[ Godsends ]
Legacy of a Tragic Death
I never understood God’s strength and peace until I felt it. It was October of 1997. I had been at school in Troy, Alabama, for a little over a month. I was headed home to Mobile, for what would end up being one of many times that year. When I got home, a family friend was there. We sat down and he told me that Brian T., a friend of ours, had been killed. He had been shot during a robbery at the church that I had attended most of my life, where he was working as the minister of music. My family went to the memorial service. I drove to the funeral alone the next day.
When I got back to school that night, my roommate was there, trying to make everyday conversation, but I just couldn’t. I left the room and went outside and sat in one of the swings in the quad of Troy State University. I began praying for Brian’s wife and 4 children.
Like a thick quilt, a feeling of peace came over me. I heard a small but audible voice say, “I will take care of them.” The wind blew my sleeve, and it felt like a hand, comforting me. I asked God, “What can I do to keep this from happening to anyone else?”
It was then that God said in so many more words, “Work with youth.” I know that if you can capture their hearts for Christ when they are young, they will not grow up to commit such horrible crimes against others.
As soon as I possibly could, I returned home to be trained as a Prison Fellowship Volunteer. At work, I found out that desperation is abundant inside the walls of a youth center or prison. It is a tough place to be, and many hearts are hard, but there is always that one young man that will ask, “Why did you come here on a summer’s day, when you could be at the beach?” What a perfect opportunity to say to this person who may have never experienced real love, “Because I want to make sure that you know that Jesus loves you.”
After some time, I took a job as a youth minister in a small downtown church in my hometown, with about 15 or 20 active youth. I worked with them for three years, and learned how to teach and how to really love youth.
Eventually it was time to move on. I knew that the Lord was not calling me into youth ministry long term. But He has prepared me for what is yet to come through my kids at that church.
It has been six years since Brian died. I still hear the words that God spoke to me almost every day, as clearly as I ever have, spurring me on to love people. I fail all of the time, and I’m not always tuned in to what I need to be doing, but I pray that I will grow closer to my God every day so that I will be available to do His work.