In the mid-1990s, I lived in a beautiful Iowa town with a population of less than 4000 for just over a year. The town was located close enough to large cities to enjoy the benefits of metro areas, but far enough away not to suffer from any of the problems attached to large cities. Friendly people, an excellent school system, and good evangelical churches made the town a perfect place for families.
The reason I moved to the town was to help a friend who suffered a broken leg. I lived in his home and worked at another friend’s Christian bookstore. We were all a part of a home group where I often taught at its meetings.
That autumn, three tragedies and a near miss disrupted the beautiful town. Two teenagers committed suicide and another teen failed in his attempt. A fourth youth was killed by a blow to the head in a fistfight with another teen. This all happened within a few week’s time.
As you can imagine, the tragedies stunned the townsfolk. The pastors counseled their flocks, psychologists met with kids at the schools, and everyone talked about the plague striking their youths. What was the answer?
The Holy Spirit spoke to me soon after the last teen calamity: “More bad things will happen unless the people fast and pray for the young people. Tell them to fast and pray.”
Now, I admit my simpleminded, naive attitude led me to think the pastors would all join in with my idea. After all, the Bible often mentions fasting and praying when facing the kingdom of darkness. So, we sent letters to every pastor and even followed up with personal meetings and phone calls to many of them. But yet, not one pastor and none of the churches joined with our small group to fast and pray for the youth of the town.
Everything soon returned to normal for the town. Football season was followed by basketball season, which was then followed by track and golf.
Then it happened.
A pastor and his wife came home after an evening out and discovered their son lying on the floor in a pool of blood. The sixteen-year old son had taken a shotgun and killed himself.
The town cloaked itself once again in grief, but this time it was different. You see, the pastor’s son was the near miss tragedy from months earlier. He was undergoing psychiatric treatment and taking prescription drugs for his depression. All reports showed him on the road to recovery. So everyone assumed that nothing else could have been done to prevent the suicide.
I was angry. First, I was angry with Satan and then, I was angry with the pastors for rejecting my call to fasting and prayer for the town’s youth. And to be honest, I was upset with every person in town. The last place I wanted to go was to the young man’s funeral.
But the pastor was an acquaintance of mine. I had prayed for him and prophesied to him about his calling from the Lord. He told me that my prophecy matched one given to him many years earlier when he attended seminary.
Because I did not really want to attend the funeral, I stood at the end of the reception line, waiting to meet the pastor and his wife before the funeral service. The people ahead of me shook the couple’s hands and said a few words before walking up the steps to the sanctuary.
There I stood, looking at the pastor. He looked at me and we both broke down crying, unashamed about our grief. We held each other and wept. I was no longer angry with him because I understood the spiritual battle had been tough for all of us. The Body of Christ may have suffered a defeat, but the pastor and his wife had lost their son. They were destroyed.
In the midst of our anguish, a prophetic word rose up within me.
“You can’t quit! You can’t back away from your calling from the Lord,” I said through sobs and tears.
He looked at me with unfathomable grief in his eyes.
“I have to give up. I can’t go on.”
“You can’t quit. God called you and He will help you through this.”
He shook his head and began to walk away with his wife.
“This time I can’t go on,” he said as he walked up the stairs.
I stood in the stairwell with my fists clenched and almost screamed at him, “You can’t ever quit!”
The pastor opened the door to the sanctuary and walked inside with his wife.
(An excerpt from my memoir, The Hunt for Larry Who, an Amazon ebook.)