By Deryll Stegall

Editor’s Note: Mississippi Christian Living is indebted to Deryll Stegall every single month for the wonderful photos he takes for us! He is also a husband, father, step-father, and a Believer who lives intentionally. We thought you would enjoy his story!

When Marilyn asked me to tell my story, I decided to focus on the people who have shaped and blessed my life the most—my “difference makers.” That’s the real story. Of course, nothing compares to the difference Christ has made, but there are people who’ve made a difference too.

Mom and Dad – We’ll start with the most obvious. I was brought up in a great Christian home, accepted Christ as my savior and was baptized when I was 7. My parents were great role models, very supportive and loving, really did a great job, and gave me a wonderful childhood. Unfortunately, like many young people, I strayed pretty far during high school, thru college and even through my 20s. But because of that solid Christian upbringing, I came back in my 30s, got my church life back, rekindled my faith and relationship with God, and have been blessed in so many ways ever since. So Moms and Dads, if your kids stray, it’s not necessarily your fault—there are a lot of influences working against you in this world. You just be their “difference maker” by giving them the best Christian home you can—and if they stray, they’ll come back one day.

Faithful Choir Members – This one might surprise you, but it’s very personal to me. During all those years that I “strayed” as a young adult, my Mom used to save me a seat each Christmas at “Carols by Candlelight” at First Baptist Jackson, and I’d come sit with her (while my Dad ran lighting for the program). For many of those years, that was about the only time I went to church all year. I can remember so clearly how moved I was at those programs. The music and drama pierced my heart—often to the point of a tear running down my cheek (of course, I had to discretely wipe those tears away with no one noticing!).

I am convinced that attending those annual performances played a large role in keeping a fire burning for the Lord inside me. So, if you’re a choir member somewhere, never underestimate the value of your faithful attendance and dedication—you never know how God might be using your choir to win a soul or maybe to just keep a fire burning in someone who’s drifted away (like it did for me). Music, lyrics, and drama are so effective and they can be real difference makers, but faithful people are needed to make it happen.

Other Adult Influencers – This one is huge. There were a handful of years when I raised my daughter alone, because her Mom and I had divorced, and shortly after that we lost her Mom in a car accident. Those were hard years. Our marriage was a joint failure, but I should have been a better Christian leader and we should have been able to work it out. My daughter was only 2 when we divorced and not quite 5 when the accident took her Mom.

People used to brag on me for being such a good, single Dad, raising a little girl alone, having her in church regularly with cute bows in her hair, and being so involved in all aspects of her life. I do love her dearly, and did my best for her during those years, but what made it all work wasn’t me—it was all the other wonderful adults influencing her and helping take care of her. Just think about all the potential influencers in life:

  • kindergarten and elementary teachers
  • children’s choir workers
  • after-school workers
  • missions teachers and volunteers
  • crossing guards at school
  • youth ministers
  • sports coaches
  • older youth who are mentors
  • school choral directors
  • family members
  • Boy Scout leaders
  • neighbors
  • Sunday School teachers
  • baby sitters
  • church pastors and staff

These “other adults” in life play a huge role in shaping who we become. These folks were priceless to me when I was a single Dad, and I can remember people in almost every one of these categories influencing my life when I was a child. So parents, be cognizant of who is influencing your children, and be proactive about having kids involved where they will get the right kind of influence. Show appreciation to the positive adults in your child’s life, and try to play a positive role where other children are under your influence. In other words, seek out good “difference makers” in your child’s life, and be a good “difference maker” for others when you can.

Spouse – Then, there is my wife. I am so thankful for Sherry and our life together. She’s a major difference maker! We’ve had a lot of great times and we share a deep love for the Lord and His church. We were both divorced before, but we’re firmly convinced that God brought us together. We believe He took what we messed up and, because of our faithfulness and focus on Him, He blessed us with a new beginning. My wife even came with a great son who is the son I never had, and I came with a great daughter who is the daughter my wife never had—how perfect! God has also blessed each of our children with great Christian spouses, so we now have a son-in-law and daughter-in-law that we love dearly.

We consider it all a divine blessing. We’re quick to acknowledge though, that no marriage is perfect, because no person is perfect. So we try to be considerate and helpful with each other, and mind our words and attitudes. It’s interesting to note that we have both said before that if we had the spiritual maturity, realistic expectations, self-control and self-less mindset in our first marriages that we have now, we probably would not have been divorced from our first spouses. Let me urge you, if you’re married, to take a fresh look at how you treat and appreciate your spouse. Things like choice of words, tone of voice, facial expressions, acts of service, and general kindness are all huge issues—and only you can control them—and, yes, you can control them. Marriage is a gift from God and we should be good stewards of that gift. Bottom line, let’s all be great difference makers for our spouses. I know mine is for me!

A Closing Thought:

As I finished writing this, I realized we are all difference makers, whether we want to be or not. I could easily include my grandparents, people I have worked with, church friends, etc. It goes on and on. Every one of us produces words, actions and attitudes that make a difference. We each play a role in shaping the world, our country, our school, our family, our marriage, and our church. I used to tell my daughter when she was young that we’re usually being either a “helper” or a “hindrance” in every situation. There’s no getting around it – the world is a better or worse place because of each of us – we all make a difference.

The question is, “What kind of difference are we making”? Hmmm