As we make our way back to school today to do what we love to do, spending time investing in some terrific high school and middle school students, one thing is going to be a little bit different. This month marks 10 years that Bridges has been doing ministry in Kokomo. Over those 10 years there have been a few things that have been constant, but one of those constants is changing. This is the first time since our very first semester in January of 2005 that we’re starting a semester without Joe Toren being directly involved as a volunteer, board member or staff member. Joe has taken a full-time ministry position at a church here in Kokomo and we’re extremely excited for him and his family for the opportunity, but to be honest it’s a little strange.
Travis and Casey met Joe at Ryan’s Steakhouse (yeah that’s right, Ryan’s) at the Youth Leader’s Roundtable in 2005. Joe was instantly interested in volunteering and saw it as a great opportunity to connect unchurched kids to his youth group. Over the next 10 years Joe was directly in the daily ministry of Bridges in a very hands on kind of way. Originally he served as a volunteer a few days a week. Pretty quickly we added him as a board member as well. Joe didn’t get to serve in that capacity for too long though before we added him as a part-time staff member. During those 10 years Joe served three different schools and programs and was a great asset to each of them. As we grew Joe was someone that we always knew we could count on to plug in anywhere. As kids, volunteers and even some staff came and went, there was Joe, giving his time and energy to see the mission of Bridges fulfilled. At one point we even asked Joe if he would be willing to step up and lead a program. So for the past two and a half years Joe has led our program at Maple Crest Middle School, which was a big commitment.
Our tagline at Bridges is “Bridging churches, schools and communities”. Over our 10 years of ministry it’s been pretty clear that no one got this more than Joe. As a youth pastor Joe saw Bridges as the perfect vehicle to connect kids to his church and even more importantly to Jesus. Because of his vision for that and his commitment to seeing it through we had countless kids get connected to a church and to Jesus because of the relationship they had with Joe.
Joe- We’re really excited for you and your family with this new ministry opportunity. It seems like a perfect fit for you and the gifts and passions that you have. You will most certainly be missed around here and we wanted to sincerely thank you for your commitment to Bridges over the years. You made the most of the opportunities and went above and beyond to serve our students and to show them they were loved. Thank you for that. We love you and we’ll miss you.