A couple of weeks ago, I got a text while I was eating lunch. It came from a young man who I met when he was just a middle schooler 15 years ago. We’ve stayed in touch through the years. We talked quite a bit over the summer after he was arrested and served some time in the county jail. I always tell my “grown-up” 2540 kids they can call me or text me anytime just to chat about life or get some advice, and not to wait until they’re in trouble. Most of them ignore me and only call when they’re in trouble.
The text read, “I’ve been suicidal lately.” I immediately called him. We talked for a while. Without going into detail, he’s had a rough go of it the last couple years. He asked me if you went to hell if you committed suicide. I told him I don’t have any absolute answers about that, but I could promise him that he would put his family through hell if he did. I asked if he wanted to hang out that afternoon. I had some errands to run and would come pick him up. His phone disconnected. Whether it was a hangup or he ran out of minutes or his battery died, I had no idea. Still don’t. All I knew is that it scared me. I jumped in my car and headed to his uncle’s house, where he was staying. I didn’t know what I would find. I called one of his family members, who then started texting any other relatives near his home to head that way.
I prayed all the way there.
I pulled up to the house he was staying in. I walked up to the door and saw him. Thankfully he seemed OK. He was putting something under the couch. We talked for a bit until his cousin arrived. I’ll leave out the details, but he obviously wasn’t well mentally and we convinced him to go with us to talk to a professional counselor. After that session (and with appointments for future ones), as he climbed back in my car, I received a frantic phone call from his uncle.
“You were at my house, right?”
“Did ____ have my gun? Where’s my gun?”
I turned and asked him if he had seen his uncle’s gun. He said yes. He said he slid it under the couch when he saw me pull up.
Sometimes I wonder if my prayers work. Sometimes I wonder if we make any difference at all. Sometimes I wonder if all the stress and frustrations and difficulties of running Mission 2540 is worth it.
He slid the gun under the couch when he saw me pull up.
What if I hadn’t? What if I was too busy to find him? What if I hadn’t prayed? What would have happened? I don’t know, and I don’t want to think about it. I’m just thankful he texted me. And I’m thankful God answered my prayers as I sped across town.
There’s a lot more to the story that I can’t tell you. And lots more still being dealt with. When I left his home much later that afternoon, I looked him in the eyes and said “I love you. And I’m glad you’re here. You know that right?”
He nodded. “I know.”
I always say the most important thing we do is that we come back. Week after week, year after year, we let kids know that we care. And that kind of coming back makes a mark. They remember, years later, when they need us to come back one more time.