Pastor Audrey Rydbom

Pella Lutheran Church

In collaboration with Drug Free Communities, Pella Lutheran church recently hosted Chris Parish Takes the Gun, aka Supaman, for an afternoon seminar. This seminar was for youth and adults to brainstorm how to change the culture of substance abuse and suicide in our community. Chris told his story of being born into a system of substance abuse, which led to the suicide of his father, and broken-heartedness. At the young age of ten, this broken heart was the impetus for Chris to make the decision to break the cycle of substance abuse and suicide in his family and live a life worthy of living. Chris used words of faith of and hope to tell his story.

Once Chris had told his story those present broke into small groups to brainstorm how we, as a community, can change the culture of our community. Youth were encouraged to share their ideas. We heard the desire for a place for teens to “burn off energy,” without it being a structured event. The idea of a recreation center, and how it has never gotten off the ground in Richland county was acknowledged. Wants did not consume the entire conversation. There was also a long list of the resources this community does offer shared.

A key message I heard was in the form of lament by one of our youth. He looked at me straight in the ey and asked “how can we MAKE people attend things like this?” I understood. Many, in our community, share they are brokenhearted when another youth dies by suicide. Just as many hang their heads and weep when there is a substance -abuse accident that results in death. Yet in all the broken-heartedness only a handful attend events, like the one we were at, geared toward making the change. I wondered as this youth made the comment if he saw who did do care by being present in the room, or if he was only seeing the many who do not attend events like this; and therefore, do not appear to care.

Jesus was once asked about the greatest commandment. Jesus replied, “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this, ‘Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all youßr strength.” The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12: 29-31. We love God for what God has done for us. Through God’s Son, Jesus, we no longer have to worry about if we are good enough and if we are loveable because Jesus said “yes” on the cross. Sin is forgiven for all who believe… and sin is all those things that would make us doubt ourselves. Therefore, no longer doubting our own existence, and who we are, we love ourselves as Jesus loves us, and in loving ourselves love others. Love others by showing up for them. Love others by caring for them and letting them know how valued they are. And when the other comes to know this with all their heart, soul and mind the need for mind numbing substances or suicide is not even a remote thought.

Recently I saw this written and copied it down. I apologize that I don’t remember where I saw it to give credit. “Christians are not consumers. We are contributors. We don’t watch. We engage. We give. We sacrifice. We encourage. We pray by laying hands on the hurting. We do life together.” This is what loving God with all heart, soul and mind is; this is what loving our neighbor as ourselves is. Anything other is living the law and forgetting to live in grace. This is a call for our community to break the law and live in grace. Live in grace by showing our youth we care. Live in grace by find a way to let a youth know today he or she is seen and matters. Live in grace and make a difference.

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