|Youth pastor dies in accident|
|The Press - News|
|Written by Kelley Lannigan|
|Wednesday, 21 September 2011 14:19|
First Assembly of God youth pastor Todd Annis lost his life in a car accident last week, but according to members of the congregation, the legacy of the work he started in the church and the community has only just begun to grow and expand.
“Todd is irreplaceable,” said pastor Joshua Potts, who worked daily with the youth minister. “It’s like there’s this big, quiet hole now where Todd used to be and that quiet is deafening. He cared about others so much more than himself. His goal was to leave this world a better place than he found it.”
Tyler Norton, 18, was Mr. Annis’ youth assistant at the church. He spoke with Channel 4 reporters about Mr. Annis last Saturday.
“He trained us to the point we could do the church’s work on our own,” he told them. “Now it’s time for us to make him proud.”
Mr. Annis, 32, and his wife Lauren lived in Jacksonville and were returning home Saturday after watching a football game with church youth in Macclenny. Their vehicle was struck by another car near I-10 and Chaffee Road shortly after 8 pm.
The driver of the other vehicle was not hurt. Mrs. Annis sustained minor injuries.
The Sunday service at the church was devoted to Mr. Annis’ memory.
A video of the congregation and of Pastor Potts’ message was later sent to uplift and support Mrs. Annis and her family.
“Our love is with you,” he told them. “Our support is with you. And the Holy spirit is there giving you comfort and peace. This is a somber time, but also a time of hope because we know exactly where Todd is and what he lived for.”
The pastor also spoke of embracing the profound peace that comes from God through his son, even in times of deepest tragedy.
“It’s easy to have peace when everything is going fine and we all know this,” said Mr. Potts. “It’s not so easy when things go terribly wrong, but that’s when it’s most important to seek refuge in that peace. After all, it was Jesus who calmed the storm.”
According to Mr. Potts, who spoke with The Press on Monday, Mr. Annis was special because he lived life to the fullest.
“He was filled with energy, vision, the drive to excel and to impact the lives of others, particularly the young. His leadership was sterling and his primary motivation was to raise up other people, especially those who would be future leaders.
“He was constantly in learning mode to improve and strive for excellence in leadership and he turned often to the writings of Christian author and speaker John Maxwell for inspiration.
“His drive was infectious. Even when he didn’t have a plan, he had a plan. He’d say ‘I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do but I know what I’m not going to do. I’m not going to settle or just maintain. I’m going to push forward and create momentum.”’
Pastor Potts also recognized Mr. Annis’ remarkable rapport with the 30-plus youth he worked with at First Assembly.
“He was genuine — what you saw was what you got. His compassion was real and the youth saw and felt this,” he said.
Several years ago, Mr. Annis began working at First Assembly part time while still at his job at the Duval County Courthouse. In April 2010, he became the church’s full time youth pastor and shortly after, one of his charges, Tyler Norton, became his first assistant, a role his church calls the “armor bearer.”
Someone in the armor bearer position is responsible for doing whatever it takes to make the youth pastor’s work run easy and smooth. He would be the “go to guy” helping set up and break down after events, chauffeuring youth with no transportation to and from church, running sound for the Phase II ministry music concerts at the high school — lending a hand to whatever was needed.
Todd Annis would have a profound effect on Tyler’s life and the life of the church.
So much so that upon hearing of his death, the youth group immediately decided it did not want another leader.
“Mr. Annis cannot be replaced and we don’t want another youth pastor,” said Tyler Norton. “We have decided to carry on the programs he started by ourselves and with Pastor Potts’ blessing. Mr. Annis prepared us to do the work and we owe it to his memory.”
For Tyler, the loss is very personal. A photo of him with Mr. Annis is on the dashboard of his car. It will always be there, he vows.
The young man spent a lot of time in the Annis’ home. The family assisted him in significant ways, helping him get his car and obtain entrance into First Coast College of Jacksonville to pursue fire fighting and emergency response.
He admires his late youth pastor for many reasons.
“Mr. Annis was able to establish such a strong spiritual presence at the high school through the Phase II concert program he helped develop, his work with the Christian Fellowship Club and the Starbucks coffee outreach for the high school’s parents and faculty,” said Tyler.
“He did things like take us to the Dominican Republic on a youth mission and he shared his love and talent for music. He was an awesome guitar player. It’s difficult to explain why he was so special because it would take volumes to express it. His loss is so hard, but the Lord is getting us through this, the Lord and friends, of course,” he said.
One thing Tyler believes beyond a shadow of a doubt is that Mr. Annis will always watch over him.
“I know when the day comes that I’m out there fighting a fire, he’ll be right behind me, holding the hose,” he said.
|Last Updated on Thursday, 22 September 2011 14:06|