Saturday, January 15, 2005

Josh, Emily, Elijah, Melissa, Steven, Mark, Travis, Julie, Lori & Frank.

Josh, Emily, Elijah, Melissa, Steven, Mark, Travis, Julie, Lori & Frank.

Frank had not changed a bit. No, really..he was the same as the last time I saw him in '94. He was dressed sharp....not in his hood suit. He is thirty now. I was shocked by his smile and the warm bear hug he gave me from his small frame.

Elijah had changed!! Lost some hair, but still in outstanding physical condition. He was in my home last the first few days of '95. A trip to NYC for New Years found him in a depressed state of drug use and way to much alcohol. He knew then this way would lead to an early death. Shelley and I prayed for him and with him and he did ask Jesus to change him. But here he was telling me he REALLY was "born-again" in '96. Married now, he is teaching math at a small christian classical school north of Charlotte. His wife was a NCAA Division 1 soccer star and he was sucked into the sport. They spend their leisure time playing and teaching in summer camps here in NC.
It was good to see him! WOW! The smile on his face was proof Jesus can change people.

Emily was the same cute redhead. She is a bartender at the Carolina AleHouse in Raleigh. Immediately I noticed she was still struggling emotionally and many ways she has not matured past her high school/college age. the point of being frustrating to herself and I am sure those around her. It was sad.....Oh God!... Find her or let her find you!

Josh was bald as an onion! Still short and stocky he spends alot of time in the gym. He flunked out of college and ended up at Breuger's Bagels. He is the assistant manager of two stores. One in Durham close to Duke University,the other, in Chapel Hill on Franklin St. His smile can still brighten a room. Elijah, his older brother says he is still struggling with Jesus. I thought we all did!

Mark's face was plastered with a huge always. He towered over me being at least 6'6", if not more. He still tells corny jokes and wise cracks, but as usual is harmless. He gave up on college and works for golf courses. Finally grabbing a wait staff spot at the Washington Duke Hotel. A very swanky place in West Campus on the golf course. He is still taking all extra money to buy baseball memorabilia. His collection is so big his father opened a store in Philly. The collection is probably worth millions and he will be the next goofymillionairecollegedropout.

Melissa was there. She is now 26 and no longer a skinny, giggly high school girl. She is in school in Asheville. Working on a masters degree in Nursing. Quiet and demure, I was surprised she was not married.

Travis and Julie were there together. As they were all through high school. Or at least from the first week Julie showed up at school. They married in college and both work at Duke University Medical Center. Julie in genetic research. Travis in administration. They are members of Holy Cross Catholic on Alston Ave. Travis is the only "white" guy, but they love the vicar and the comminity that is Holy Cross. No children yet.....odd, they will make great parents. They live on what is left of the Brown Farm off Mt. Moriah Rd. It will become much to valuable as commercial real estate....being crunched between the growth of Durham and Chapel Hill. I am sure I will ride by there in five years and see expensive town homes.

Lori was there with her husband. Two kids. She loves being a mother and wife. Tim a painting contractor. They are living for Jesus...probably not like their parents would. Not at all like the churches they attended as children. But, on their terms, with THEIR God.

Steven was very tall. He owns a graphic design company in Greensboro. Between tobacco and drug companies his company has grown well and fast. He is married with two kids. Living for Jesus. He was wondering were David stood with Jesus. I didn't know.

I met Jimmy for the first time. In many ways he was the reason we were together after almost ten years. He spent most of the week in the Orange County jail. Doug Fisher was hired as his attorney and had bond reduced. He was heartbroken, confused, regretful, afraid, embarassed, all rolled up in one. He was charged with vehicular manslaughter. He was driving. His blood alcohol level was .008...over the legal limit in NC. On top of all of this. His best friend of more than nine years was dead. His life will never be the same...regardless of the years...UNC Football games will never be fun. College Bowl Season will never be exciting. New Years will always sting.

David was dead. He died in an auto crash. His best friend was driving and fell asleep. Four friends had attended the Continental Tire Bowl in Charlottle. UNC vs BC. UNC won. A great time together. A few beers. Lots of laughs. A late night drive. A flipping car. A dead young man.

Out of the blue David had called his high school chums before Christmas. Many had not heard from him in years. Josh, Melissa, Emily and David had spent the Wednesday night before the game in Durham catching up on old times. They were happy to spend time together after the years and were all looking forward to more nights of this foursome. He contacted Emily first. They had seen each other several times between Thanksgiving and Christmas. They were "dating again" , by Emily's words.(they had dated their senior year of high school and into the freshman year of college) Now, all hope of renewed friendship or love was gone.

I met more young people David's age. They all seemed to know about me as I introduced myself...."YOU were David's youth pastor!" I heard it more than once. I was confused. I was just a youth pastor. The afore mentioned kids were part of the youth group and also students at Cresset Christain Academy. The academy responsibilities were part of...."other responsibilities as needed". I was the chaplain also....all chapels were for me to plan and execute. I handled as many of the high school chapels as I could. I loved these kids!!

David was part of the youth group. From his sophomore year on David was around. He was funny. Pensive. Moody. A typical male in high school. A walking hormone. His father abandoned the family when David was a baby. He loved his mother. He loved friends easily and was heartbroken by them more than once.

His freshman year of college his mother was shot and her estranged second husband. The "husband" then shot himself.....All of this in the Hudson/Belk Department Store at Northgate Mall. David was crushed! And by all reports was never the same.....who would be?

Jimmy connects the next few years. David became a part of Jimmy's family. Holidays, special occasions, family trips. David was now part of a family.....Jimmy's parents his.

Girls came and went. Along with a rather large collection of tatoos....or one tatoo. From the left side of his neck. Over his left shoulder. Down to his left hip. His left breat had a large red heart...with his mothers' name....his "first" tatoo. He sold hot tubs and outdoor furniture. He was good at it from what I am told.

But, somehow he communicated to all his friends and "new" family that if he was ever in the hospital....or if he died they were to contact .....ME.

ME. Why me? I was just a youth pastor. Shelley and I opened our home for students to come and hangout. We didn't preach! We talked about God, Jesus, the bible. We asked questions. Some that had no answers. We talked about our hopes, fears, failures, victories, heartaches....the real stuff we faced each day. David saw us struggle with the electric bill, tires for the car, our marriage. He didn't hear about "A" prayer. He heard about Jesus...not the Jesus of the church, or the school, or the student manual....the Jesus of the bible...
Did he ever pray "the prayer". I don't know. I know he heard about Jesus. I know he heard about the simplicity of faith. I know he heard about Grace......

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