I have been meaning to write this for several months. In fact, I've started nearly a dozen times, but kept putting it aside. It's such a painful thing to remember.
Back when I was a freshman in high school, I really looked up to David Beckley, an upper classman from the next town over (just a few short miles away.)
We were together at youth camp, where David responded to God's call to preach the Gospel. As a direct result of that commitment, he decided to go on a mission trip at the end of the summer, and he ended up paying a huge price for making that decision.
David was an outstanding football player. College scouts had been scoping him out. He had a lot of natural talent, enthusiasm, and a tremendous work ethic. David loved the sport. Yet, he loved his Lord more.
When he asked the coach for a little bit of time away from the team in order to go on the mission trip, the coach was indignant and inflexible. "No way! In life you have to make choices. If you're going to be a part of this team, then you need to be there during that week of practice! There's no other option!"
That night, David didn't get much sleep. He tossed and turned as he prayed a lot about the decision he needed to make. By morning, he knew exactly what he should do. David resigned from the football team and went on the mission trip. His mother said she had never seen him so happy.
Now, this may seem funny to you -- but I went out for football. It was a different team than David's and our school was hard up for football talent. They took everybody. I was short, slow and scrawny -- but I made the team (and stuck with it for about a month.) So -- the lesser player ended up on the team, and the far greater player wound up off the team and on a mission. (I was invited to go on the same trip, but declined due to my important football obligation. I played guard, tackle and end. I sat on the end of the bench, guarded the water bucket, and tackled anybody who came near it!)
Sadly, before the pictures from the mission trip were developed, David was dead. While driving his sister to school one morning, he was hit by a drunk driver, and killed instantly.
It was one of the most shocking and life altering experiences I've ever had.
On the night of the accident, I went on a long, reflective walk -- and prayed my heart out. I sensed that the Lord wanted me to take my friend's place in ministry. David had been really sold out to God, but in comparison, I was pretty much lukewarm. That night, over 30 years ago, things changed for me. I knew I couldn't really fill David's shoes -- but maybe I could touch a few lives. Perhaps, in some way, David's ministry could live on in me.
So -- that was my call to ministry -- and I'm so thankful for the opportunities I've had. God has truly blessed me with a wonderful life.
I was privileged to re-connect with David's family a few months ago. They did not realize the profound influence David had on my life. It was beautiful to remember this godly young man together. David's mother and I laughed and cried as we reminisced the phone. It was a wholesome and cleansing experience for me.
Even to the day he died, David carried a card in his pocket. It's message is etched permenantly on his tombstone in Ashley, Ohio. The card says: If you meet me and forget me, you've lost nothing. But if you meet Jesus and forget him, you've lost everything."
David's mother told me that even all these years later, people stop by to read the message on his grave stone. Several hearts have been touched and changed forever due to this simple message.
Even though he is dead, yet he speaks.