When I look into the eyes of my youth kids, I see the potential of who they could be, but there is no way to know who they will become.
The options and possibilities are limitless. It is a gift to see the potential in people. For instance, when there was a group of kids in the back of the room making jokes, where most would see only a problem, one man saw a possibility. My youth minister, Byron Porisch, encouraged my brother Doy and his friends, who had a budding comedy group, to take it to the stage. Eventually, this group became the Fools for Christ.
The Fools for Christ led me to some of my closest life-long friends. It was this group that broke the Christian mold for comedy. We performed at many churches in Michigan, and in a different form are active now in Florida. There are so many wild stories I could tell you about The Fools and all the crazy ministry that took place through the group, but my favorite story is a sad one.
A member of our church was diagnosed with cancer the same day as one of our shows. His family was surprised he still wanted to attend the show, but he wanted to process things. He ended up spending the whole night laughing with tears in his eyes. After the show, he told us what a difference it made – in a strange way, being able to laugh admits the sadness.
Eventually, the man passed on, but eventually we all do. We are all on a journey and I, for one, think it matters if we’re laughing along the way.
Youth ministry is a rough business. Church politics are heart-wrenching, and through all the bumps and bruises it’s hard to stay positive. In a ministry in which one becomes a seasoned pro after staying for two years, Byron served his entire career.
Of all Byron was, the biggest impact he made on me was his ability to stay positive and laugh along the way. He was a passionate man, not simply a goof ball. He got angry; he got hurt — and stressed — because he cared. He cared about the kids, and kids disappoint you. His years at my church were some of the most difficult years someone could have in a church, but he was a stable place in the storm.
And he would laugh. Boy, could he laugh.
Byron had no way of knowing what I would become – a youth minister like him – or any of us. No idea the messes of potential that sauntered into his West Wing would become anything but jokes with no punch-lines or songs that trail off before the tunes begin.
He had no way of knowing crazy antics from a church podium can spin off into crazy antics by kids everywhere, and a gleam that lights up one man’s eyes can become laughter in a thousands’.
Yet this he dedicated his life to. The old Fool.
He gambled on every hard-nosed kid, every screw-up and joker. Every mess of potential, could-be, and might-turn-out he bet his life on. It was a risk, much like the kids that ambled into his West Wing, that still holds limitless possibility.
And he did it all while laughing.
The Fools today say good-bye to a good friend and fellow Fool for Christ. A fool who inspired us, challenged us, and reminded us in a way few like him could — and the only way I think he’d allow now – that, no matter how many our tears or sighs may be, it’s laughing that admits the sadness.