Mark this date, June 9,2017, during Indiana Annual Conference a movement was launched. A mile marker was set. I travel to annual conference from I74 from near Cincinnati to Indianapolis, each mile is marked along the way, the closer the journey the increase in signs and directions. I have always found mile makers interesting, partly due to boredom while traveling in Michigan (my home land) as a youth since electronics didn’t exist. I would use the markers to let me know how close to home I was. After all, you can only ask, are we there yet so many times before being yelled at.
During the above mentioned Indiana Annual Conference on June 8th a motion was presented to bring attention to the many teenagers of LGBT persuasion thinking about and/or committing suicide. I am a Youth Minister who is very thankful to be associated with a people group (UMC) who care about young lives. But something didn’t settle well within my heart. I was struggling with a people group who cared about a certain population of people being the LGBT group but not the countless others who live outside that spectrum such as, African American males, or Caucasian females or others who happened to be straight/heterosexual.
I was privileged to participate in the connectional part of the UMC denomination by sharing lunch with Samuel Padgett and his family at Chick-Fil-A. We shared small talk while walking to the restaurant, as we ordered, and well into our meal. The conversation took a right turn after the last waffle fry was consumed. Sam’s daughter, Leah, asked to share something she was working on. I am all about youth ministry and encouraged her to read it. I was left in awe. I wont get into the details but Leah felt a similar tension but for a different reason and was moved to make a difference. I began to think about 1 Timothy 4:12 ESV “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believer’s an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity”
Leah patiently waited her turn in line to bring an amendment to the above mentions motion. She asked for it to be more inclusive of all teenagers struggling with suicidal thoughts. She respectfully asked to speak in favor of this and bravely shared her story as a PK (pastor kid) who struggled with thoughts of suicide and knowing many other teenagers who felt the same way. It was a brave moment that will forever stand in my mind. Leah, a class of 2017 high school graduate who listened to God, was moved and did something about it.
I know God used her in this tense moment to bring awareness to teenagers, in and outside the church, that struggle with suicidal thoughts and God used the moment to impact and empower a quiet, respectful, passionate young lady to trust in Him and follow with a passion and trust that will move mountains. Leah set an example for us in word, in conduct, in love and faith. She bridged a gap many adults would never do… she risked her story in order to help others stand in the gap for others who may never have the chance to due to suicide. She also had many who supported the original motion reach out to her in appreciation of what she did and said.
I am thankful that God is willing to use all people, including a recent high school graduate to impact a state in serving its people, all people. I am asking you to pray for Leah, teenagers who struggle with suicidal thoughts, the parents of teens who have experience the tragedy of a teen suicide, and our church as we grow in this much needed area.