It was a good summer in so many ways. We sent a happy van full to Kids Across America in June. That is always such a neat camp where there are so many young leaders who are hip and cool AND really excited about life with Jesus. It is such a good things for kids to get to be part of. The culture of their daily lives and our American culture, in general, is so jaded and consumerist and focused on so much that is not of lasting value, that it is really special to be immersed in a week of culture that is totally focused on things of eternal value.
Chris devoted quite a bit of time to loving kids through sports this spring/summer, coaching an additional aau season after our regular season concluded, so that a number of kids would get another chance to play ball before the inevitable narrowing that happens as the boys move into high school and opportunities become more limited except for the most talented. He also put together another Christ’s Children track team. It is hard to manage the track meets to fit in around camps and other things. But, as some of you know, the old track runner who competed through college, gets a lot of satisfaction out of bringing kids into a love of the sport. And, it is often wondrous to see the kids self-esteem grow as they practice and compete and feel the power of being good at something.
Our Manhood Camp was a special time for our family with Ezra being in his last year as a camper and Javan serving as a leader. That camp is always a highlight of every year when Chris focuses on the theme, a quote from the deceased, but still remembered urban leader Tom Skinner, “It takes God to be a Black man!” In our society today, there are so many models of manhood to observe, but few that bear emulation. It is a good time for the young men to be together and to really dialogue about what it means to be a man, a Black man, in our culture and society. This camp also, always includes the Underground Railroad Reenactment. We can gather with young men from two, ten, fifteen years ago and stories are always told about their experience of this at camp.
We had a surprise near the end of July when Owen, a young man in his mid-twenties, stopped by when he was in town. He told us of his job promotion, his family’s move to South Dakota, showed us pictures of his children. But most of all, he said he stopped by to say thank you because he wanted us to know that, though he hasn’t always kept in touch, his time with us was very significant to him in surviving the perils and pitfalls of growing up in challenging circumstances. He is trying to live a life that pleases God as a young husband and father and wanted us to know. Wasn’t that nice? Things like that don’t happen every day.
Unfortunately, the enjoyment of that unexpected grace was overshadowed days later by the loss that inevitably takes over all thoughts of summer. Our beloved Jereau, aged thirty, husband, father and friend to us and our ministry since the age of ten, died by suicide at the end of July. Only after it was too late, did we come to know that mental illness had overtaken him. Our hearts are broken and we wish he had been willing to let us know the depth of his struggle and despair. The despair that comes with clinical depression is not a moral or spiritual shortcoming, but an illness that needs treatment, help and compassion, just like any other.
So, as fall begins, we press on and we grieve. I started to cry on Sunday when I called out the number of Jereau’s song and I could hear his voice interjecting, “I AM someBODY!” We know that he, a child of the most high King, is indeed, safe with Jesus. We sure do appreciate your prayers.