I needed a few days before I wrote this blog to gather my thoughts and feelings and try to express them in a way that could be sensitive to the situation that I am writing about.
A week ago a young man that I had personally never met, but that my husband Bryan had and that numerous teens we work with were friends with, committed suicide. He was 17, the son of a Baptist pastor, well liked, fun-loving and by the way people have described him this list could continue.
My husband is the youth pastor at Vineyard Church in Dungannon and as soon as the news of this tragedy broke his mobile was buzzing and ringing non-stop with texts and calls from devastated teens. There seemingly perfect and beautiful worlds had just experienced their first 'earthquake'. The ground felt like it was sinking beneath them, their minds and hearts full of questions, their spirits breaking.
So Friday came as it always does, I went to work, tears filling my eyes as I worked along side of my volunteers to open for the day. My heart was overwhelmed with grief for this family who had just lost one of their most precious possessions, their son. My heart was breaking for the teens who were left reeling from this horrific death. Still we were opening and life in many ways was the same as always.
When I first had the dream to open this coffee shop ages ago, it was filled with happy thoughts and all the happy things that would take place. I couldn't have foreseen what this past Friday would look like, and to be honest I didn't want to. I want life to be full of just that, life. For the sun to always shine, for people to always walk in wearing a smile. But last Friday something different happened. Teens, many whom I have known for a good number of years, walked in with faces melting in deep felt emotion. They walked in with tears streaming down their cheeks. They walked in and immediately were embracing each other in their joined sorrow and confusion as to how this could happen. In those moments I saw The Press as something I have said it was before, but in a new way...The Press was a safe place. These teens felt safe here, they felt they could open up and express their raw emotions no matter who walked in the door. The Press had maybe even become a little like the way I think church should be, where you come as you are, all your crap and faults, hurts and brokenness on display, not trying to hide it from the world. And those moments last Friday were precious. Precious because I was able to hug some of those teens, cry with some of those teens, share in their grief. I am still sharing in their grief as I imagine what the family must be experiencing each day that their son is not with them.
The Press is an extension of our church and I am delighted with that fact. In the past we have shown that we can rejoice with those who rejoice. This last Friday however, showed me that The Press can also mourn with those who mourn. That is a priceless treasure. I am thankful for the privilege to be a part of The Press, to have been there for these teens as a person but also as a safe place for them to come and be real. Last Friday, I think we did what Jesus talked about in the Beatitudes Matthew 5:4: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." That was the beautiful picture I saw last Friday amidst the sorrow. Those who were mourning found comfort and they found it in the safe place of The Press Coffee Shop.
Thank you Jesus for the privilege to be there for these teens who are grieving the loss of their dear friend Matthew. May You be their comfort and may You use us to help. Thank you that You are present in the midst of our troubles. You are acquainted with grief. Our thoughts and prayers are going out to Matthew's family as they move forward from this tragedy. Be with them Jesus. Amen.