“Oh the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with scoffers … For the Lord watches over the path of the godly, but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.” Psalm 1: 1, 6.

During your lifetime you will come in contact with many people who will exert an influence on you – relatives, friends, teachers, employers and others. Sometimes that influence may be just a result of what you see, hear, or feel. Other times the influence may be an intentional act. Sometimes that influence will be good; sometimes it can be very bad. Who you “hang around” with is very important. Your friends will definitely influence what you think and what you do. This can be very positive or very negative.

Even “good” people, who don’t really know the Lord, can be a negative influence. They can cause you to cool in your love for the Lord and in your service for Him. Over the years I have watched many young people who loved the Lord marry good moral partners who had no real interest in spiritual matters. The neutral spouse never became more spiritual, but the spiritual spouse always became more neutral in their love and zeal for the Lord. Don’t let that be the case in your life! Your spouse may be the biggest influence in your life. Your grandma has been that to me.

I thank the Lord for people that He brought into my life at various times. Not all were Christians, but I learned valuable lessons from each. Here are some of those and some of the lessons I learned.

Without a doubt, my parents had a major influence upon my life. They shared and modeled the importance of knowing and serving the Lord. They taught me faithfulness – we were always in church, for all services, even when it meant driving many miles or going through bad weather. They drug me away from Little League practices to go to prayer meeting – they knew I’d never be a major leaguer but that I had the potential to be a faithful Christian. They showed me, by example, the importance of caring for and helping others. They showed how to make it without much money or material possessions and how to work hard. They taught me good manners and corrected my English. And while I didn’t always appreciate those things then, I certainly do now. My brother Terry and my sister Kendy have also been special influences on my life in so many positive ways. I praise God for a wonderful family!

My grandparents, Grandpa and Grandma Wolf, were special people. I spent considerable time with them while I was growing up. I spent most weekends with them during my years at Susquehanna. Grandpa Wolf was really my pastor during those years. He was the Godliest man I have ever known and I say that based on what I observed the many times I stayed in their home. He had a heart for his people and was a great visitor (over 1000 visits each year). He took a brief nap every day right after lunch, and then he was off to visit. He never complained and he always found something good to say about people, even when they were critical of him. He was a man of prayer and I knew he prayed faithfully for me each day. He was a special person. Grandma Wolf was special, too. I felt her love and concern for me. I saw her function humbly as a pastor’s wife. I saw her multiply what little she had. I saw her exercise her gift of hospitality. The parsonage was always open to others. She cared for her family. Christmas at their home was always a special time with great memories. I miss them.

My uncles and aunts were tremendous influences. Not only were they examples of Godly living, but they also cared for me. Ellen and John Derck have always been very special and close to me. We lived in the same house for several years in Lancaster. I enjoyed visiting when they lived on Skyline Drive in Lancaster, and in Virginia, Connecticut, and Douglasville. They often came to support us when we ministered, especially at Old Mill. Uncle John often surprises me with telephone calls, often after Penn State games. Beats and Marlin Derck entertained us often in Binghamton and Hanover. They allowed me to stay with them overnight when I traveled to their area with the Susquehanna basketball team. Thelma and Bob Smock took care of me when I used to help with the tents at Mizpah Grove. They introduced me to pizza. When I was a teen they often included me in their youth events in Terre Hill. We spent much time with them when they served in Ephrata and we modeled much of our ministry after their special work with children. They used to draw over 1000 children for DVBS. They taught all their scripture verses by putting them to music and we “stole” that idea from them. As we grew older, we always looked forward to the week that we would spend with them at Pinebrook.

Marjorie Enck (later Kauffman) was my English teacher in seventh and eighth grade. She was a strict teacher who made you stand to recite. If you couldn’t answer her questions, she gave you her “pills”. That meant you had your name placed on the board, for all classes to see, and then you had to report to her after school to work on the lesson until you could answer her questions. Was I prepared for class? Without a doubt! Did I enjoy this experience? No! Did I learn from her? Yes, I probably learned more from her than from any other teacher I ever had. She was tough, but good.

Roy Hertzog, Charlie Mann, Leonard and Nina Buck were all 10 to 15 years older than I was but they took me under their care when I worked as a young teen during the summer at Mizpah Grove. All four became missionaries. All four taught me valuable lessons about serving the Lord. They taught me that Christians can have good, clean fun. And, their homemade ice cream was exceptional.

Bill Young was the editor, owner and my boss at the Lititz Record Express. He loved his cigars and definitely was not a believer. But he taught me how to write and how to layout a newspaper page. I learned so much about publications from him. He was special because he trusted me and had faith in me even though I was just a high school kid. Then, during a summer while I was in college, he allowed me to practically run and publish the entire paper. George Crudden was sports editor of the Sunday News for many years. When I worked there on the editorial staff most of the staff treated me like the college kid I was and they didn’t have much time for me. However, George treated me as a capable writer with potential. He let me work for him whenever he could and he challenged me with interesting and exciting assignments. For many years he continued to use me to cover games during football season and he always expressed confidence in me and satisfaction with my work.

Dr. Robison was my math professor at Susquehanna. He was elderly – I think he might have been there when Grandpa Kauffman went there. He was very respected and he was a good teacher. One day he had me teach a lesson in Vector Analysis on Kepler’s Laws of Motion. I worked hard to prepare and the lesson went well. After I was done he not only complemented me but also said that I should be a teacher. That was one of the things that convinced me to change from engineering to education. Dr. Emil Pollock was a professor that I had for about half of my graduate courses at Bucknell. Usually I had him for 8 a.m. classes, often on Saturday mornings. He loved to drill you in class and he would question a person for about 20 long minutes or longer until he was sure that you understood and saw the whole context. His first question on every exam was “define”. He was tough, but fair, and you couldn’t help but learn and really understand the material.

Jim Herrold was the Christian friend that I needed to help me during those critical college years. Our friendship grew and we have always treated each other as brothers. Even our families were close and we have shared many joys and sorrows over the years. I pray that you may find a friend like this.

Rev. Jansen Hartman was a close friend of Grandpa Kauffman. He was one of four brothers who entered the ministry. He served as President of Berean Bible School and he was actually our pastor when we lived in New Cumberland. I was fortunate to spend much time with him over the years and he always challenged me spiritually. I will never forget the time when as a teen he asked me, “Barry, how do you know that you are saved?” Since I had grown up in a Christian home, I had never really thought about that before. This made me begin to seek to know what I believed and why I believed it. He was a real influence on my Christian growth.