Howdy. I'm Matt Todd. My wife and I have four kids and a dog,. I'm passionate about orphan care. I'm a die-hard fan of the Evansville Aces, the Indiana Hoosiers, and Star Wars. I'm trying to live life by the Todd family motto: "It behooves us to live!"

What are you gonna do? Shock the world.

In my post about Todd Bussey’s influence on my life, I said that he will probably shock the world in Florida. That was intentional.

Here’s why…

Shock the WorldIn high school, my summers were pretty jam-packed. Thanks to Scouting, we had a trek at Philmont and Summer Camp to look forward to. Marching band consumed many days and nights as we tried to put together a top-notch show that would (hopefully) rival those of Castle and Reitz. And our family would always squeeze in a family vacation during the Summer, too.

It was wall-to-wall action with little downtime. And it was just the way I liked it.

“Here I raise my Ebenezer…”

One of the first events of Summer was our church youth group’s annual trek to Summer in the Son at Kentucky Christian College (now known as Kentucky Christian University). Friendships were forged. Faith was challenged. Bonds were strengthened. We “koinonia-ed” all over the place. Lives were changed at Summer in the Son. When I look back on my faith journey, I see several Ebenezers – key landmarks that remind me of where God intervened in my life.

One of these Ebenezer Monuments occurred during the main worship service. A speaker, whose name I cannot remember, shared a story that changed the direction of my life. I’m going to do my best to retell it. Please note that I have made up the names and dates of this story. It’s not because I’m trying to protect the innocent. It’s simply because I heard this story back in the early 1990s and details like names and dates in this story are honestly a bit of a fuzzy memory. But I promise. It’s a good story. And it changed my life. It went a little something like this… Continue reading What are you gonna do? Shock the world.

Todd Bussey: More than an old youth group minister

Leigh was part of our high school youth group. I asked her to share some memories from her experience with Todd Bussey as our youth minister. I knew she would have some stories to tell. I’m glad I asked. Because she delivered!

Thanks for sharing, Leigh!

Todd Bussey!

I met Todd Bussey 30 years ago when I first went to youth group on a Sunday night in 1988.

Young, energetic, silly, larger than life in personality and stature…he drew us all in and, quite frankly, made us a family.

He often met us for chips and salsa at Hacienda after youth group and made the mistake of showing us where he lived.  Now, I personally never used a credit card to break into his apartment, but I was often sitting on his living room couch when he came home…along with anywhere from 5-20 other kids.

Todd arranged goofy skits and fun outings.  He encouraged us to get messy and let go of the typical high-school drama.  Along with Scott & Corri Brooks and Brian & Dawn Gower, he put up with constant attempts to get him off-topic, countless shenanigans, and some very reckless new drivers in the church parking lot.  He moved to a new apartment, and he didn’t even bother to lock the door.  

Todd Bussey, Dawn Gower, Brian Gower

He took us to Summer in the Son and led us to think maybe we’d go to Kentucky Christian College someday.  He forced us to stop at Cracker Barrel whenever we were traveling.  He kicked us out of the church van if we complained about his driving. He wore a skin-tight Batman costume and climbed down from the balcony in the sanctuary.  We were all super-proud that we were the ones who got to go back home with the hilarious guy who started each morning there with a grin.

I knew he loved everyone, but he found a way to make each of us feel special.  

I witnessed his true caring, and I know he spent long nights with a few people who needed him.  He sent me flowers to celebrate my birthday when he found out it had been overlooked one year by some of my peers. It was an endearing gesture I have not forgotten all this time later.

When we graduated from high school, he came to our open houses, let us know what we’d meant to the youth group, and prayed over us.  Because of the bond he’d fostered between us, we kids kept in touch with each other even though we all went our separate ways…and then when we came home from college on breaks, we now went to his house on Lincoln Avenue.  The door was always unlocked.

He sent me Audio Adrenaline’s new CD  when I graduated from college (a nod to our time at SITS when they used to be called A-180). I got my first teaching job, and I still came home on breaks to visit.  He counseled me through the break-up of a serious boyfriend…and then called my now husband by the old boyfriend’s name at our wedding rehearsal.  (He managed to use the correct name at the wedding, thankfully!)

