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Dane Skelton is the Pastor of Faith Community Church and the author of Jungle Flight: Spiritual Adventures at the Ends of the Earth, a book of true stories from the ministry of JAARS (formerly Jungle Aviation and Radio Service). His second book, Papua Pilot: Flying the Bible to the Last Lost Peoples, co-authored with the late Paul Westlund, is now available on Amazon.com and Christianbook.com.
Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-8 NIV (emphasis added).
Halifax County, December 3, 2013
We buried a friend today, someone most of my FCC friends never met. He is a man whose life will have one of the most profound positive effects on Halifax County of anyone who has ever called this place home. His name is Dave Snyder.
It was a shock to hear him explain, just a few short months ago, that he was suffering from stage 4 melanoma and that his chances of beating it were paper thin. It sounded so matter of fact coming from him. But that’s what Dave was like: no flash, no bombast, and no pizazz, just Dave. Just do the next thing. He was quiet, unassuming, and gentle. But as Pastor Mike Parnell said at his funeral, still waters run deep. Dave had a tenacity that was surprising. He is the reason that Young Life exists in Halifax County.
Sometime back in 2010, or maybe earlier, Dave heard then Commonwealth’s Attorney Kim White give a talk on gang activity in Halifax County. He came away so burdened by the information that he determined to do something about it. He began investigating ministries to youth and came upon Young Life, a seventy-year-old para-church ministry that focused on personal contact ministry with kids on high-school campuses. But Young Life had very little experience working in rural settings. The ministry usually trains local college students to do ministry in a given town or city. Halifax County doesn’t have a college campus like that. Dave didn’t care. He believed it was possible to bring Young Life here.
He began contacting people; people in his church, in the town, and in the county, people he didn’t even know. I was one of them. With coaching from Young Life area development director Steve Schmitt of Blacksburg, Dave formed a startup team. We held informational meetings for the public. We did fundraisers. We did our first banquet. Dave tracked every detail, made every phone call, and took adults to Young Life Camp in the summer to share the vision. We got very close to hiring our first on campus staff member, but then it didn’t work out. After four years we had just about nothing in terms of on campus ministry, back to square one. We were down to only four people on the support committee. Frankly, I was ready to give up, more than once. But Dave wouldn’t quit so I felt like I couldn’t either.
Then Dave’s perseverance paid off. In 2012 he cold - called HCHS math teacher Sarah Reaves, a deeply committed believer who has great rapport with kids. The two had never met. Somehow Dave convinced her to go with him to Young Life summer camp and that changed everything. Sarah instantly got the vision of how Young Life works and committed to making it happen at HCHS.
Just two weeks before Dave died he and Steve Schmitt spoke by phone. “Dave,” Steve said, “I just wanted to share the news with you. Halifax Young Life just had their first every Club meeting. Over 70 kids were there.” Dave’s family tells us that he visibly brightened when talking about it.
As we laid our friend to rest I was praying for his wife and family. Their loss is incalculable. But because of Dave Snyder’s example I will also be thinking about what it means to succeed in the kingdom of God. You don’t need pizzazz. You don’t need a lot of money. You don’t even need much help. All you really need is faith and a deep well of perseverance.