I need to tell you a story.

Having just completed “The Greatest of These Is Love” and getting ready to begin the “Whatever” sermon series, the timing of this story is perfect. There are many other stories similar to this one, but these events happened just this week so please allow me to share.

Last Sunday a young lady named Jennifer took her own life. She was two months shy of her 13th birthday.  It is an incredible tragedy, beyond understanding. It happened in our neighborhood – some of us may actually have been acquainted with the family. And while the loss of this precious little life probably made us sad, it would have been really easy to say, “Whatever” and just go on with our lives. After all, it was not our little girl, our niece, our little sister.

The first I became aware of this tragic event was Monday morning when Ellen Nichols and Kelly Ballard, two longtime members of Avalon Church who happen to live literally in the same neighborhood as Jennifer and her mother, stopped by to talk with me. Neither of them knew the mother. And neither of them felt comfortable in any way with knocking on their neighbor’s door. However, they both felt compelled by God to not let this be a “whatever” moment but instead a moment in which they would choose to love. They simply wanted me to assist them in regards to what to say and so I did.

Later that day, Kelly called to share the results of their meeting with this hurting family – they needed a place to hold a funeral and a preacher to officiate the service. I called Jennifer’s aunt and told her Avalon Church would be pleased to provide any and everything they needed.

Awana volunteers and the Chair Team gathered late Wednesday evening to setup all the seats for what would undoubtedly be a large service. Meanwhile, I was at the wake, praying with the family and endeavoring to comfort the 300+ people gathered in every available space at the funeral home. Arthur worked diligently to prepare a video presentation to celebrate Jennifer’s life to be used during the funeral.

Praise the Lord, Jennifer had a faith relationship with Jesus! Yesterday morning, with translation provided by Pastor William, the message of hope in Jesus Christ was clearly and fervently shared with a room full of people. I told the gathered mourners that I did not want to see anymore 12-year-old girls in caskets – that we all had a responsibility to introduce our children to Jesus Christ and nurture that faith and model that faith so that our children could have hope in this life. After the funeral service Pastor William and I proceeded to the graveside to share one last message of hope with a grateful family.

Dear church family, had Ellen and Kelly not been obedient to the call of Love – had they said, “whatever” and simply gone on with their lives, an incredible series of events – many of which may impact and change lives for eternity – never would have occurred.

I am not trying to say Ellen and Kelly are super special heroes – I am aware that personal interactions like this are occurring every day with our church family.  But I do want to emphasize the incredible, far-reaching, possibly eternal impact of what these two ladies thought was a simple visit to a grieving mother.

This story is the essence of the last eight weeks of messages and the teaching of the next four Sundays – thank you, Jesus, for such an awesome word picture for us!

Pastor Jim