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 for 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 may not 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 Day 4

This morning we had breakfast at the hotel at 7am. We then had Hannah, Joy, and Rebekah lead our team in devotions before loading the bus and heading to camp day 2. As expected today was a bit smoother now that we are more acclimated to the flow of camp. We returned to the hotel at 5pm and were able to enjoy some swimming, hanging out, and naps before being picked up at 7:30pm for dinner. I personally have only managed a little over 2 hours of sleep each of first two nights, so an hour and a half nap was much-needed. For dinner we headed to a local mall which, as all places here at night, was buzzing with people for dinner. It was at the mall that we experienced the first division in our team. Given the option between Lebanese food or sushi, we sat at two different restaurants side-by-side. Who do you think won? I’ll give you a hint: The sushi people were running over to the Lebanese food table and taking food to eat at their table. lol! We got back to our hotel at 10pm and had our team meeting outside. We had some excellent sharing time during our debriefing. We headed to our rooms at 11:15pom and are turning in now. We are having a wonderful experience and are learning a ton! Thanks for your prayers.

Love Long Island 2017 Day 2

Today our three teams 1) did yard work for a lady who has a physically handicap, 2) put together shelves, sorted and organized food and clothing donations at the Shelter Rock Church food pantry which serves our community, and 3) did some organization and cleaned toys for our kids ministry in preparation for Easter. 

Love Long Island 2017 Day 1

Today we headed out for our 5th Annual Love Long Island, two days of serving our community during spring break. We sent one team to Guardian Angel in Sea Cliff, a ministry that helps women and children. We helped organize their thrift shop and storage, cleaned, and did some gardenig. The second team went to Horseability in Old Westbury, a program that utilizes horses to help rehabilitate and improve the lives people with special needs, the elderly, and veterans. Our team did yard work and then cleaned out a paddock, a very important job to keep the horses healthy so they can help the riders they serve. 

Nicaragua Mission Day 5

Today was our free day so after devotions at 7:30am and breakfast at 8am, we loaded the bus at 9am and drove about 45 minutes to go zip-lining. Everyone did it and we had a great time. Afterward we went for lunch overlooking a lake. Just after we finished eating and as we were about to take a group picture we saw a storm approaching over the lake. We took our picture then ran for the bus as the downpour began. We then drove to the market where we did our souvenir shopping. We got back to the Villa at 4:30pm. We have dinner at 6pm then at 7pm we will be having an evening of fun interactions with the girls.   

Nicaragua Mission Day 2

This morning we had devotions at 7:30am followed by breakfast at 8:30am. At 10:15am we met the girls from Villa Esperanza for the first time, and we were all partnered up with one of them whom we sat next to during the ride to church, conversing with them so they could work on their English and for us to work on our Spanish. At church we enjoyed some great worship followed by a message by an American interpreted into Spanish.

Insert Crazy Story Here: As the preacher was delivering his message I kept thinking he had a similar accent to where I grew up. After church I went over and introduced myself. He said he was from upstate New York, not far from where I grew up. I asked him if he knew of Elim, the Bible college Ady and I attended. He did and said he knew some people from there from way back. He asked if I knew the Larkins. I assured him that I did. (Keep reading!) He said he was friends with David Larkin and also knew his brother Dan, and that many years ago he and his wife had adopted Dan Larkin’s daughter Carmen’s daughter. “You are not going to believe this,” I told him, “But I am Dan Larkin’s eldest grandson. Your daughter Jena is my cousin!” It was just a few years ago when Jena and our family were reunited. I am friends with her on Facebook but have not met her in person yet. In fact, right now she is just across town here in Nicaragua on a separate mission trip. How crazy is that!

After a picture of our family with Ted Sandquist (Jena’s dad), our team headed back to Villa Esperanza and had lunch with the girls and the staff. We then had a tour of the facilities and heard the history and vision of the ministry. We then spent a few hours playing basketball and soccer with the girls. A lot of fun! 

After dinner this evening we practiced some songs for our outreach tomorrow then watched A movie with the girls. We have an early start tomorrow. Thanks for keeping up with us and keeping us in your prayers.   




A Picture of The Answer in Baltimore … And The World!

