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Five Decades of Life

From Hurricane Camille to the Coronavirus, my life has now spanned more than a half century. While I was being born in New Jersey, one of the most violent tropical storms to hit the Gulf Coast formed as a tropical depression. While I don’t remember much of the early years, a little over half of my first ten years were spent in Oxford, New Jersey before my father was transferred to Wilmington, Delaware. Back in the 1970’s, Delaware was like living in the south, overflowing with hospitality, love and openness. As a boy with a severe speech impediment, this was the fresh start that I needed.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst,” John 635.

During the 1980’s, it was the best and worse of times. Living as a loner most of junior high, I didn’t value life until I was introduced to cross country at Concord High. Between my neighborhood, school, and running friends, I began to come out of my shell, ready to face my fear of expressing myself. Thanks to my swimming coach and Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s leader Ken Horne, I invited God to become part of my life. Although I didn’t really know what I was doing at times, retreats, summer camps and youth group propelled me into the 1990’s.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly, John 10:10.

My third decade on earth was my most adventurous, taking a semester off from college to travel the country. Initially, I felt called to become a social worker with the Methodist Action Plan. Since I didn’t make much money, I got a part time job as a youth director in Rising Sun, Maryland. As time passed quickly, I realized that I didn’t really know what to do which led me to the Twin Cities in Minnesota to attend a youth ministry trade school. Looking back, 1993 was probably the best year of my life which culminated in meeting my wife Leanne at a National Youth Ministry Convention.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” John 14:6.

As I enjoyed my early years as a newlywed, it was clear that my calling to be a professional golfer faded quickly. When the haze dissipated, another calling to attend seminary moved Leanne and I back to the east coast. Shortly afterward, the first of our 3 children was born. A rare eye disease cut this plan, causing a few years of transition before landing on my feet as a High School Bible Teacher and Golf Coach. When all the stars aligned, I found myself doing what I loved for a decade. Yet, like anything in life, all good things come to an end, leaving Red Lion at the beginning of 2012.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope, Jeremiah 29:11.

This past decade has been the most difficult, being unemployed and unsure of my place in the world. Perhaps, the most challenging aspect of the last 10 years is not quite knowing where I belong. Out of this uncertainty, Express Yourself 4 Him was conceived. During the storms and trials of 2010’s, my good friend Spencer Saints introduced me to screen writing. Beside my current job at Amazon, I don’t how much to display as accomplishments. Nonetheless, I keep writing. Hoping, praying and pouring out my heart and soul into ideas for future Christian movies and television series. Maybe in the 2020’s I will finally see the fruits of my labor. Yet, for now, I am thankful to be alive for 51 years.

by Jay Mankus

The Wind Beneath my Spiritual Wings

In case you haven’t heard, I regret to inform you that my former coach, groomsmen and spiritual mentor Ken Horne passed away last Wednesday. While I am certain Ken is now celebrating with Jesus in heaven, I never got the chance to say goodbye. I first met Ken as my Earth Science as a 7th grader at Hanby Junior High School. Despite earning a D, C, B and A in each of the 4 marking periods, Ken gave me an A for the year. Thinking this was a mistake, I stopped by Ken’s classroom on my way home from school. Ken’s response to my concern was, “by the end of the year, you were an A student so I gave you an A.” These words left a lasting impression on me.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever, 1 Corinthians 9:24-25.

Two years later, Ken and I ended up at the same school once again, Concord High in Wilmington, Delaware. This time Ken was my Physical Science teacher. Between 7th and 9th grade, I was lost, often feeling depressed and suicidal. Looking back, God brought Ken into my life to be the wind beneath my spiritual wings, gently leading me closer and closer to Christ. After thinking I was too cool for the Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s huddle at Concord, I finally said yes to Ken’s persistent invitations as a sophomore. The greatest quality Ken possessed was the ability to recognize and see the potential in students. Despite my flaws, imperfections and stuttering, the Holy Spirit enabled Ken see what I could be if I trusted Jesus as my Savior.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full, John 10:10.

During my final three years at Concord, Ken invited me to numerous events, retreats and revivals. Before I ever knew what I mentor was, Ken showed me how to live the abundant life by demonstrating this as my swim coach, teacher and spiritual leader outside of school. Ken asked me to share my testimony for the first time at a retreat during my junior. What impressed Ken the most was this was the first time I didn’t stutter in public. A year later, Ken entrusted me as the Program Director for FCA, asking questions and leading spiritual discussions with my peers. These experiences prepared me to become a Summer Work Camp Coordinator, Youth Director and High School Bible teacher. Like anyone who met Ken, we will all miss him. Yet, for now, all I can do I flame into flame my spiritual gift so that I might become the wind beneath someone else’s spiritual wings. Rest in peace Ken.

by Jay Mankus

My Own Spiritual Mr. Miyagi

In 1984, I was in the middle of my freshman of high school. As the summer began, Karate Kid debuted in the theaters starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita. While I don’t recall seeing this film right away, I could relate to Daniel LaRusso’s character. As a small hundred pound teenager, I was a push over, bullied on numerous occasions. Although I didn’t turn to karate to defend myself, God had another plan for me which was revealed a year later.

I [the Lord] will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you, Psalm 32:8.

My former science teacher, Mr. Horne, started to mentor me during my sophomore year. After I joined the swim team which he coached, Ken took me under his wings. Similar to the role played by Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid, Coach Horne became like a second father. Ken was instrumental in my spiritual growth, inviting me to Concord’s Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s huddle which he led. The night I accepted Jesus into my heart as Savior, Coach Horne was there to answer the various questions that I had about faith.

Speaking of this as he does in all of his letters. There are some things in those [epistles of Paul] that are difficult to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist and misconstrue to their own utter destruction, just as [they distort and misinterpret] the rest of the Scriptures. 17 Let me warn you therefore, beloved, that knowing these things beforehand, you should be on your guard, lest you be carried away by the error of lawless and wicked [persons and] fall from your own [present] firm condition [your own steadfastness of mind], 2 Peter 3:16-17.

After graduating high school, my relationship with Ken only became stronger. I would regularly stop by unannounced each summer, spending hours catching up and talking about life. When Ken transitioned from a teacher to a local youth pastor, I volunteered as much as I could to support his ministry. This decision provided several memorable Lay Witness Missions, serving on the team that led revival weekends throughout the Tri-state area. These experiences prepared me to become a high school Bible teacher and youth pastor later on in life.

So, being thus tenderly and affectionately desirous of you, we continued to share with you not only God’s good news (the Gospel) but also our own lives as well, for you had become so very dear to us, 1 Thessalonians 2:8.

When I got engaged to Leanne in 1994, I couldn’t image my wedding without Ken. Thus, my former coach, teacher and mentor became one of my three groomsmen. During our wedding reception, Ken encouraged guests to sing Christmas carols in place of dinging glasses to see Leanne and I kiss. Unfortunately, a few weeks ago I received news that Ken was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I can’t think of anything worse for a modern day apostle Paul to experience and undergo. Yet, I am thankful for all that Ken Horne has done for me as my own spiritual Mr. Miyagi. While Ken’s chances for survival are slim, there is a mansion in heaven awaiting him filled with countless blessings for his service on earth.

by Jay Mankus

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