Lessons on Family & Leadership

Joel & PapaIt was January 19, 2007, eight years ago tonight, I was at Tranquil Valley Retreat Center in New Jersey with hundreds of Youth and Young Adult leaders. It was opening night for our Greater New York Adventist Youth Ministries Leadership & Evangelism Congress. After the service, as our team was working on accommodating those who had arrived a bit later, my wife Joanne called from Long Island, New York.  She said she was beginning to feel a bit funny. This was the first time I ever remember her not being with me at one of our events, since being married. The reason, she was very pregnant and about 2 weeks away from the delivery date. The second reason, we really wanted our second Baby to be born in New York, just like Jose III, our first boy had. 

As we finished our conversation, I did something I had never done before. If I had known then, what I know today, it would have been an easy decision, a no brainer; but it was a very difficult decision for me back in 2007. I left the Congress, drove back to Long Island, under heavy snow and over some nearly frozen roads. It was so bad, I got home around 5 AM.

Joel Benjamin Cortes, our Baby, was born a few hours later at the Long Island Jewish Hospital. He was born in such a rush, there was no time to film or even get to the camera, he kind of jumped out and the Doctor had to catch him, I still remember… his first cry, and how he held on tight to my finger, I was there for my wife and for Mr. Baby as he entered the world.

Tonight, as we get ready to celebrate Joel’s eighth B-day, and as I re-live that night and the following day, I would like to share two lessons with you:

1. Family comes first.There is nothing more important, including church work, than your family. Wife, sons, daughters, parents, brothers, sisters, and grandparents must be your first order of business. If you are a colleague in ministry, listen to me, never forget that your family is your first church. Love them, take time for them, and be there for them when they need you and beyond. If your wife calls go, if your kids have a ballgame, don’t miss it, call your parents and visit them, and don’t forget your grandparents if you still have the privilege of having them alive. Is that clear?

2. Build a team of great leaders, whom you can trust. When I left the Evangelism and Leadership Congress that night, although concerned because I had never ever left an event under my leadership before to go home, I knew there were some very good people who could hold the fort and carry the ball. I will never forget, leaders of the caliber of Teddy Williamson, Angel Reyes, Walter Harris, and Veronica Chaug, and others, who told me and practically commanded me: “Pastor Jose, go home, you need to be there…we’ll take care of this.” And they did.

It was a great Congress, one of the many we’ve led, but perhaps the most special one. Although I missed it, it was during this Congress that I learned to put my family first. I also learned the value of building an awesome leadership team whom you can trust. Today, I thank God for my family, in a few hours, we will sing Happy B-day to Joel! In fact we have been singing Happy B-day for the last few days. We enjoy week-long celebrations around here. And one more thing, I will never stop being grateful to the awesome team of leaders who were able and willing to take the ball and carry it forward.