I’ve had several great mentors in my life, But I’ll tell you about one from a few years ago. It’s 1995, and I’m graduating from the University of Oklahoma, ready to conquer the world and go to law school. But before that, I’m taking the summer off and headed out to Colorado to be a cowboy and work on a guest ranch for the summer - a place called Lost Valley Ranch. A place started in 1962 as a western guest ranch for families. I’m thinking this will be a summer job. A break before the real grind begins. When I get there, I meet the founder and owner. Bob Foster. Who is 75 years old, has a huge 15 gallon cowboy hat and a smile a mile wide. My first assignment literally as a staff member is to drive Bob, the founder and owner, to the airport, along with his wife Miriam, who are heading to London for the 50th wedding anniversary. Miriam is suffering from Alzhehmers, and I remember being so impressed with the way Bob took care of his wife. In sickness and in health. This is my first impression of Bob- taking care of the woman he married 50 years earlier, now requiring his complete time and attention. Again, I’m 22, and working on a guest ranch. In the middle of Colorado. But now, 15 years later, my friendship with Bob Foster is one of the most impacting mentoring relationships I’ve ever had. Over the course of 5 years while I was at Lost Valley, we spent lots of time together. 5 years meeting every Friday morning over coffee and eggs and bacon, on the south porch of the dining room. We met weekly to for Bible Study, scripture memory, and life coaching, as he called it. He poured into me. All the things he had learned over his life.
We studied Scripture. He taught me how to not just study scripture, but to Love Scripture. We went through the Navigators scripture memory system, and he built into me the idea that lay leaders need to be just as knowledgeable in the Word and in their walk and life with Jesus and prepared as pastors and full time ministry leaders.
I became part of an amazing line of generation mentors. Bob was mentored by Dawson Trautman, the founder of the Navigators. Bob was a “social entrepreneur” for his generation. He was part of a circle of friends that included the legends- folks like Howard Hendricks, Billy Graham, Cliff Barrows, and others.
We talked about teamwork, management, and leadership. He helped me understand the idea of “building bridges of friendship” and doing work with excellence.
At Lost Valley Ranch, I looked and acted like a cowboy. Wore the hat and the spurs and the boots. Rode horses 3-4 hours a days. And we scooped a lot of poop. Great preparation for what I’m doing now…..! Many in my life were wondering “how does this set you up for the next season of life”. I was wondering that actually. I’m literally a poop scooper at that time!!! But Bob helped me understand that career paths don’t always look the same for everyone. And that spending your 20’s working on a guest ranch in Colorado was as much of an investment in the future as any other regular office job. He gave me permission to build my legacy in a different way. Because ultimately, as I learned from Bob, legacy not determined by what you DO as you get older, but more determined by who you ARE. And serving guests and creating an unbelievable ranch experience for them was great for my soul. It helped me establish in my 20’s the kind of person and leader I wanted to be.
And Bob taught me the power of a testimony though your work, with few or no words spoken. He poured into me the incredible testimony you can have just by loving and serving someone without any expectations or requirements in return. The idea of "building bridges of friendship until people ask why." Serving someone so well that they have no choice but to HAVE to demand an explanation.
He taught me that laughter at yourself is a great way to make sure you never outgrow who you are. We traveled together, we prayed together, We laughed together. We cried together.
We traveled internationally together to Asia. We traveled across the country together in an RV, from Colorado to Florida, with stories and lessons all along the way.
But the greatest lesson I learned from Bob was to create your legacy now. In your teens and in your 20’s. Finishing well means starting well. I watched him finish well. In his life, With his wife of 53 years, with his ranch, with his personal walk with Christ. One of the things he told me which still sticks with me is “your 20’s establish your 70’s.” And being a 70-80 year man or women of God is determined by the early years. The man or woman of God you are in your 20’s determines the kind of man or women of God you will be in your 70’s.
He simply passed on what he had learned about life over 80 years – to me. The power of our relationship was not in what we had in common necessarily, but in what we had in uncommon. Generational mentoring is crucial. 75 to 25 works. It did for me. I hope to invest in 25 year olds when I’m 75 to help pass on the legacy Bob passed on to me.
He mentored and invested in hundreds of young leaders over the course of his life, and continues to do so today. I’m glad he took time with me over coffee and bacon to help me become a better man, a better leader, and a more devoted follower of Jesus.
Remember, Create your legacy now.