PARK HILLS, Mo. (BP)--They share a name. They share a job. They share a passion for young people.
And, as it turns out, they share an ancestor. But they likely never would have met if it hadn't been for the Internet.
Ryan Hassell, assistant minister of music and youth for First Baptist Church, Park Hills, Mo., was playing around on the Internet two years ago when he decided to type in his name and see how many others there were. The result: He got addresses of two other Ryan Hassells.
About a year later, he wrote letters to both; one never responded. The other turned out to be a fellow Baptist youth minister. Ryan Hassell, youth minister for Providence Baptist Church in Lufkin, Texas, wrote back.
"I like to take the opportunity to witness, so when I wrote back, I told him I was a youth minister and I asked if he was a Christian, and if not, here's how to become one," the Texas Hassell recalled. "He wrote back and said he was a youth minister, and I thought, 'No way.'"
What started out as curiosity on the Internet led to a friendship and mission trips to each others' churches to conduct youth rallies. The Ryans met for the first time in July when the Park Hills youth group visited the Texas church.
"We can share our aches and pains, our prayer concerns," the Texas Hassell said. "I see God all over this."
The Missouri Hassell added, "I really felt that God was in this all the time. Even way back when our mothers gave us our names, God knew that one day we would do a mission trip together that he would use to change the lives of young people."
During the Park Hills rallies Aug. 2-6, one teen made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ and others made decisions to abstain from drugs and alcohol.
Through some more research, the two Ryans also discovered they share an ancestor six generations back.
But not everything is alike. The Missouri Ryan is 27 and single. The Texas Ryan is 34, married and the father of three children.
(BP) photo available by contacting the Missouri Baptist newsjournal Word & Way.