In 1974, I was a punk high school kid. For all the things wrong with my life at the time, one of the things that I could do OK was wrestle.
Gil Waterman was an all-American Wheaton College wrestler who I met at Honey Rock Camp in Wisconsin one summer. Subsequently, Gil used to write letters encouraging me. It was a hard time in my life and I needed the encouragement.
Eventually I decided to go to Wheaton College and to wrestle for their team. And it was in large part because of Gil. He was a big shot and I was a nobody trying to figure out life in a small Midwestern town. He helped me believe that that wouldn't always be the case.
Years passed and I completely forgot about Gil. My life turned around and I started to better understand who God had made me to be and where I should be going. My time at Wheaton had been formative.
Then a few months ago, I was leading a trip to Thailand with a couple on it named Doug and Nancy Waterman. Their daughter Julia was a racer. Something about the name Waterman seemed vaguely familiar – and then I remembered Gil. Turns out, Doug is his brother.
Think about Gil's influence in my life. He took an interest in me and made the time to reach out to me. Because of his encouragement, I went to Wheaton. Events cascaded out from that one decision – had I not gone there, who knows whether I ever would have started Adventures.
There are more than 100,000 people who have had their lives impacted through our ministry and many hundreds of thousands have given their lives to Christ as the result of Gil's investment in my life. And every day I seek to invest in people who are at their own crossroads in lives.
Moral of the story: We little realize the impact that we may make in the lives of others through our small investments of time. It didn't take Gil a whole lot of time to reach out to me, but it's made a world of difference.
Your influence on others may be similar. You may never see it, but the ripple effects may be far greater than you ever imagined. Who has invested in your life at a pivotal time? Who do you know that may need your encouragement and influence?
Why not reach out to them and encourage them today?