2006.07.30: July 30, 2006: Headlines: COS - Nepal: Religion: Youth: Yuma Sun: Nepal RPCV Michael Todd is youth minister and assistant pastor at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Yuma

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Nepal: Peace Corps Nepal : The Peace Corps in Nepal: 2006.07.30: July 30, 2006: Headlines: COS - Nepal: Religion: Youth: Yuma Sun: Nepal RPCV Michael Todd is youth minister and assistant pastor at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Yuma

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Nepal RPCV Michael Todd is youth minister and assistant pastor at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Yuma

Nepal RPCV Michael Todd is youth minister and assistant pastor at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Yuma

He joined the Peace Corps and served in Nepal for two years, teaching the people there new ways of plant and animal conservation. It was there that Todd once again had to be shown fellowship, having to ride his bicycle 10 miles every weekend for services in that mostly Hindu nation. "We would meet in a gentleman's house and just sit on the floor."

Nepal RPCV Michael Todd is youth minister and assistant pastor at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Yuma

A kid in grown-up's vestments

Jul 30, 2006

The Sun, Yuma, Ariz.

Jul. 30--As a teen, Michael Todd didn't much care for God and he pretty much despised himself. That's why today the Rev. Michael Todd connects so well with struggling souls - especially young ones - leading the suffering to the salvation he credits for his own fantastic transformation: Jesus Christ. The youth minister and assistant pastor at St. Paul's Episcopal Church truly beams when he talks about the miracles he's witnessed in young people's changing lives. But he's quick to testify that he's not the one working the wonders. To him, even as a pastor, he's simply a humble sinner doing his best to love and lead the way.

"I'm only a signpost along the way. My job is to point them toward Jesus. I cannot, in my own self, heal somebody or bring somebody to the perfect life. But I can point them to the person who will grant them that healing, grant them that mercy, grant them that promise of hope and a future." Still, while Todd fully knows how it feels to fulfill the journey toward God, he probably understands better than many pastors exactly what it's like to begin that journey from quite a painful place - weighted down with question and despair. "When you have been given that salvation and mercy in your own life, it certainly makes it easier to reflect that back and pour it into the lives of others.

Obviously, though, I'm not perfect and, obviously, (I'm) still a sinner. I'm still just learning, too, learning every day from God's mercy." All of this sure sounds like heavy stuff, but work like this is the 31-year-old's joyous job. And Todd certainly is anything but serious all the time, a fact that endears him to the young folks at St. Paul's. He's the grown-up that young parishioners not only turn to for wise counsel, but is also the church leader they seek for hanging out, enjoying special church activities, going on field trips and even traveling on mission trips to places in need like the Gulf Coast.

Todd is also known and loved for weaving humor into sermons, especially one inspired by his love for "Star Wars." The Florida native came to St. Paul's fresh from seminary in Pennsylvania almost two years ago. It's no mistake, either, that Todd's job description at St. Paul's pretty much has him herding the young flocks every day. He explains that such caring for kids is his special calling, one that he knows is downright crucial in this "broken world." "Jesus loves the children and he simply wants people to go and be a reflection of his love and his truth for the children," he said.

"It's very crucial, too, because this generation is more and more living in society that is not only broken with families, but facing a lot of pressure with drugs and alcohol, with a lot of people telling them to be very sexually active or to explore different sexual alternatives. All sorts of different things are coming at them." That's where kids often just need a friend. "They are facing adult issues without a lot of the help from mom and dad that should be there or from any other true friend," Todd said. "They are hurt, broken, lost and they have no one to turn to." This is where Todd's own experiences transform simple words of hope into something a lot more tangible and real.

Todd not only can help encourage others to find their way out, he can also provide the road map. Born in Lake Wales, Fla., to teachers, Todd grew up in Sebring and always dreamed, as a tyke, about being an astronaut. He said his early years were best defined by one word: rebellion. "Yeah, I went through the kind of stuff I think lot of teens go through a bit, although I didn't get into alcohol, drugs, anything like that. Back then, I just didn't see myself as being very valuable, very much wanted or accepted, and I felt so very little. I never thought God would use someone like me, someone skinny and small who didn't really know a lot.

"I became cynical and bitter. I walked out on the world because I wasn't going to love people because of how I felt they treated me," he said, sighing. "I didn't have anybody and of course I was at the end of my rope." God and church were missing from those early years, then he stumbled across a campus ministry in college and found friends, God and hope for a future. It came just in time, too. "College was all a new culture to me. It was very dangerous. Everything I had known growing up with my mom and dad was gone. All I could do is cry out for help, asking God to show me people who would accept me and take care of me." Today, he admits that God truly did take him by surprise.

"I was blown away by the fact I could be part of a plan greater than I could ever imagine. I was given a new life." After graduating from college with a degree in zoology, Todd not only broke further out of his shell, but he took off and broke out into the world itself. He joined the Peace Corps and served in Nepal for two years, teaching the people there new ways of plant and animal conservation. It was there that Todd once again had to be shown fellowship, having to ride his bicycle 10 miles every weekend for services in that mostly Hindu nation. "We would meet in a gentleman's house and just sit on the floor.

Since we didn't have any musical instruments and we had pots and pans, we would just bang on them and make our own music." Up to this point in his life, Todd had never imagined life as an ordained minister. Then one day when he was riding on a motorcycle going up a steep mountain road, he said, "It was then that I suddenly knew that this (ministry) was my calling." Todd attended the Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Pennsylvania. That experience proved pretty intimidating, too, but God kept nudging the student onward. "There were all of these intelligent people from all over the country, very spiritual, very smart and very ahead of me.

I just thought I'm just here and don't know much, but I'm here,' " he said, adding that he only heard the call to service again. "That's when God, in his faithfulness, did (it) again, as he always does. He again believed in me when I couldn't (believe in myself)." Todd raves about being in Yuma. He not only loves his church, but living in the desert, as well. "I love being outdoors, hiking, swimming and being around wildlife. One of the joys of working with youth is getting the chance to get out there and do things with them. It doubles as my work and my fun!" For other kinds of fun, Todd is simply too busy for much else.

His education while at St. Paul's has proven to be tremendous, too, not just through his regular job, but due to the fact that he has actually been filling in for the main pastor over the past six months. "It's been challenging, but also very rewarding," Todd said, praising the church's congregation and staff. "But all the glory goes to God because he's the one who puts us all together." The young pastor's humor and general friendliness are legendary at St. Paul's. "It's good to laugh," Todd said, adding that not every service should be serious and dour. "There are times that's called for and you have to be straight-up with people.

But humor is a great tool. Part of being created in the image of God is our humor." Consider his well-remembered "Star Wars" sermon. In it Todd recalled the scene from "The Empire Strikes Back," where Yoda tells Luke Skywalker that he failed to use "The Force" because he failed to trust in it. "I like 'Star Wars' not only because there are some strong connections to the Christian faith, but also because it speaks of a battle between good and evil, of redemption when Darth Vader once again becomes good. It speaks of a plan greater than ourselves, greater than we could ever imagine. It shows how if we put our faith in this transcendent Jesus Christ that we will have a life better than we could ever dream of." People liked that sermon, too.

"I think it went well. They enjoyed it," Todd said, smiling. "Now, they may have just been saying that to be nice to me!"

When this story was posted in August 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Yuma Sun

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