We could all use a mentor. A person with wisdom and experience. Someone we can learn from. Someone who can guide us through life and maybe help us avoid unnecessary pitfalls. But how do we actually find a mentor? I struggled with this when I first moved to Los Angeles. While I met many wonderful people, I had a hard time finding others who had the time and willingness to get to know me...to really get to know me.
I was willing. Over the years, especially since becoming a Christian, I've learned to value opening myself up, even the ugly parts. But I had a hard time finding others who were willing to open themselves up to me. It was discouraging. So I looked for other ways. I tried to learn as much as I could through books. I had works on leadership, discipleship, even biographies of great Christian leaders like Billy Graham, and while I learned a lot, something was still missing.
In the winter of my first year at Fuller Seminary, I took a class from Dr. Julie Gorman on Adult Discipleship. One of the great features of the class was an end of the quarter party connecting us young seminarians with a group of distinguished ladies and gentlemen from a nearby retirement home. It was here, I first had a chance to meet Evon Hedley.
Evon had a career in ministry at World Vision. He was a big part of building World Vision International into one of the largest Christian humanitarian organizations in the world. In the early years of the 1940s and 1950s, it was a golden age of North American evangelicalism that birthed prominent organizations such as World Vision and others like Youth for Christ and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Evon worked side-by-side with many of the influential people that made it happen.
But despite these impressive credentials, Evon is one of the humblest people I know. He speaks of these times with excitement, but not with any sense of ostentatious pride. He’s more interested in what’s going on in your life now, than in what happened in his life decades ago.
There are many ways Evon has positively influenced me, but a couple stand out in my mind. The first is his indomitable spirit of encouragement. He is full of genuine love and support. He always has an encouraging word. No matter what struggle I’m experiencing, he leaves me feeling it will soon become a triumph. He’s also surprisingly affectionate. He loves to give hugs, and he’ll sneak you a kiss on the cheek, even to grown men. His unabashed love, helps me to let my guard down and just focus on being a person of love.
I have so valued my time with Evon. And with his advancing years, I’m not sure how much more time I’ll have to enjoy with him. Next month he turns 99. His mind is still very sharp, but his body is becoming more frail. It's sad when I see him with bumps and bruises from accidents due to simple household activities. We typically set up our time to get together over email. He’s great at responding quickly, but I fear the inevitable day when I won’t get a reply. So all the more, I celebrate the times we have together.
He has been a great mentor and friend to me. He is an answer to prayer. I’ve learned so much from him. Interestingly, it hasn’t come so much through structure or curriculum (although we've had that too), but by mainly just spending time together. For this I’m grateful to God. I've learned much, from a man who has loved much.