For almost 30 years, Reign Ministries has been “building and advancing the Kingdom of God by developing youth and youth leaders who have great commandment hearts and live great commission lifestyles.”
The commitment to that mission has drawn many faithful men and women over those years into the ranks of our staff. One of those men went home last week. On October 13, 2010, Todd MacDonell passed from his life here on earth into the presence of Jesus. Todd was 48 years old and died from a rare degenerative brain disorder called CJD (Creutzfelt-Jakob Disease). The first signs of any illness began on August 1st. On September 15th, he was diagnosed with this awful disease. On October 13th, he died. It seems senseless, unfair, and incredibly difficult to understand. In the midst of trying to figure it all out (which we never will but always seem to want to try), one thing we do know for sure is that Todd can now enjoy eternity with his Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. In fact, in Todd’s case we can be sure that Jesus welcomed him with wide and loving arms and said those important words:
“Well done my good and faithful servant!”
How can we know that… because Todd and his wife Linda have faithfully served Jesus and pointed others to him! Countless lives were changed as Todd and Linda trusted God to use him to accomplish the mission listed above. Through these last several weeks, their family has been an inspiration to all who knew them and many who did not know them. They have trusted in God through the midst of some dark days and rejoiced in His provision and sovereignty. We have all been incredibly blessed and learned a great deal about the hope and peace that God can give. Thank you Linda for your example to all of us!
In 1987 Todd and Linda joined Reign Ministries staff and led Royal Servants teams for 10 years. In addition to leading teams during the summers, he diligently worked to come along side youth pastors and develop relationships that would encourage and impact the youth of their church. That is where I had the privilege of meeting Todd. I was serving as a youth pastor in Southern California when this guy I had never heard of called me and asked if he could come and speak to the students of our church about missions and tell them about an opportunity to go to Europe to tell people about Jesus. That phone call began a friendship and partnership in serving Jesus that I have enjoyed and been blessed by for the last 23 years! Seeing how Todd’s ministry effected the youth of the church I served in played a large part in the decision my wife Heidi and I made to join Reign Ministries Staff ten years ago!
In 1996, after 10 years with Reign Ministries, Todd and Linda continued to pursue that mission by serving in youth ministry in two different local churches in California. The mission doesn’t just belong to Reign Ministries – in fact it belongs to God and He passed it on to all of us in His Word, it is what Jesus wanted and even commanded us to do – it is called making disciples and Todd did it well!
In recent years, since 2006, Todd served as the Senior Pastor of a church in Pierz, MN. While there in Pierz, in addition to ministering to the adults of the community, Todd’s passion for and gifts in ministry with teenagers made a significant difference in the lives of youth in the community. Todd and Linda and their family have remained part of the Reign Ministries family throughout the years, and their daughters Kelsie and Katie, and new son-in-law Jack, have served on many of our Royal Servants teams in recent years.
Todd was like a brother to me. He and I spent many days and weeks together over the years leading students on ministry trips to Mexico and inner-city Los Angeles–those trips are among the highlights of my life in ministry, and I had the opportunity to see first-hand how God used Todd to challenge and motivate students to give their lives to Jesus and serve Him with all of their heart! We also spent countless hours talking about life and ministry (those of you who knew Todd also know how those hours could add up. I was always encouraged, challenged and inspired when I was with him. Among the many significant and important things I learned from Todd was this small seemingly unimportant but critical fact of life: Ding Dongs always taste better when they are frozen!
Here are just a handful of the many messages that Todd and Linda have received in recent weeks from some of those youth and youth workers that Todd impacted:
You won’t remember me but I can’t forget you all. I was a Royal Servant staff on Yellow Team the summer of 1990. As a new believer, I had not had many experiences with families that followed Christ in all the little details of their lives. Your family was such a witness to this teenager. Your love for Him and each other was so visible. Your testimony and service made a lasting impact on my heart. . . —In His Love, Kelly
Farewell my dear friend, Todd MacDonell... You have been an inspiration, motivation, teacher and mentor to me. You are the reason why I am in youth ministry. You will never be forgotten and your impact for God’s kingdom is still growing though you are not here with us anymore. . . —Tyson, Youth Pastor
We have a generation of students who Todd played a huge role in developing as authentic followers of Christ. Our youth ministry is eternally grateful for his influence and faithfulness to present the gospel with all its joy and costs. We are all better disciples because of his challenges . . . —Bill, Senior Pastor
Todd, you had a big impact on my life as a young man. I would not be in ministry today without your influence. Thank you. –Shawn
I am so thankful for the person God created you to be–you helped put a heart of missions and youth ministry in my own life. You are an incredible man of God, and so many people love you, care for you, and are praying for you. –Peter
Some 18 years ago, you believed in an annoying, pimple faced junior high boy and Jesus used that to change the course of his life. I was a student in your Bible class at Redlands Christian School at the time. You presented the opportunity to the class to go to Europe with Royal Servants. I was only barely old enough to go, but the community and my family rallied around God’s calling, and I joined the Yellow team as we toured Europe… Nothing made a bigger impact on my life than the verses I memorized. God continues to use those verses to speak to my heart today. Your faithfulness to bring up young people in the faith was used by God to call me into His service… Brother Todd, thank you for your faithfulness to the ministry. God has used you to do great things in the lives of countless young people. I am just one example of how God has used you over the years. When I share my testimony, I talk about how being part of the Yellow Team changed the direction of my life… –Jason
Todd and Linda… you two are instrumental in changing my life. Because of your love for Him, I found Him at 15 and serve him to this day. Your investment in me has been multiplied in over twenty nations, right now South Africa. You are an integral part of the foundation I stand on everyday. If Jesus is… my cornerstone, you’re cemented right next to him, snug and tight. –Tonya
Todd, we only spent nine weeks together… but what weeks they were! You had such an impact on my life. I was distracted that summer and you kept bringing me back into focus. My Bible is filled with notations all over the margins about the discipline the Lord has for His children because He loves them. You were really and truly God’s example to me and that even extends to today. —Amy
In memory of Todd’s life, please pray this prayer of commitment with me and the rest of our Reign Ministries Staff as we continue to focus on accomplishing our mission of making disciples through “developing youth and youth leaders who have great commandment hearts and live great commission lifestyles.”
Father, thank you for the life and example of Todd MacDonell. God please give me the strength to be a faithful servant as my brother Todd was. Give me wisdom as I strive to boldly serve you the way Todd did. God, may you use me to change the lives of others just as you used Todd. Thanks God for allowing me to know and serve with your servant Todd. I also pray that your Holy Spirit will comfort and strengthen Linda, Kelsie, Katie, and Jack, and all of the rest of their extended family during this time. AMEN.
Oh–and one more thing–my message for Todd: I miss you Bro! Make sure the Ding Dongs are in the freezer–I’ll be there before you know it, and I can’t wait to stop by and have a couple with you!
Originally Published October 23, 2010