On the message board outside the main entrance to the Gospel Lighthouse Church in Hudson Falls is this message:

"Go tell the people

what I did for you

and tell them

I'll do it for them too

…God"

I'll be honest, it's not often that I get to quote God. Might be the first time ever.

The message has been up there for a few weeks. Paul Mead, who is the first pastor of the church, is letting it sink in, letting it settle deep with hope that it will change lives. It's a tough gig changing lives.

I wrote about Paul last Easter, about his drug and alcohol problems, about a ruined life that often left him in an Albany gutter.

He's been the lead pastor for more than a year. His marriage to his wife, Sharon, has been restored. He tells me that so many things have happened. He tells me that the church has grown and that there were more than 200 in attendance for Palm Sunday. There are more families coming, more children and young adults. In other words, business is good.

We are sitting in the same small room where we first talked a year ago, where Paul shed tears over a life gone wrong.

He tells me about the people he meets and all the problems he hears.

"A high percentage of the time I'm dealing with a situation that reminds me of me," said Paul. "It's Groundhog Day. Same pain, same guilt, same alcohol abuse, same drug addiction, same relationship issues. It's the same."

It's just not his life this time. If you talk to Paul, you can be 100 percent sure you are getting an expert when it comes to screwing up your life.

Sometimes, he believes he makes a difference.

"People's lives are being changed because they are staring face to face with a changed life," said Paul.

But he means this in the most humble of ways. He says he is nothing special. He is a man of the cloth with only online training and his one special gift is the ability to relate to people who are at their worst.

At that, he seems quite successful.

But I still sense something is missing. He wants more. He wants more people to embrace Jesus Christ the way he has, to feel the love the way he does.

So I tell him my own confession about his confession.

His story stayed with me. It lingered and every few months I would read the column again. Maybe I needed that fix of inspiration the way he once craved crack.

Meade's story was the first of a renewed commitment on my part to write more, to tell the stories of regular people in the real world. And over the course of the past year those stories piled up one after another:

A young mother fighting MS; a solder in Iraq who could not attend his daughter's college graduation; a young woman who was laid off from her job; a millionaire who funded a building at the local college; a college student with grand dreams.

I want him to know his story had an effect on at least one person - me. And maybe his story led me to write those other stories and along the way I'm hoping they did some good, too. Maybe others, because of those stories, acted out of kindness and charity, and that really all goes back to Paul.

We haven't talked in a year and yet it feels like we have not missed a beat.

We pick up where we left off as if we both know that the story didn't really have an ending and we have to finish it.

We have to go back to Oct. 1 - seven months after the first story - when Paul received an evening phone call. His mother was being rushed to Albany Medical Center. The situation was grave.

When he arrived, they told him she had suffered a brain aneurism and they were stabilizing her. But she was already gone.

Paul was her only child. She had never remarried after the divorce from Paul's father. Paul held his hand over her beating heart and felt its strength.

He stayed for some time and finally told the doctors they could turn off the machines that were keeping her alive.

It was his mother who gave him the letter the day he was installed as first pastor, the letter that told him how proud she was, the letter that made him cry tears of great joy.

"My mother got to live the last six years of her life happy," said Paul.

He said goodbye and watched her slip away.

"She was only 68," said Paul.

In that hospital room, pain welled up inside him and took over. It continued through the funeral and the eulogy, which he gave himself, and into the ensuing weeks.

Paul never could handle pain. With the pain would come the drinking and the drugs and the gutter.

"Without Jesus, there is no way I don't smoke crack," said Paul. "I never could have handled that pain."

Three months after his mother's death, Paul's father came to see him.

He looked at him hard, searching for something and for the first time told him, "You know, I think you are going to make it."

Ken Tingley is editor of

The Post-Star and may be reached via e-mail at tingley@poststar.com To receive e-mail notification each time this column is published, sign up at www.poststar.com/alerts.

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