Tommy Pierro’s Legacy: He Showed Up

Years ago I wrote a post called Everybody Needs a Jim Frew which was about my Dad’s best friend who passed away tragically and unexpectedly many years ago. This week I too lost one of my best friends, Tommy Pierro, after battling serious health issues including cancer this past year.

Tommy Pierro was an amazing friend. We met Tommy and his wife Naomi in 2005. They picked us up from the airport during our second trip to interview foe a job at Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle. After we accepted the position and moved to Long Island, he was the first one to arrive to help us unload the moving truck.

Through the years we became very close. We loved going to Yankees games together, hardly ever missed meeting up at Miller’s Ale House to watch UFC cards late on Saturday nights, and went to a live Bellator MMA card together. We did youth ministry together for 6 years, and he was the model youth worker. But my favorite thing about him … he was Uncle Tommy to our girls. As they were growing, and as we were serving in ministry, Adriana and I knew that we really needed other loving, caring adults to be in our daughters’ lives. Nobody did it better than Uncle Tommy. He was a staple at family gatherings, was at every major milestone in our girls’ journeys, and would always find a way to be at Natalia’s softball games. We would see him walking across the field with his chair with a little side table and his bag of snacks and a coffee.

Tommy’s nickname was Rock, and he lived up to his name through his consistency, steadfastness, faithfulness, and servant’s heart. If I had 3 words that captured what made Tommy so special to so many people, they would be simply: He showed up.

As I said of Jim Frew, everybody needs a Tommy Pierro. And yet, as I have reflected on Tommy’s life over the past months, and more specifically, over the past couple of days since he passed, I would suggest something more. Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned from Tommy is that even if we don’t all have a Tommy Pierro, we can all BE a Tommy Pierro. We can show up. Simply being there for people is, I believe, just as, if not more, powerful that anything we can say.

When I learned Tommy was in the hospital, I made the decision that I was going to be there for him, just as he had always been there for us. I wanted him to look up from his hospital bed and see me walking into his room, sometimes totally unexpectedly, just as we used to look up and see him walking toward the softball field. Sometimes our conversations were deep and profound, more often they were simply just two guys talking about life, family, sports, and making each other laugh.

Some days he was completely unconscious and unaware that I was even there, but I showed up. I wanted to be there to give Naomi a bit of relief, to give her some company, to be a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, and to pray with her. I wanted to be there in case Tommy awoke and needed anything. I wanted to be there in case some monitor started beeping and the nurses needed to be notified. I wanted to be there if none of the above happened. I simply wanted to be present with my friend.

I told him so many times over the past months during countless times being with him in the hospital, “I love ya dude!” I am thankful that we had so much time together over the last months of his life. It was painful to see him deteriorate, but it was a precious time and an honor to be with him as he was always there for us.

Tommy, thank you for your friendship and the impact you had on our lives. You left an amazing legacy that we will cherish. I love ya dude! I will miss you terribly. I will do my best to honor your legacy by showing up, and by telling your story and inviting other people to love Jesus by showing up for others like you did.

Until we meet again, cheers!

Egypt Trip Days 9 and 10

On Saturday we were planning on going to the Red Sea, but there was a hiccup getting our passport information to the police department in time. Rather than trying to push it through, we decided to just take the day and relax at the hotel with some of the Wellspring staff. It was Lydia’s 14th birthday, and she was treated to “Happy Birthday” in Arabic by the hotel staff. Turning 14 in Egypt … what a cool memory! After a time of debriefing with our team, the students went to the pool to swim, and the leaders had a time of sharing with the Wellspring staff, sharing our feedback and learnings with one another. After a few hours of fun in the pool we went to the mall then out for dinner. You would think that is a simple thing to do, but we sat in our vans for an hour waiting. Our security detail had gone home for the day, and the hotel security did not want to release us to go unaccompanied. Eventually our hosts were able to work it out and we were able to leave. All day Sam had been asking what we wanted to eat for dinner. “What are we going to eat for dinner?” he asked. He then asked, “Fish?” But we realized through his repetition that it wasn’t an invitation for other ideas. He wanted fish! LOL! We went to a nice seafood restaurant and had a wonderful last dinner with our hosts. There were lots of hugs and tears and pictures as we said farewell to our new friends. We really did have a heart connection with one another that was so special. The beginning of new friendships! We went back to our hotel and turned in by midnight. We got up, packed, had breakfast at 6:30am, then headed to the airport. We had to go through 3-4 security screenings before we were able to board the plane. It was very thorough! The flight home was fine. We shared our Care Cards with one another. After landing we went through Immigration and Customs, got all of our luggage, and emerged from baggage claim into the welcoming arms of our very happy family members. This was an amazing trip! One of my all-time favorites! Thanks to Wellspring for such a wonderful experience, our leadership team which was made up of a perfect mix of people for the task and challenges that we faced, and our students, who were unified, upbeat, and served so well. I am proud of all of you!