Todd Bussey officiating Leigh's wedding

He was just “Todd – my old youth group minister…”

…until a family crisis made him “Todd – the person you call when everything is falling apart.” At a moment’s notice, he simply showed up and was the example of Christ we needed at a time of true despair.

It’s pretty powerful to realize that God placed this man in my 12-year-old life so that he could be a source of strength in my adult one.

And my story, of needing Todd as a grown-up, is not unique. That youth group family still keeps in touch, and I know he’s been there for others during times of confusion, pain, sorrow, and deep loss.

When Todd left Evansville this morning to move his dear family to Florida, he left behind a building that housed a ministry that touched my life — and that’s been weirdly hard for me to come to terms with. However, the friendship, admiration, and deep connection remain…no matter what state Todd lives in.

I’ll still celebrate his February 26th birthday that he shares with another important man in my life…my dad.  

I’ll still reminisce with my parents about the time the entire extended Bussey family stopped by our cottage in Michigan just to say hi.

I’ll still send him our Christmas card — how did that goofy girl end up a teacher, wife, and mom of 4 kids?

I’ll still text him selfies of me and random (or maybe not so random?) people that show up in my life who happen to know the legend that is Todd.

I’ll still seek his advice for big decisions and his support in times of trouble.

I’ll still fondly remember youth group on Sunday nights.

Love you, L. Todd!
Leigh Blackburn Stella

Perhaps as a testament to the positive effect that Todd had on the lives of those young kids in the late 80s, you might not be surprised to find that he moves to his new position in Florida at a church under the direction of Jason Cullum, a Cullen Avenue Christian Church High School Youth Group Class of ‘92 grad like myself.  I’m sure his new flock will enjoy these throwback photos of their new/our old partners in crime.

Todd Bussey and Jason Cullum

Todd Bussey and Jason Cullum

A high ropes course and ministry [aka Thanks, Todd Bussey]

I’ve shared this story on several occasions in several different ways. I don’t think I’ve ever shared it here. Todd Bussey might be tired of it. But I’m not. And I’ve decided that it is altogether fitting to share it today as we wish Todd countless blessings as he begins the next chapter of his ministry life.
Todd Bussey with me before my wedding, 1998

There I was –

some 40 feet in the air. A helmet was strapped to my head. A harness was firmly fastened around my body. I was safe. But I was stuck. I wasn’t going anywhere.
It was one of my first years as a Boy Scout and we were participating in the high ropes team building course the National Boy Scout Museum in Murray, Kentucky. The climax of the afternoon was climbing a giant tower and then walking across a high wire from one tower to another. I could choose to take one of thee routes to this second tower. I chose the path that was most difficult.
Of course I did. I had to look cool in front of my friends, didn’t I?

I chose the path called The Hourglass.

The Hourglass is made up of a single wire to walk on a wire to hold onto. As you’re walking across the wire that’s suspended among the treetops, the wire that you’re holding onto is gradually sloping downward. Once you’re in the middle of the path, the wire that you’re holding onto has descended enough that it is actually attached to the foot wire.
How high did I say this course was? Forty feet? Felt like 75.
So there I was, 125 feet in the air, squatting down on a wire, holding on to another wire for dear life. Behind me was another wire that was attached to the wire at my feet. That second wire slopes upward and leads to the second tower at the end of the course.
There was a trick. One I didn’t expect. There, in the middle of the course, 235 feet in the air, I had to let go of the wire in order to adequately turn my body and grab hold of the other wire and make my way toward safety.

 Let go.

My head knew what I needed to do. I think my heart even knew. But my body? Not so much.
Let go?
That was crazy talk. I was hanging 376 feet in the air. That cord at my feet was my only lifeline. And I was supposed to let go? There was no way I was letting go of that wire.
So I squeezed harder. My knees started to shake. The wire I was standing on started to sway. Sweat ran down my brow and started to sting my eyes. I was in bad shape. Things were looking bleak.
I was certain I was going to die up there. I just wasn’t sure how. Maybe I would shrivel up and die from dehydration. Or maybe I would just shake myself into oblivion. Or maybe my safety harness would wear out and I would tumble 563 feet to my doom.

So I stayed there and waited for my certain death. At least I had my safety helmet on, so when I finally fell to oblivion, the staff could sweep up all of the pieces into my helmet, wrap it up, slap a sticker on it and send me home on my way.