IMG_2560This is a picture of beauty in the midst of ugliness, healing in the midst pain. I saw this picture on the news last night and it gripped me. THIS is the solution to the problems, not only in Baltimore, but around our world. The Bible shows us the way through times like these …

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.

On the contrary:

‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-21).

Violence will never end violence. Overcome evil with good!

Love Long Island 2015: Day 2

IMG_1988Yesterday we headed back out to Love Long Island with the kindness of Jesus. Before breaking into our 4 teams, we had everyone go over to my elderly neighbor Susan’s house where we did an “Extreme Makeover” door knock. Susan had no idea I had been doing some kindness-conspiring! When she opened the door, behind me were 50 young people. I told her that I had noticed her fence was in pretty bad shape, and that we were there to give her a new fence. “O, OK, I pay for it,” she said in her broken English. “No,” I replied, “it’s already paid for. We’re doing this for you for free.” “OK, I make a donation,” she quickly responded. “No, we don’t want any donation. We just want you to receive this as a gift from God. We want you to know that He loves you and is thinking about you today.” She hugged me tightly and expressed her gratitude. Leaving Group 1 there to work on the fence, our other three groups headed out to our ministry sites.

Group 2 headed over to the home of a couple with great physical limitations, who, as I understand it, are getting ready to move to Florida so the husband can receive cancer treatment. Our team helped them clean around the house and get organized for the move.

Group 3 went to serve at Hope for the Future in Farmingdale. They helped prepare food for distribution to the homeless and needy. We also worked in the warehouse unloading a food truck, crating food, and organizing the warehouse.

Group 4 went to Helping Hands Rescue Mission in Huntington Station. They helped clean and organize their donations in the thrift store.

Of all of the things I am privileged to do in youth ministry, taking students out to serve is by far my favorite! I am so proud of all of our students who sacrificed two days of their spring break to go out and serve others!



















Love Long Island 2015: Day 1

IMG_1901_2Today we took 50 Shelter Rock Church students out for day 1 of 2 of serving our community over Spring Break for our 3rd Annual Love Long Island!

Team 1 served at Shelter Rock Church‘s food pantry in Manhasset. They helped clean and painted a room.

Team 2 served at Guardian Angel, a ministry in Sea Cliff which ministers to women and their children in crisis. They cleaned the garage and basement and sorted and cleaned donated toys for children, and organized clothes for their boutique.

Team 3 served a family in King’s Park. The wife has cerebral palsy and is also recovering from shoulder surgery. The husband has just finished battling bladder cancer. We rejoice that he is currently cancer-free, and we are praying for that to be a permanent diagnosis! Our team did some much-needed spring cleaning for the family.

Team 4 also served in King’s Park. They did spring cleaning for my long-time friend, and former volunteer youth worker, the legendary 93-year old Granny Franny (She said she’s 93, but she was apparently 90 when I met her about 8 years ago, lol!). Granny lives alone and except for the senior citizen bus which comes once a week to take her shopping, and Meals-On-Wheels, she doesn’t have many visitors. She was so excited to have our team there, and she gave them her Granny-pep-talk and showed them her Kwanza room.

Tomorrow we are doing 4 more service projects to show God’s love in our community, which I can’t wait to share with you.
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Jr. High NYC Mission Day 4

This morning we had breakfast at 7:30am. Christina led our group devotions. After cleaning up, we headed to the subway at 8:30am bound for lower Manhattan during rush hour. e were packed in like sardines! We arrived at the Bowery Mission at 9:30am and were given a tour of this incredible ministry which is 135 years old. We then got to work sorting donated food items and stocking the food room, breaking down cardboard boxes, and sweeping and mopping. We had a short break to eat lunch which doubled as a training on how to serve our guests when they arrived for lunch. We then settled into

our positions and served lunch to 150 people – many of them homeless. It was a great joy to honor these people as guests of the Bowery mission and serve them in the name of Jesus with kindness and smiles. After cleaning up we said goodbye about 2:30pm and headed off for our fun time. We went to Little Italy and Chinatown to buy souvenirs, then we went uptown to Rockefeller Center where we went to the Top of the Rock and enjoyed a crystal clear view of the city from 70 stories high. We took the train back to Living Waters, arriving about 8pm, and had dinner. It has been a really great trip! We look forward to our final night together, and then packing up and heading home tomorrow. Thank you for your prayers.

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