I wish I could introduce everyone to an ex-student of mine. James left Snowy Mountains Christian School the same year Lynne and I did. He went on to Year 11 at the local high school as the Christian school only went to Year 10.

Every time a student moves on to another school, for whatever reason, my feelings would either be I hope they make it or I am sure they will make it. James definitely fitted into the first category. He was a bit of a larrikin, a bit of a flirt but a whole lot of fun. The only argument that I could never win with him was whenever he was late to class. His excuse would always be the same, “I was helping (insert girl’s name eg Emma, Danni, etc)”. And sure enough a few minutes later the previously mentioned young girl would come into class and it was obvious that she had been crying. James had spent most of his time talking to her and encouraging her. James had a big heart and was always ready to help anyone. James loved his rugby union. He had made representative teams and was identified by the Brumbies as a potential recruit of the future.

James left school at the end of Year 11 and eventually moved to Canberra. Although James’ parents had a very strong faith, around this time James started to lose connection with God. However, he found himself a church and a young pastor named Josh. Josh took him under his wing and took James into his home for a few months. James thrived! He was in a family environment where everyone just thought the world of him, young and old alike.

James finally moved out into a share house with some friends. He was still going to church, still reading his Bible and still had contact with his pastor.

About two weeks ago James was found one evening sitting at his desk with his head on his Bible. James was 20 years of age and died from a massive heart attack. It was later discovered that he had an underlying heart condition that no-one was aware of.

Lynne and I attended this young man’s funeral last Friday. To be honest we were somewhat anxious about the funeral, particularly of one so young. It was held in James’ home town of Nimmitabel. Well over 200 people attended. It was an incredibly encouraging and uplifting service. But it was also very reassuring to hear how this young man had found his personal connection with God.

As a teacher you sometimes wonder about whether you have made an impact on any of your students. But to hear James’ story was very re-affirming for everyone that had input into his life. One comment that was not made during the service was that James’ death was a waste. Most importantly, it was said that it was a life under-lived. When you saw and heard the impact that James had on so many around him, it certainly was not a waste. And yes, how many more people could he have impacted if he had lived.

Another positive from our experience was the opportunity to re-connect with James’ classmates and to find out what they were up to. But it was also a chance to talk to them about where they were in their walk with God. All of them were honest, some were going strong, while others were struggling, but the discussion was open and encouraging.

I want to leave you with these questions:

Who are you impacting?
Who is impacting you?
Where do you find connection with God?
Who can I talk to about my journey with God?

God Bless