Friends down below were shouting encouragement. “Just let go with one hand! Everything will be OK!”

Of course, every time I tried that, the tightrope would shake. I’d panic. And then I’d find myself gripping the wire even tighter.

After an eternity, which was probably no more than five or six minutes in realtime, something unexpected happened. I heard a familiar voice from the tower.

“Matt,” the voice said. “I’m coming to you. We’re going to finish this together.”

It was Todd Bussey, my youth minister. He had come with our Troop on this camping trip, and had already taken his turn on the high ropes course. He had strapped on the safety equipment and was already making his way towards me on a nearby obstacle.

It only took a few seconds after he came out to me. He calmed me down. He coached me through the next steps and encouraged me as I let go of the wire and grabbed the other one. The rest was a piece of cake.

I survived the Hourglass. And I owe it all to Todd Bussey.

Todd is wrapping up a ministry at my home church that began back in the 1980s. He’s moving his family to Florida to write a new chapter of ministry with some new church work.

I know.

Florida.

Tough life, huh?

But he’s going to help turn the region upside down. Perhaps he’ll even shock the world. Because that’s what Todd does. It’s what he’s always done.

Todd Bussey at the Welcome Back sign at Philmont Scout Ranch, 1990

Todd baptized me. He co-officiated my wedding. He ordained me. And if something unfortunate were to happen in the near future, I hope he’ll bury me, too.  We went on our first Philmont trek together. And he coached me through some important merit badges in Scouting, including Communication and Citizenship in the Nation. Of course, he was also a spiritual mentor of mine. We have some pretty great memories from five Summers in the Son together. Oh, and we were the Summer in the Son volleyball champions of 1990, even though we were the clear underdogs. And he even introduced me to A-180/Audio Adrenaline.

His story has been wrapped into my story for the past 30 years.

And I share this story about the high ropes course because it’s a nice little illustration of what he has done for me over and over and over again.

As a ministry coach, a spiritual advisor, a pastor, and a friend, Todd has always been there for me. He was there when my dad had a heart attack. He was there when I needed a listening ear after I left my first professional ministry. And he helped guide me through preparing for my first funeral as a preacher.

Just like when he was there for me 722 feet in the air, I have always been able to count on Todd Bussey to be there for me. And I know there are many other people who feel the same way.

This leaves a large hole in my home church’s leadership. Shoot, it leaves a large hole in the entire Tri-State area. But Evansville’s loss is going to be Jacksonville’s gain.

This most definitely is not goodbye, it’s “see you later.” In Florida. I can’t wait to see how God uses Him in this new chapter!

Why I Cried in Church Today

I cried in church today. And I’m OK with that.

It happens every time there’s a baptism service. Of course, part of the reason the tears start to fall is because I’m reminded in a very powerful way about how deep and wide God’s love is for me. And then I remember two of the most amazing moments of my life: baptizing Aiden and then baptizing Aly a year later. Then I think of how I hope and pray that Mihret will choose to be baptized one day, which makes the tears flow even more freely.

baptism water

And then I think of other people I’ve had the honor of baptizing. People like David, Ginny, Peter, Jerry, Tom, and Jim.

This inevitably leads me to thinking about the people who had such an impact on my own story while I was growing up. Now, some may argue that I haven’t grown up. They’d probably be right. But that’s not the point. I’m talking about people who stepped in and made a difference in my life during my formative years.

I grew up in a God-fearing home. Some of my earliest memories revolve around church and being scared of the Preacher’s Wife because I thought she was mean to me when I had to sit by her during Sunday evening service. How dare she expect me to sit still and be quiet while the service was going on? Even with that legacy of faith that my parents established for me, I still had to take this faith I had inherited and make it my own story. I came to that realization because of people who surrounded me and encouraged me to make that faith my own.

So while I witnessed the baptisms today, I couldn’t help but think of the people outside my family that God has used in ways they can’t even imagine.

Cheryl Stroud led some pretty amazing children’s choirs and challenged me to be more than I thought I could be.

Todd Bussey baptized me, married me, and ordained me. I think you could say he’s a pretty special guy.

Dr. Gerhart (we always referred to him as “Mr. G.” in Scouting circles) has always encouraged me and challenged me to continue to work at becoming a better man as a leader and as a disciple. He has been a shining example for me, reminding me that scholarship and faith are not mutually exclusive. He also taught me how to worship God when surrounded by His creation.

