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     I was going through a drawer in my office this week and came across this badge that said “Usher – Gus”.  It had at one time, many years ago, belonged to Gus Kindler.  Don’t even ask me why it was there because I have no clue.
      Our family attended our church, High Mountain, for five years before I became the senior pastor.  That was over 20 years ago.  On our very first visit to the church we walked up the stairs and were greeted by Gus, who was the head usher.  Gus was an elderly man, tall, with a full head of white hair and a smile from ear to ear.  He wore a powder blue suit with a tie and he extended his hand and welcomed this new family.   He was genuinely happy to see us.  I am sure part of that happiness was because it was a small church and he was excited to see some new people visiting.  But the other part of it, as we would come to learn, was that Gus was just a happy person.  He loved people and he loved sharing the love of Jesus with them.  Every single person, whether they were new or had been there for many years, got the same greeting: A big smile, a warm handshake and a bad joke.
      Gus loved Jesus.  He loved his wife Nettie and his son Ronnie.  He loved the Scriptures, and he loved High Mountain Church and Sunday worship.  He loved Sunday School, Bible studies at our house and reaching out to the unbelieving, unchurched community. He loved life and truly, the only time that I didn’t see him smile was when he lie dying on his hospital bed four years after we had met him.  We only knew him a handful of years but he left an impression on us that will last a lifetime.
     Gus was the first in a long line of “Head Ushers” since I have been at the church.  Tom Stuppiello and Pat DeLuca were excellent and set a very high standard and Barbara Kozak does a tremendous job of leading what we now call the Welcome Team.  They, along with their ushers, greeters and team members have been and continue to be the first contact for visitors and church members each Sunday morning.  They set the tone, they are the first to greet, to give a smile and a hug, to extend a hand, to help people feel welcome and at home.  I remember when I was an usher at the Maranatha Church of The Nazarene.  To this day I meet people who tell me that I was the first person they ever met at the church or come up to me in a store saying they remember me being an usher at the Sunday night service.
    I wish our church members could have met Gus and experienced him the way some of us High Mountain “old timers” did. He made everyone around him smile.   I am occasionally reminded that you only get one chance to make a first impression and those first impressions really matter.I don’t know if Gus ever knew the impact he had on me and Susan.  I am not saying that we wouldn’t have come back to the church if Gus wasn’t as happy and friendly as he was but it sure helped us to want to visit again. Gus made a great first impression and not because he was trying to impress.  He was just being himself, smiling, laughing, allowing Jesus to shine forth and for that I will forever be thankful.
What do you think?  How does it make you feel?