Written by Mark Delaney
Mark Delaney, Children’s Pastor at Valley Assembly in Spokane Valley, Washington, has actively been involved in children's ministry leadership since 2004. His passion is to empower children and families to seek God constantly, serve Him faithfully, and share Him boldly.
When my family and I moved to Georgia a few years ago we were quickly introduced to a town called ‘Yonderville’.
Yonderville is the wide open expanse that lies in between two “real” towns. This isn’t a town you’ll find on any map or locate with a GPS, but the locals all know right where it is. (Apparently to qualify as a real town you must have a Wal-Mart and a McDonalds.)
My family was kindly invited to the home of a couple who lived in this uncharted town.
“Thank you, Sir and Ma’am. Where do you live?” I knew I was in for a wild ride when they began detailing local scenery. Before I could jump in, directions were in full swing.
“Well, we live 20 minutes o’er yonder. Once you get off Highway 35, go past the gas station, then over the train tracks. You’ll take a right at the blue fence and another right at the BIG oak tree next to the creek. Follow the road where the creek turns and when you see the old red tractor on the left, you’re almost there. Our house will be on the right. It’s the one with the electrical box in the yard and white rockers out on the front porch.”
With wide-eye confusion I felt my jaw drop slightly. Didn’t these people understand I have a phone that talks to me and tells me exactly where to go?! All I needed was a simple address---not some random list of mile markers and roadside attractions. So I did what any good city person would do, I took out my smart phone and asked for their address. I was given their street number, along with their phone number thrown in for good measure.
A few days later I loaded my family into the car, pulled up their address in my phone and headed out. Things seemed fine until I realized we had been driving for about thirty minutes. While I didn’t recall any of their backwoods directions, I distinctly remembered being told they lived just twenty minutes away.
My phone said I was still ten minutes from my destination. It then hit me that I was lost in a land with nothing but open roads and peanut farms. (Apparently even Google doesn't understand the intricacies of visiting the town of Yonderville!)
I had their phone number but, of course, couldn't as a man bring myself to dial and ask for help. Luckily, just ahead I spotted a porcelain gas sign just above the tree line. I pulled into the station, showed the address to the attendant inside, and asked if he knew how to get there.
That’s when I learned my second lesson about the uncharted town of Yonderville. Anyone who lives in this wide-open expanse can usually tell you how to get ANYWHERE in their far-reaching town.
Again I was given directions laden with colors, trees and buildings, but this time I took detailed notes. I got back in the car and followed directions exactly as they were given to me. Before long I saw a green electrical box and white rockers on the porch. My stubbornness and know-it-all attitude got us there late, but we successfully arrived at our destination.
The next time I was invited to a home in Yonderville I wrote down the list of vivid directions, following them word for word. (I arrived on time and only got lost once briefly when I drove past the boiled peanut stand instead of turning right.) Eventually I learned an even better method was simply to get in my car and follow behind a local who knew how to get my Yonderville destination. That was a surefire way of not getting lost.
I’ve also learned that life is full of trips to the town of “Yonderville”. . . times in life when you’re confused, a little lost and not sure which direction to take. It happens to
- High school seniors trying to make sense of what’s ahead
- Newlywed couples not quite sure how to actually “do” life together
- Parents trying to discover how to properly raise their children
- Families facing the stress of moving or losing a job
- Longer term spouses struggling to maintain their relationship now that their lives are overscheduled and full of stress
There are countless other examples, but we’ve all been in those places in life where we seem stranded. Being lost isn’t a comfortable feeling, as we try to quickly figure out how to get back on track. So we read the latest and greatest books, and we listen to seminars and sermons from tremendous speakers. We meet with others dealing with similar issues and seek advice from our peers.
These things can help, but when we’re in the Yondervilles of life, I’ve learned we need to pray and ask God to lead us to someone more seasoned who knows their way around. This is the Biblical model of discipleship that God wants us to live out. One generation speaking into the next, with each getting stronger in return. “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power and the wonders He has done.” Psalm 78:4
God has gifted most churches with seasoned veterans of the faith. They meet regularly in groups with names like “rock of agers”, “over 50’s”, and “prime timers”. Many times those younger see them as great people but just a little out of touch. They shut them off the same way I treated the person who began giving me directions that sounded like they were sending me on a Tom Sawyer adventure.
But these long-time followers of Christ have learned how to get around the countryside in life’sYonderville frustrations. They possess the ability to share how, with God’s help, you can arrive at your destination successfully. Allowing them to speak Godly advice into your life is more powerful than any new book or video.
Intergenerational ministry is a Biblical model that is far more successful than simply relying on your peer group for advice. I wouldn’t trust my phone, Google maps or another city person to provide the best directions to help me find my way around the countryside. The best way is to get in the car and follow right behind someone who has been there many times before.
I find books, videos, studies, and peer interaction to be enjoyable and highly beneficial. They serve a great purpose. However, I think we MUST empower by seeking out and finding the o’er yonder, been-there-done-that, seasoned followers of Christ.
You may have to listen more attentively, take notes and slow life down a bit, but their advice is well worth it. You’ll find some great direction from the gentleman with the gray hair. He’s sitting just behind the guy with the dark glasses in the third row from the front of the stage, ‘just o’er yonder.’