Scott and Corri Brooks were like second parents to me during high school. A small group of us met in their house every Wednesday for the better part of four years. Their shared desire to follow Jesus at home and in the workplace couldn’t help but rub off on me.

There are other faces that show up in my mind’s eye, too. People like the Teskes, Nova Conner, Judy Taylor, Jack Arney, the Hedwalls, Jack Bruce, the Gowers, the Linges, Pam Jordan, the list can go on and on…

cloud of witnessesI guess you could say they are my own personal cloud of witnesses. God used them to shape my faith. God used them to shape my story. So I thanked God for them again today. I prayed for them again.

And yeah, I cried for them, too.

Who has had an impact on your faith? Who is in your cloud of witnesses?

baptism water

Trip to Evansville

One of the advantages of moving up to Muncie is the fact that we are closer to family. Instead of driving 8 hours, the most we have to drive is about four. This is a huge improvement, since Alyson really doesn’t like riding in the car and gas prices have…what…doubled(?)…since we moved up here?

We finally got to take advantage of the improved proximity to my parents and went down to Evansville for a few days last week. Like I’ve said before, it’s always great going back and spending time in my hometown and hanging out with my parents. And when we’re done, I always wish I could spend more time there with them (I know – scary, huh?).

This visit was even more special than usual because of the cool places we went (more posts about that later. Maybe tonight…maybe tomorrow…who knows?), and the old friends I got to reconnect with. I had lunch with Todd for the first time in ages. It was great hearing what God’s doing to him and through him and his ministry efforts. We also ‘talked shop’ for a while and I came away with some great ideas for things we can do here in our church. He offered any support and all support that he could give in the future. If ever I’ve had a “Barnabas” in my life, it’s been Todd. I just get so encouraged and fired-up after spending time with him. It was a great lunch.

I also had breakfast with Chad, a fellow Band Geek from high school who I hadn’t seen in about nine years or so. We’ve reconnected through Myspace (I know – I desperately need to update that profile) and tried to get together before (I had even hoped to attend his wedding last year…but forgot where the service was held. Man, I felt stupid!), but it never worked out for one reason or another. Breakfast was good. Met his daughter. It seems strange thinking of him as a dad. But then again, I think it’s strange thinking of myself as a dad…and here I am! We’ll definitely have to get together again soon. Maybe the next time we’re down in Evansville…whenever that is!

More updates later. I’m tired and going to bed.

Adios

I’ve known about this for a while, but kept forgetting to mention this here.

I’ve mentioned earlier that I had the pleasure of being exposed to Audio Adrenaline back when they were still in college and were known as A-180. Todd would bring them over to play for our youth group several times. We even got to play basketball with them in our gym. I remember the first concert they had in Evansville after they changed their name from A-180. There was much debate about whether the promotional posters we printed up should have an “e” or not at the end of “Adrenaline.” I think the “e” was kept off. I used to have that poster. I wonder if it’s still at my parents’ house. The concert was at the old Victory Theatre, before they did the major renovations. We hung out with a bunch of “skaters” (maybe you could call them “pre-Goths”?) and the show wound up being a huge mosh pit with a bunch of stage diving happening. I think Jarod dove off. One of my favorite memories of that was pushing Scott Brooks, our D-Group leader, up on stage. He started to run to the edge to dive off, then paused. I think he was scared that no one would catch an older (early 30’s…not so old anymore!) bald guy. He eventually did it and we did catch him.

It was pretty cool to be able to say “I knew them when…” I’ll admit that their music hasn’t always been my favorite, I’ve always tried to follow them and there will continue to be a special place in my heart for them. When I did the whole youth ministry thing, I tried to connect our youth with many of the “up and coming” groups so they could have a similar experience. While I don’t think we played basketball with Esther’s Request or Alathea, they managed to perform some pretty spectacular shows for our ministry.

With that, I’m sorry to share that Audio Adrenaline is hanging up their instruments and calling it a day. It’s been a fun run and I’m sad to see them go.

Adam’s Funeral

As we got into the car to go to the funeral, the radio was playing the tail end of Blessed Be Your Name. During the funeral, they sang Imagine. Then we heard it on the radio as we pulled out of the parking lot to go to the cemetery. Then, as we pulled out of the cemetery, Held, a song about coping with the loss of a child, was playing on the radio. I couldn’t take it anymore. I turned off the radio.

