by DanWolgemuth on November 6, 2009

Irv Polk was 74 years old when he died. By most accounts a full life and well within the borders of traditional life expectancy. But quite honestly, 74 seemed like a life cut short. Then again, I’m not sure that with the kind of life that Irv lived that any age would have been adequate.

I was ushered to the second row of Faith United Methodist Church in Goshen, Indiana. I slid into an open spot on the pew and quickly glanced around the sanctuary. Hundreds of people were present. A handsome picture of Irv filled the screen at the front of the church. His bright blue eyes seemed to connect with everyone in the room.

The pace of my heart rate began to escalate as I anticipated the three minutes I had at the microphone. I had prayed about the content, I had landed on the appropriate scripture, and I had even written out my thoughts… but even preparation wasn’t enough to calm my nervous heart.

After the pastor made some introductory comments, after a video tribute, after a congregational hymn… a progression of tributes began. They flowed. One after the next.

For forty-six years this man had invested his life into a Youth for Christ ministry called Lifeline. The focus of Irv’s ministry was young men in Elkhart, Indiana. Most of the young men in Irv’s ministry profile were sideways with the civic system in the community. They were troubled and troublemakers. But Irv didn’t believe that the story needed to end there. He believed that the power of Christ was more than sufficient to transform a lonely, rebellious, misguided and wandering soul.

I sat… regularly checking my program to make certain that I didn’t overlook my place in line… and all the while feeling more and more inadequate to communicate the gratitude of our national organization.

Eric, Brandon, Ian, Tom, Paul… and several others walked up the carpeted church steps to the podium. They talked about a man that had avoided judgment and had dispensed grace… liberally. They talked about the time Irv invested. They marveled at his patience. They revealed the deep pain of biological fathers that were absent, or unknown, or abusive… then Irv. “Like a father.” “Like my father.” “Like the Father.”

“I love Jesus today… I have a wife and children… I am a police officer, a fireman, a pastor, and teacher, a successful businessman…”

More than rehabilitated. Transformed.
More than mentored. Loved.
More than tutored. Taught.
More than involved. Embraced.
More than religious. Christ followers.

For two and a half hours… including three minutes from the humbled and honored Youth for Christ/USA President who read;

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. ~ Eph 2:10 (NLT)

A masterpiece… designed from the beginning to do extraordinary things… Irv Polk.

We love you, Sandy, and we miss him too. 74 wasn’t long enough.

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