|Photo by Samuel Zeller
Some lucky people live to be 100, and then there are others who only live for a few minutes or days, or in the case of my friend Chris, only 20 years. Having been in youth ministry for 15 years, I always loved the celebration moments. The graduations, the birthday parties, and now the weddings and births of babies. The deaths are the ones that absolutely break my heart. This is the third young person from my time in ministry to pass away. It has left me breathless with grief, but also helped me to remember what life is all about.
Adopted at less than a year from Russia, Chris came to the United States, where he was fiercely loved by his parents and his church family. He lived what some may consider a regular childhood, swimming on the team at the local pool, camping with the Scouts, going on adventures and mission trips with our church. He died his hair blue or orange depending on the week. He had a sweet smile and made everyone around him laugh at the little things in life. He had a beautiful spirit about him, one that cared about the people some may not usually care about. He loved to sing to the elderly, eat lunch with the outcasts, and most of all, to rescue hurt, sick, or dying animals.
|Chris smiling on our Club 456 Winter Trip.
We never knew what animal Chris would rescue next, from mice to cats to birds to dogs. Sometimes he would even bring them with him to church, as he had just found them on the way there. "Look what I found!" he'd exclaim and then proceed to tell us how he'd help to fix whatever was ailing that particular animal. One of my favorite Club 456 meetings was the time I asked Chris to come and lead us in a project to help rescue animals. He brought his knowledge and his passion to the group.
|Chris leading a Club 456 project for rescued animals.
He himself had been "rescued" from a life unknown. He would go on to rescue many other creatures. As an accident-prone young man, like these animals he helped, Chris got hurt many times, suffering broken bones and concussions. He also had an odd allergy to blue die which prevented him from eating regular old marshmallows. One sweet youth leader found some he was able to eat and all was right with the world.
Chris had his share of struggles, griefs and pain. There was a lot he went through in his high school years that many of us never knew about. But, as I look back on the years when I knew him best, I will always remember him as a sweet adventurer. One who looked for the broken and hurting, to help put them back together again. He may not have had time to do something huge with his life, but in his twenty years, he truly did "small things with great love."
|Visiting and singing to the elderly on a Club 456 Mission Trip.
|Buying food for the hungry.
|Bowling with the elderly.
|Talking with a man from church on the CROP Walk for Hunger.
|Making blankets for shelter pets.
|Playing messy games at Club 456.
|Sorting food during the 30 Hour Famine.
September 30, 1999 - January 7, 2019
May our adventures together always be remembered.