Two Mothers … Not a Poem … in Real, Modern Life

Yesterday I posted the powerful poem called “Two Mothers.” In searching for a picture to go on the post, I found the one you see below. I wanted to share the full story behind the picture. It was from a Ted Talk by two mothers connected through the tragedy of 9/11 who found forgiveness and friendship in the most unlikely way.

20 Years Ago Today

Twenty years ago I married my best friend. She’s still my best friend. We still enjoy talking to each other, making each other laugh, raising our daughters together, serving Jesus together, expeiencing new things together, and sharing adventures together. Adriana is more beautiful today than the day I met her, and I love sharing life with her. I could not have asked for a better traveling companion for the journey of life. Happy Twentieth Babe! Here’s to the next twenty and beyond! 

Youth Winter Fest 2016 Recap Video

We have just returned from another amazing encounter with God at Youth Winter Fest. We are so thankful to all of the churches, leaders, students, and staff from 15 different local churches who came together as ONE CHURCH this weekend! God is building His kingdom and it is so exciting to be a part of it. Our speaker for the weekend was Brock Morgan, and we were led in worship by Tim Timmons. So great! Make plans now to join us next year January 6-8, 2017 at Tuscarora Inn in Mt. Bethel, PA!

Andy

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Andy sitting

I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was a scrawny little middle schooler; new to the school. Our middle school was attached to the high school. Back then students were allowed to smoke in the courtyard of the high school, and the kids who were smoking were usually a rough and tough crowd. Seeing all those long-haired metal heads of the1980s leaning against the wall smoking cigarettes was an intimidating sight for kids like me when we got off the bus. I would put my head down and quickly walk to the middle school, hoping I wouldn’t hear those dreaded words, “Hey kid! Yeah, you! Come over here.”

Fortunately, I never did hear those words. Each day as the bus pulled up to school I would see the tough crowd and shiver a bit. But there was one guy who seemed to stick out. He looked like the others – he had long, blonde hair, and he wore a denim jacket covered with buttons – but there was something different about him. He wasn’t smoking like most of the kids. As I would walk by, he wasn’t swearing like the majority of them. While most kids were acting tough, he was pretty chill. Others had an edge to them; he always seemed to be kind. Then one day I saw something else. He had a book in his hand. And it wasn’t just any book; it was a Bible. It was well-worn. I could tell he had either dropped it repeatedly off of a high building and run it over with a car, or he really read it a lot.

Soon thereafter I was at church, and I saw this same guy! I found out that the boy’s name was Andy. I discovered he was a drummer and loved the Christian metal band Stryper. I also found out that Andy was serious about his faith, and that he had a deep desire to reach people with God’s love. I learned that on Mondays, he would get up really early and go to his youth pastor’s office for devotions and prayer before school. There was something special about this guy, and I knew I wanted to be like Andy.

Before long, I was palling around with Andy. I would get up extra early in the morning to do my paper route, then I would ride my bike over to the church and join him and Pastor Bob for morning devotions and prayer. Bob would read from a little devotional called Our Daily Bread, then we would pray for kids at school, and for kids in our youth group. It was nothing big. Many times it was just the three of us; sometimes a couple of other kids would come. Although I was in middle school, Andy invited me to stay after school and attend the Christian Club he led in the high school.

Andy was a role model for me. I saw him witnessing to kids in his school, praying for people, reading his Bible in the cafeteria during lunch. He was unashamed of Jesus. He would sometimes take me out for lunch to talk to me about Jesus and encourage me. Later he became a youth pastor then went on to be a missionary. To this day Andy still inspires me. He left a legacy in his school and influenced me to be who I am today.

Andy was passionate about Jesus, and his love for God was contagious. I wonder if God wants you to be an Andy. You never know if a kid like me is watching you. What kind of message are you sending with your life?

Youth Winter Fest 2016 Geico Commercial