Mission Tuesday #223

My heart is breaking today. We at Mission of Hope found out this afternoon that the death earlier this week near Kirkwood Community College that has been ruled a homicide, was of one of our Mission friends, Ron. He was 22 years old.

This young man had a very special place in my heart. God had no doubt given me a special love for this young man. And He gave one of our Board members, Bart, the same kind of love for Ron. This news is so fresh and raw for all of us right now. I can’t help but shed tears of sadness, loss and heartache this afternoon.

I saw Ron’s life transform over the years I knew him. I met him when he was probably 18 or 19. We had an “altercation” over a can of pop one afternoon at Mission of Hope back then. His behavior was not acceptable to our standards at the Mission, and he was asked to leave. It was a tough and tense moment for both of us, but God used that moment to bond our hearts from that point on.

After his heartfelt apology upon his return a couple weeks later, our relationship began to form. He would often talk to me about his life and his struggles. He would share his desires and dreams of his future with me. And he would ask for advice every now and then.

Each time he would walk into the Mission, he would brighten my day. There was just something about him that would make me very glad to see him, no matter what kind of mood he was in. Sometimes he would be “on top of the world.” Other times he would be downcast and upset. Often he would help us clean in the afternoons by either vacuuming or cleaning toilets. A few times he helped us serve lunch.

I remember clearly helping him find clothes in our Clothes Closet one day for a job interview he was going to have. He was so excited. And other time we helped him with a backpack to use as he was starting to take college courses at Kirkwood.

The last time he came in was maybe a month ago. He once again vacuumed after lunch. We chatted briefly, and I remember him saying he was trying to make good choices with his life. I encouraged him to do so.

I took some time late this afternoon to search my blog posts to find the times I wrote about Ron. And I’m blessed to read them today. Actually, these posts show the transformation God was making in his life.

December 30, 2011…
“A young man who I once had a difficult experience with came in today.  He comes in a couple times a week.  At one point last summer, his behavior had brought him to the point of us asking him to take a time out away from the Mission for a couple of weeks.  But the day he came back and we had a long discussion, he has been different ever since.  He speaks to me each time, calls me by name, and wears a smile often.  Today he called me his “second mama.”  (I am old enough to be his mom.)  That made me smile.”

I was looking for someone to help us with the afternoon vacuuming, and he looked at me the same time I looked at him.  He asked, “Do you want me to vacuum?”  I was floored.  A few months ago he never would have offered such a thing.  I replied, “Would you?”  He grabbed the vacuum, and I am ashamed to admit I was thinking, “I can imagine what kind of job he’s going to do.”  In a matter of minutes, he was proving my doubts to be unnecessary.  He was vacumming better than most people do…not missing any spot on the carpet.  I realized I was seeing another changed life…vacuuming Mission of Hope’s carpet!  After he was done, I praised him and thanked him for doing such a great job.  I’m thinking he’ll be back again to do some vacuuming! 🙂

January 10, 2012…
“One conversation I had today was with the young man I wrote about a couple of weeks ago who was helping us vacuum that particular day.  This morning he shared with me that his new year is “starting off on the right foot.”  He shared with me that he attended a church service last weekend whose members were the ones who provided that meal that day that he was vacuuming at Mission of Hope.  (This church has been partnering with us for a couple of years now, and some of the members and leaders from this church were our worship team and preacher for our Saturday Night Service this past weekend!)  Our friend felt drawn to this group of believers and wanted to check out their church.  They picked him up for church from where he lives.  I’ve never seen him smile like he was this morning.  He said he “loved it,” and wants to go back.  He plans to go back this weekend.  Silently I thanked and praised God for this great news!”

 January 20, 2012…
“Another one of our friends, who I’ve written about before, made some “no-so-great” choices at Mission of Hope over a week ago.  We needed to have a conversation about what happened.  We sat down and talked Tuesday morning.  He shared with me some things that were troubling him.  For the first time, he allowed me to pray with him!  I couldn’t believe it!  He reached out across the table to hold on to my hands as we began to pray.  Afterwards he said, “I could feel the anger inside of me leave my body when you prayed.”  His face looked relieved.  He then said, “I’m not used to hearing people say nice things about me like you did in your prayer.  Thank you.”  Wow…I saw in his eyes for the very first time something I’ve never seen before.  I saw that he just wanted to be appreciated and respected, just like the rest of us.  His eyes filled with tears.  (I silently praised God for what I was just able to witness.) 

It gets better…Guess who came to our Wednesday noon Bible study the next day?  This friend!  And he brought a friend with him.  I could hardly contain my excitement sitting there in our study.  Each person in the group encouraged these two young men and invited them back.  Both of them came back the next day to Thursday’s noon Bible study!!  I’m thrilled to see how God is moving in this young man’s life, and I’m thrilled to see how he’s sharing this experience with a friend!  Many people would have written this young man off, and many have.  But not Jesus, and not us at Mission of Hope!  God is a God of second chances.  This young man is proof of that!”

 September 2012…
“And one more story of another friend of ours. This one just turned 21 years old this year. He pops in every now and then. His story is quite complicated and touching. He and a friend of his came to our Bible study yesterday. When I saw him walk in, he had a huge smile on his face, and was hurrying to get to me. He held up his right hand for a “high five,” which I gave him one with my right hand. I was taken back to a memory of a few years ago in that very spot standing with him. We had an incident with him that day, and I had to ask him to leave. He was upset and very agitated. The whole situation made me a little nervous. That day he called me a name I won’t repeat here. Yesterday he called me, “Mama.” 🙂 I couldn’t help but think yesterday how far God has brought this young man!

He asked lots of questions during Bible study about sin, forgiveness and eternity. He’s searching and seeking. I’m glad he came to the Mission yesterday to find some direction, hope and some answers through God’s Word. It did my heart good to see him too!”

Oh, how I wish I could have done something to prevent his untimely death. It grieves me so to realize I will never see Ron again. And it brings home to me how very important our jobs are at Mission of Hope. What we do there is important, life-changing, and impacting. None of us on this earth know when may be the last time we’ll have the opportunity to love, encourage and speak life into another’s life. May we never miss an opportunity to do so.

Thank you for allowing me to share this with you today. Please pray for Ron’s family and for all who knew him during this most difficult time.

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