I got to eat lunch with my old music teacher. He’s the one who got me to play trumpet. I don’t think he really remembered me, but we talked. It was good.

Todd officiated the ceremony today. He said this was his third funeral in five days. And this was his vacation week.

Time to pack up for phase two of our “furlough.” Next stop – Indy.

Bussey Wedding, revisited

I’ve had a few days to let the memories of Todd and Mandy’s wedding soak into my brain. It was one of the most memorable wedding ceremonies I’ve attended (my own excluded, of course). These are the things that continue to come up:

* The junior bridesmaid coming down the aisle immediately before Mandy’s entrance. She was ringing a bell, singing, “Here comes the Bride! Here comes the Bride! Here comes the Bride!” all the way down the aisle.

* The 6-page program handed out to each guest. Not only did it include the Order of Service, but interlinear notes, explaining who people were and why they were important to the happy couple.

* The tag-team officiating of the ceremony. So many ministers have been involved in Todd’s life, including the huge staff at Crossroads, that I’m sure it was impossible to pick one or two to officiate the wedding. So – they had a different minister (or ministers) oversee each section of the ceremony.

* Todd implicating impropriety by saying his younger brother looked remarkably like the milkman.

* The entire Crossroads choir performing the pre-service music.

* This quote from one of the Groomsmen at the reception: “I met Todd on August 18, 1980, when we both entered Kentucky Christian College as freshmen. Ironically, on that same date, Mandy received her first tricycle.” There’s something like a 15 year age difference between the two.

Yet again, may God bless the Bussey family!

“The Wedding of the Century”

Todd Bussey is a married man.

And there was much rejoicing.

After 42 years, the guy who has impacted so many lives in many more ways than he could ever imagine made a lifelong promise to the woman he had prayed about, and certainly hoped for, for so many years. I thank God that we had the opportunity to share in his joyful event. Hundreds of people were there – many of which I recognized, quite a few I knew.

Mom and Dad said afterward that this is probably the closest thing Crossroads will ever come to having a homecoming. And it was quite a homecoming.

Kevin called it the “Wedding of the Century,” and he was probably right. People really did come from all over the country to share this time.

May God bless the marriage of Todd and Mandy Bussey.

………….

I spent most of the evening catching up with old friends – especially Jarod, my friend from all the way back in Kindergarten (he threw up on me in 3rd Grade), and Andy, the one and only Philmont legend. After the reception, a group of us went to O’Charleys and ate appetizers, shared drinks, and retold old stories. I haven’t laughed so hard in a very long time. It was so good to see all of those guys again. Andy can still tell a story like no one else can. If I could work a crowd half as well as he does, I’d be guaranteed to never have a boring sermon or lesson or conversation in general. They eventually had to kick us out because they were closed.

My only regret is there wasn’t enough time to talk to everyone I wanted to talk to. There never is, though. Before this whole marriage thing became a reality, Todd had mentioned over the summer that he would like to have some type of reunion with a bunch of us from his youth ministry days. His 20th anniversary will be coming in the not-too-distant future. I think it still sounds like a great idea.

My Youth Minister

“Moses parts the Red Sea, Jonah lives in the belly of the whale, Daniel survives a night with the Lions…

And Todd Bussey gets married?

That’s how my youth minister from middle school and high school opened the letter announcing his recent engagement! And there was much rejoicing!

Having been at Crossroads/Cullen Avenue for 20-odd years, Todd has, unfortunately, become a rare breed in the current climate of churches and their ministers. I look up to him as an example of what a minister is and what a minister should be. Don’t get me wrong – I know he’s not perfect…none of us are. I just know that if I could look back on my life and say I had a ministry that impacted people like Todd’s has, then I’ll feel pretty confident that I made a difference.

So, this perpetually single guy, who has made a difference in countless lives (including my own), is finally getting hitched! I want to do everything in my power to make it to the ceremony in December. After all, he came to my wedding (of course, he had to – he co-officiated the ceremony), and I would give anything to be able to share the joy of that day.

We’ll see how it all pans out. I only have a few weeks to arrange the details.

Congratulations, Todd! The Lord does provide – in His timing!