I’m just back from attending my first 100th birthday party. It’s not every day someone turns 100, and I sure wasn’t going to miss celebrating this milestone, especially for one of my heroes – Evon Hedley.
I first met Evon in 2000 when I was a participant in the Arrow Leadership Program. Evon was an on-site mentor who, since then, has been a special encourager, wise mentor and prayerful supporter in my life.
Evon’s life is an amazing God-story. This isn’t just due to his longevity, but by virtue of how God has been at work in and through his life for a century. There’s so much I could write about; however, I’m going to focus on Evon’s legacy as a mentor. Through mentoring, Evon’s life and example is a profound illustration of the Parable of the Sower – the seed that produces 30, 60, 100 times what was sown.
Over the years, Evon intentionally invested his life in the lives of over 100 men through mentoring. The list includes pastors, musicians, businessmen, doctors, lawyers and bankers. As I listened to the tributes from several dozen of these men (and their wives and children) at Evon’s birthday – learning that at least two mentees named their children after Evon – I was profoundly moved.
From his early days, Evon had a heart for intentionally and prayerfully coming alongside younger leaders. One of the men Evon invested in has a very special connection to the ministry of Arrow Leadership. Many years ago, Evon was sharing the vision to reach youth for Christ in Chatham, Ontario and challenged a tall, young man in the group to lead the charge. That young man, only 14 at the time, was Leighton Ford.
As Dr. Leighton Ford writes, “[Evon] stayed close to me, guided me, encouraged me, sometimes scolded me a bit, sent traveling speakers our way, and included me in leadership gatherings.” You likely know that Leighton Ford went on to serve globally as an evangelist for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and then launched the Arrow Leadership Program in 1991 to focus on developing Christian leaders who are led more by Jesus, lead more like Jesus and lead more to Jesus.
With Evon’s early mentoring of Leighton Ford and then the launch of Arrow, you can catch a small glimpse of just one wave of the ripple effect of Evon’s life. As Evon invested in Leighton Ford’s life, Leighton has invested in many others. One of these Arrow leaders was Dr. Carson Pue. Carson in turn invested in many more Arrow leaders while he was President of Arrow. I am very thankful to be one of those Arrow leaders, and I now have the privilege of investing in more Arrow leaders who are in turn investing in others. This generational mentoring trail leads back to one faithful mentor—Evon.
To share one personal story, a couple of years ago I was feeling overwhelmed and I needed some perspective. I called Evon. I asked him if he remembered the life, family and leadership challenges he faced in his forties. To my surprise, and despite his very good memory, Evon said that he didn’t really remember those times. His answer gave me this very needed fresh perspective: it’s quite possible that the things that seem overwhelming today won’t really matter when I’m in my nineties.
I followed up with this question, “Evon can you think of what you would do differently in your forties?” His answer was instant, “I’d love people more.”
One of the repeated themes from the mentees at Evon’s 100th birthday was his love, prayers and encouragement. Virtually every time I finish talking with Evon I hear these words, “Steve, I love you. I’m proud of you and I’m praying for you everyday.” Those words are precious gifts that I need. They are gifts that Evon intentionally lavishes on his mentees.
We all need mentors like Evon in our lives. I also think we can all follow Evon’s example as we follow Christ’s example.
Imagine if all of us intentionally invested in the lives of others for God’s purposes and glory? The ripple effect would be more than we can imagine….
For Sharpening Leaders,
PS – 2016 marks a special milestone for Arrow Leadership! It’s our 25th anniversary! To celebrate, you will receive two Sharpening Leaders articles each month starting in February. Arrow leaders – from class 1 to 41 – will be sharing their insights around being led more by, leading more like and leading more to Jesus. Please consider who would be encouraged to read these articles as you expand your ripple effect as a leader!