Saturday, April 01, 2023

In Honor of Leslie

I first met Leslie in 2003, she was a high school junior and my wife and I had taken on a little project at our church to get kids interested and involved in community service projects, get kids out of the church walls, and maybe a little more. Leslie was probably just out of the adolescent angst phase, barley probably, because she would tell my wife and I that "Tammie Brettschneider was a saint." But just over the angst, because like some young people that age, she wanted a faith that mattered and if that meant bucking the status quo of American suburbia, than damn the torpedos. I mean, who wouldn't love that in a 16 year old? 

Over the next number of years, Leslie would invade our lives with that sarcastic wit, that ball of energy, that maturity and spunk, those random weird faces. From a high school student that led her peers to give up a Saturday for various community service projects, she transformed into a passionate, intuitive, intentional leader of teams. Throughout her college years, she would help me lead 4 different international high school teams, one to Brazil, one to Cameroon and two to Hungary. 

In Brazil, she befriended our missionary host family like an old friend had come to visit, doing the dishes, helping the boys with homework, folding laundry. In Cameroon, she helped me fend off a mutiny by a smarter than her own good 10th grader. Once in Paris, she took our team of 10 to the Eiffel Tower because I was sick in bed. She was a leader that did what needed to be done. 

As our team prepared for our second time in Hungary, she helped orchestrate special events every evening for the kids of missionaries. Pirates and Princesses, Wacky Tacky, Campfire nights. Third culture kids are a special breed - unique family experiences, different concepts of home, conversations go deep quick. One of the many images stuck in my head is Leslie hosting a dinner table for middle school girls every night for dinner. No secret now, but she loved people who were going through the unconventional. 

Our family was young during these days, our girls were 10 and 6 when they along with my wife started joining these teams, the two to Hungary. Those are some of our family's fondest memories and Leslie, of course, interspersed that season of life. She lived with us one summer, she babysat frequently and was around a lot. In that season, there was a lot of work around planning, logistics, who does what and where. But underneath it all, there was a lot of dreaming. Dreaming about what we might inspire the next generation to do. Dreaming that apathy and indifference would be put on the shelf for a season. Dreaming that students would sacrifice their all for those hurting and less fortunate, based on the One that first sacrificed for us. Leslie loved to dream and her dreams were the best of ours. 

When I started a nonprofit to do this same kind of thing outside of a local church, Leslie was one of the first names that came to mind for my Board and she served with us again for another eight years. Towards the end of that season, she was fully devoted to her career and we slowly lost touch, which is a current regret of mine. But her wit, spunk, and dreaming all continued to inspire us over those years. 

20 years after I met Leslie, she is still one of the most remarkable people I have ever known. She made our dreams come true. As it says in her obituary, dearly and daily missed.

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