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Finding Faith: Mentor had a profound effect on life

“Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.” Say thank you to those mentors who shaped who you are today.

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Rod Oistad
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The older I grow, the stronger my passion for youth mentoring becomes. This passion has been shaped thanks to the handful of adults who stepped in at seemingly the exact moment I needed their guidance at various stages of my life.

Looking back, I know it was divine intervention. With more years behind me, and thus more perspective, the design is too easy to notice now.

As a kid who grew up parented by a single mother, it’s no surprise that I often found men to take the place of my absent father. … Or, rather, I should say in many cases, these men found me. Given the path I was heading down in my early years, it’s likely that I displayed a number of the signs of an at-risk youth.

One of those men was Rod Oistad, a teacher and coach at Fertile-Beltrami High School, where I spent my junior high and high school years. Mr. Oistad also happened to be the dad of one of my best friends in high school. Unfortunately for “Young Devlyn,” this meant Mr. Oistad had ample opportunity — in school and out — to lay some hard truths on me, even when I wasn’t ready to receive them.

However, an “Older Devlyn,” who now has four children in their teens and 20s, realizes that I could never thank Mr. Oistad enough for what he did for me all those years ago.

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The divine opening for Mr. Oistad was that he had known my father because their professional paths had crossed. My father was a police officer, and in another life Mr. Oistad had worked as a juvenile probation officer.

He artfully used that connection to gain my trust, as I was a young teen who was more than a little skeptical about any adult wanting to help. Once he had his opening, Mr. Oistad eventually opened my eyes to the fact that a person’s past actions and current circumstances didn’t fully define a person’s life.

It’s no understatement to say that his years of guidance altered the course of my life.

Mr. Oistad’s son Tim, whom I’m still best of friends with today, called this week to share the news that his father had passed. Despite it having been years since the last time I talked with his dad, the news was heartbreaking. Another classic case of me not taking the time to share with someone important the positive impact they had on my life. Heed the lesson, my friends.

This week, while thinking about what Mr. Oistad did for me, and no doubt countless others from our high school, I was reminded of Proverbs 22:6: “Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.”

It’s too late for me to say thank you in person, and I regret that. But I pray that Mr. Oistad, in some small way, knew how he changed my life.

Rest in peace, Mr. Oistad. Thank you.

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Related Topics: FAITH
Opinion by Devlyn Brooks
Devlyn Brooks is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and serves Faith Lutheran Church in Wolverton, Minn. He also works for Forum Communications Co. He can be reached at devlyn.brooks@forumcomm.com for comments and story ideas.
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