It was eighteen years ago when I got the news from my auntie that her little brother, my uncle Allan, was found in dead in a hotel room. He was just at her house on Christmas day. But by the next day, he was gone. He took his own life. Rather than opening the Gideon’s Bible, he took his guidance from a book from the Hemlock Society. I don’t know the statistics on suicide rates on the day after Christmas, but in my broken family, that number is too high.
I haven’t interviewed anyone else in my family, but I, for one, continually thought of suicide from the age of sixteen to twenty years old. I hated myself and nearly everyone else as well. I wanted to live, but saw no good reason to keep trying to reach for something that I could never grasp. It seemed that carving out an existence as a musician was my only hope to bring me into the next day. During a season of feeling really depressed, I made attempts at writing goodbye letters, but I couldn’t finish them. As I would write out my story, I sank deeper into depression. I made a pact with myself that if I was not a successful musician by the time I was twenty-two years old, I would end it.
Shortly afterwards, by God’s grace, I came to know Jesus when I was twenty years old. He showed me that I was accepted in the Beloved. I had life, meaning, peace, and especially, hope. As a musician I had a new song in my heart. As soon as I became a Christian, I was burdened to reach the lost and rejected. By virtue of my lifestyle and the company I kept, I knew lots of people who had similar stories as mine. Some took their own lives, some had them taken. I wanted to reach them all with the gospel through music.
Never Ending Stories
Throughout my years I have personally known others who have attempted and succeeded at suicide. The memories that haunt me the most involve two young men I once knew from my years as a youth leader. The first one was a pastor’s kid who felt more pain than what his father was willing to take seriously. In a moment of desperation, he threw himself off of a bridge with a note in his pocket. The other young man was a grandson of a pastor. Although he knew how to debate theology, but he did not know how to deal with the pain in his life. He finally threw himself to the bottom of a lake with cement blocks tied to his feet. It was devastating to everyone who knew and loved him. You wonder how you missed the signs—and there were signs. As a youth director, you feel failure, guilt, and shame. You question if you should even be in ministry.
Epidemic in Native America
Today Regina and I are striving to reach Native America. Suicide rates among our Native neighbors are the highest in this country — as much as two times higher than the national average. On some reservations, such as the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, the numbers are even higher, especially among the youth. It is an epidemic with seemingly no end in sight. Read more about Pine Ridge here.
But There is Hope
Humanly speaking, there are many things that can be done to prevent this, but ultimately, it is only the saving power of Jesus that can breathe life back into a person. True hope awaits all who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We want to see the life giving message of the gospel to reach every corner of Indian Country. We want to see the hopeless, abused, and rejected come to Jesus who is mighty to save.
We have accepted a call from the Mokahum Ministry Center in Cass Lake, MN. Mokahum is a place where Native American and First Nations Christians receive personal discipleship and leadership training that they need serve the Lord in their communities. We invite you to help us train up Native American and First Nations people to serve among their own people who have given up all hope. Please pray for Native America. Please consider partnering with us. Click here to learn how you can Give.