In Memory of Lois Forsythe
June 20, 1931-May 5, 2020
It makes sense to me that a godly woman like Lois, who was passionate about youth ministry, would ask for 1 Corinthians 13 to be read at her funeral. If you are going to do youth ministry, you have to understand love. It isn’t just the romantic feeling that young people want to believe it is. Everyone wants to fall in love! But that isn’t the kind of love Paul talks about in this letter to a church struggling with egos, divisions, and disagreements and definitely not demonstrating our oneness in Christ’s Body.
A youth group leader has to model the kind of love that God showed for us through His Son, Jesus Christ. This is a self-giving love. A patient love. A love that endures, even if it is not returned to the giver. A love that is quick to forgive and does not hold grudges.
I think of all the time that Lois and her husband, Richard, gave to youth ministry and youth Sunday school at The Presbyterian Church—decades! That’s amazing. Love takes time. Most people aren’t willing to give that kind of time as volunteers in a church these days, especially to minister to youth, when they have their own jobs and families. But if you don’t have time to be with young people, then you aren’t going to be able to show them the kind of love that they desperately need. They are looking for acceptance and guidance. They are needing encouragement, equipping, shaping, and molding of their character, gently, affectionately over time—like our Potter does with us, His beloved clay.
I was having lunch one January day with Susie Stout, a former youth group member from Lois and her husband, Richard’s tenure. And what did we end up talking about the most? Youth ministry. Susie is a former public school teacher who serves as a leader for children and youth at Roscoe United Methodist Church. I invited her to visit my confirmation class and share her faith, and she immediately said yes. She came and presented the gospel with a magic trick. She had us spellbound. But the other thing that came of our lunch together, Susie and I, is that we talked about Lois. She and her sisters called Lois and Richard “Mr. and Mrs. For.” I invited Susie to come with me to bring home communion to Lois on a later date. She did, and it was a wonderful visit. What did we end up talking about? All the fabulous things Susie and the youth did with Mr. and Mrs. Forsythe. Oh, and a little about their families, dogs, and swimming. As Susie and Lois talked, I considered the effect that Lois must have had on Susie’s Christian formation and vocation–the impact of one life on another.
Susie says, “My sisters and I have very fond memories of our youth group under their direction. We had lock-ins and fundraisers. We went to Camp Wakonda for retreats. We had a concession stand on the square during Canal Days and served our famous Presby Coneys. We had a skate-a-thon and skated around the square, through the drive-thru at McDonalds and all over the church. We would bake hot cross buns and bunny cakes at an Easter Eve all-nighter. We took orders from the congregation. We had swimming parties and bowling parties…” Also, “Lois loved her dogs,” Susie says, “and my sisters and I would take care of one of them sometimes when they had to go away… And they would also just let us come over and swim. This wasn’t really youth group related. They were just so kind. This was at their other house, not the current pool. We also painted the pictures on the walls in the “Crib Room” (at church). I’m not sure if they are still there or not.” They are, though the Crib Room has been empty for years. “They just made us feel like it was our church,” Susie says, “and we were very much at home there.”
Then I reached out to Leslie Griley, who also grew up in our church. Leslie says, “When I think about Mr. & Mrs. Forsythe, two things come to mind immediately. First- The Presbyterian Youth Group! They were the absolute best youth group leaders a teenager could ever hope for! They arranged countless activities and trips for us. Sleepovers at the church, picking strawberries at PBF Strawberry farm for our Strawberry Festival, roller skating parties, hosting luncheons after worship on Sundays, Camp Wakonda for a weekend retreat every fall. With everything they did, they put their all into it. Always patient and loving with us. Our youth group was like an extended family and Mr and Mrs. Forsythe were our church parents. They loved us and it showed with every word they spoke to us and we loved them. They genuinely cared for us as though each of us were their own children. Not one time, that I can recall, did they ever lose patience with us. I do recall one year Mrs. Forsythe told us that we’d be participating in Youth Sunday and what we would be doing was like a play. (With lines that were to be memorized) Apparently, we must’ve had dumbfounded looks on our faces because she then said- ALL of you have popular songs memorized. Think of the lines like those popular songs. Youth Sunday was exceptional (that year)!
“The 2nd thing that comes to mind – The Presby Coney Sauce!!!!!! During Canal Days each year, our Youth Group would have a food stand. One of the items sold was the Presby Coney Dogs. Mr and Mrs Forsythe made the best coney sauce! To this day, it is still the best I have ever had! Nothing compares to it. One year, my dad offered to help Mrs. Forsythe make the coney sauce. She agreed. Throughout the day, Mrs. Forsythe would stop by the house to check how things were going. When all was said and done, Dad nailed it! My dad was an excellent cook and I think Mrs. Forsythe stopped by to make sure it was going smoothly. Tim, Shari, David, and John,” Leslie says, “thank you for sharing your parents with us. Your parents created some of the best childhood memories a girl could ask for. Your parents created experiences for me that I hold dear in my heart. I feel so very lucky to have grown up in a church with your parents as mentors. Not only do I feel lucky, I also feel very blessed. Both of your parents are shining stars in the heavens and I’m grateful that God placed them in my life from grade school until I graduated. I’m so truly sorry for your loss and I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers as you go through this difficult time. But, you can be rest assured, your parents were an extremely important and positive part of my life. I loved them so very much! I believe that God works in mysterious ways.
“Last week, Chad Emerson (he was a member of the church many moons ago) and I were talking about Mrs. Forsythe!!!! Mr. and Mrs. Forsythe were simply the BEST. They mattered in more ways than anyone could ever express.”
Another member of the youth group directed by Lois and Richard was Tom Lang. He says, “I’m sorry to hear that Lois passed; she touched so many youths’ lives in so many positive ways. I certainly looked up to her, and Richard, her husband, as loving, caring, fun people who had strong faith. I could count on Lois to answer questions I had about faith, God and Christ. She had so much love to give all of her ‘kids,’ and we all loved her back. I also remember her sweet singing voice, so beautiful to hear. The first thing that came to mind when I saw her name in your message was her ‘huggability’. She loved hugging and being hugged and her hugs were genuine, and always full of love. I know many will miss her.”
These words that Paul gave us in 1 Cor. 13 rarely describe human love, but they always describe the perfect, unconditional love of God for us. Our challenge is to reveal it, with God’s help, to our broken world. It’s a love that is embodied and shown through one’s life over time—and remembered through a person’s character and through word and deed, as in the case of Lois, who is with her loving Lord, experiencing fullness of joy.
I pray that in your hearing of the words of the Apostle Paul to struggling Christians in every age, you will be inspired to keep on trying to reveal the love of God in your own life, with God’s help. I hope you will remember the impact that you may have on others, like Lois did on Susie, Leslie, Chad, and Tom, who shared memories from almost 40 years ago.
“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.”