19-20
My jaw dropped. And my life changed.
You mean… God wasn’t a God who liked revenge?
Barb explained that God used Joseph, a man who had been wronged by so many people, to save the very people who had wronged him. Never did something ring more true and make so much sense in all of my life. As I looked at all of the crap I had been through. Some of it self-inflicted, some of it inflicted upon me, it all had context for the very first time. Perhaps… maybe… PROBABLY… God had allowed all of that to happen to me so that I could one day be in that position, like Joseph, to chose to offer hope where there was no hope. He hadn’t been the cause of it. But God could take what had been done to me to destroy me and use it for His own glory.
I still feel the impact of those few weeks of stories today. Life is still full of crap. And because of her words and sharing Joseph’s story with me for the first time, I can always put it in context. Sometimes people seek to harm you. But God can use that for the saving of many lives.
My life was changed because of Barb’s ministry to me. She shared her heart and mine was opened to the Gospel in a brand new way.
Barb Evans passed away on Monday, March 7th. She had battled brain cancer for more than a year before, earlier this year, the doctors told her they had exhausted all their options and referred her to hospice care. Her last few weeks were spent at home with her family in Alaska, where she and her husband Dan served as missionaries with Cadence International. She leaves behind Dan, her husband, and their two kids, Caleb & Audrey.
It’s impossible to measure or convey the impact Barb had on my life. She and Dan were a critical relationship when I found myself living thousands of miles from home, in Germany, on a military base, my junior year of high school. Their youth ministry offered me so much more than just stuff to do one night a week. For the first time ever there were adults in my life that asked me real questions. They listened to what I had to say in a way that made me feel like I was a real person.
And they gently, and often times not-so-gently, pushed me to think about who I was and who I could become in Jesus.
Barb’s impact on me went beyond when she was the youth pastor’s wife and I was a student who was always with her husband. (Literally, if Dan would let me I was at their house every day. At his office. At youth group early. Anything I could do to hang out with him. Barb was a saint for not kicking me out!)
In college, I ended up attending Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, the church she had grown up in. Her parents befriended me. I remember Kristen and I sharing Easter dinner with her parents and family. Later, I served on the missions committee where we kept close tabs on their ministry, prayed for them regularly, and I was even sent to visit with them in 2001, shortly after September 11th. As I got involved in the youth group at Calvary, I loved the circle of blessing God had created that I helped lead a high school ministry and was part of a church who had raised and sent a young woman who lead me to Jesus.
Over the years, my respect for Barb’s deep faith, practical love for those she ministered to, and heart to raise her children as lovers of Jesus has grown with each passing prayer letter. Her impact on my life began when I was 15 years old and has translated into impact on my whole family.
Her husband Dan lovingly blogged the last year or so on Twitter. It’s such a tender testimony to Barb’s last months, I encourage you to read it.