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!

Winter Camp Time? PK Dizzle Rap Video is the Way to Promo!

Youth Winter Fest 2018 Promo Video

Too Busy Not to Be There

Fall is upon us. Everything is cranking back up. School, sports, band, chorus, clubs, church programs, and more.

Years ago author Bill Hybles wrote a book entitled Too Busy Not to Pray. He was onto something. As a leader and pastor of a huge church the demands upon him were great. Prayer is one of those things that can easily seem like a waste of time when you have so much work to do. But Bill understood that the busier he was, the more he needed to pray, because by praying he was admitting that he was completely dependent on God. In prayer he spoke with God about the burdens on his heart, the weight of his responsibilities, and asked God to show him what he should be putting his efforts into that day. He confessed his weaknesses and asked God for His strength to do the work God was asking him to do. He was simply too busy not to pray.

One of the common things I hear from both parents and students on a regular basis is that they are just too busy. “Megan has a big test to study for,” they say, or “Ryan has a lot of homework,” or “I have practice after school.” I don’t just hear these things from other students or parents; these realities are in my own home! I have teenagers, and our family is right there with you. The struggle is real!

And yet, I want to challenge all of us to have a paradigm shift. The truth is we are all busy! When I speak to students and parents, it is this reality that drives me to say, “Our busyness is precisely why we must make time to be together.” I wrote this down a few years ago: Our feet reveal our values. Where we choose to spend our time communicates what is most important to us. When, in the middle of our busy week, we take a time out — when we choose to stop for a couple of hours to take a breather, to be with other Christians who have also stepped out of the rat race to catch their breath — we are saying some important things.

We are testifying that we are followers of the way of Jesus not simply minions of our culture. We are getting together to hear what God says about how to live well.

We are humbly admitting our weakness as humans, and our need for rest and refreshment. We can’t just go, go, go all of the time. Even Jesus (God living as a human) needed time away from His busy schedule, and He told His disciples to disconnect from their busyness as well. (See Mark 1:35-37; 6:31)

We are confessing that our strength comes from the Lord, not simply from our efforts and will power.

We are reminding ourselves that we are not alone. We offer one another the gift of fellowship. We are supporting our fellow-strugglers by gathering together to share and listen and pray for one another.

And finally, we are obeying God’s Word which says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another…” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

My challenge to you is to not see youth group, small group, or church generally as just another thing you have to do — an item on a checklist. It is not extra credit; it is a core requirement of life. Taking a time out isn’t the most efficient use of time, but it is essential to your health.

Camp Dynamis 2017 Day 1

Several months ago I asked my staff members to dream a God-sized dream. I asked them what they would like to do this year and said I wanted to get behind them to make their dream a reality. Peter Ladenheim came to me a few days later and said his dream was to run our own summer youth camp. Today was history in the making! Camp Dynamis Year 1, Day 1! I am so proud of him and excited for what God is going to do this week!

Jr. High NYC Mission 2017 Day 3

This morning Peter led our team in devotions during breakfast, then we headed out and caught the train over to The Legacy Center in Brooklyn. We helped sweep and clean the sidewalks around the building then worked in the warehouse sorting and organizing donations of school supplies. When we finished working, Diana, one of the LC staff members asked the students about their hopes and dreams, then shared about how the LC works to help people and how our contributions were helping them to be able to minister to their friends in the community. We then gathered around the LC staff and the students prayed over their ministry. We left at 2pm and took the train back to Living Waters. We had lunch, prepared 75 bag lunches, had a little downtime, then the team went to Manhattan and walked over the Brooklyn Bridge into Brooklyn where they had pizza at the famous Grimaldi’s Pizzeria. While the team had dinner I went to Manhattan where I had the joy of reuniting with my youth pastors from when I was growing up. They were in town from Florida, and we were able to have dinner together. It was the first time we had seen each other in some 23-24 years! What a privilege! They were a major influence on my life as a teenager, and a big reason why I went into youth ministry. It was so great being able to have dinner with them while two of my former students, Rebekah and Peter, now on staff with me, were leading my current students. They are an extension of the legacy that was passed on to me by Bill and Carla Clark. After dinner we all met back up at Living Waters. At 9pm we prayed over the 75 bag lunches we had prepared, and for the people who would be receiving them, then we headed down to the park and gave them out to people. Within about 30 minutes we had given them all away with a smile and in the name of Jesus. We came back to the church and had a good time of debriefing and sharing.

Jr. High NYC Mission 2017 Day 2

This morning after breakfast Jordan led us in team devotions. We then had a time for personal devotions. Today we focussed on doing some discipleship and leadership training. Peter did a teaching on Colossians 3 then the team did some team-building activities. After lunch we learned about prayer walking and did a prayer walk around the neighborhood. We came back and shared what we heard, saw, and learned from God as we were praying. We then got ready and headed to Times Square where we had a bite to eat then attended the Hillsong Young and Free worship concert. It was really awesome! We got to see several of our SRC friends including the Pauluses and the Kendzierskis. Afterward we hung out in Times Square and did a little shopping and got some food. Got back to Living Waters at midnight.