Archive | Suicide RSS feed for this section

Young Life Pushed My Son to Suicide: An Update

22 Sep

About one year ago, Mechanic Dude stopped by and began to share his story.  A story that ends in tragedy…suicide.  You can read MD’s account of it here. But  beyond the tragedy of his son’s death, was the frustration he felt towards Young Life and the role he feels it played in his son’s decision to take his own life.  The reactions here on the Christian Agnostic and Young Life Watch have been mixed. Some Young Life folks have expressed sympathy, others have expressed a mix of sympathy towards MD but do not understand how he can blame Young Life.  But beyond that, a few have come in guns blazing and accused MD of making up the whole story, in an orchestrated effort to “take down” Young Life. The comment that pushed me to actually confirm MD’s story was this comment:

I have been around Young Life for more than a decade now and this story just absolutely DOES NOT line up with this organization. I have met people on every level of the organization, from the president and national board of trustees all the way down to the local area staff and volunteers, and none of this falls in line with Young Life. Here are my issues… Why is it that NOWHERE on the internet can you find a story about a teen committing suicide on a school property in or even near Reno, NV in 2007? Something like this would have had TONS of press. These days you should be able to substantiate that sort of account online. Yet i haven’t been able to do so at all. Why is it that when i called the Reno police dept., they have no record of this happening on any school property in the city or county? But even if that is me being calloused or insensitive, here is the other issue- THERE IS NO SUCH YOUNG LIFE CAMP IN LAKE TAHOE. Young Life doesn’t own any camp property in Lake Tahoe, or Nevada for that matter. There is not even another non-YL camp called “The Lake Tahoe Camp” in Nevada that maybe Young Life may had used. The author of this story either made this place up, or seriously got some facts incorrect. It sounds like, to me, someone is on a vendetta to attack the Young Life organization and is willing to fabricate a story and manipulate the emotions of others to succeed in their vendetta. And it sounds like the moderator of this website, along with many readers, have fallen for his every word. christianagnostic- for years now i have read your blog and comments on this site. While i disagree with your stance and position, I have generally found you (while in my opinion biased and one-sided) thoughtful and careful on what you both write yourself and allow on this site. Clearly you have always had an agenda, but have gone about that respectfully. I have appreciated your thought and care when publishing. But if you seriously are going to continue to allow this on your site, I believe you have lost your credibility, as the facts in these allegations are completely not true. I’d give you a pass on not researching things yourself because your emotions likely got wrapped up in this story (understandably). But now you know- Young Life doesn’t even own a camp there, so this just ridiculous, and the rest of the story should be taken with a grain of salt. I have been to Young Life camps for literally dozens of weeks of summer, and camp properties around the country over the last 10 years. I have seen many kids become Christians, and MANY MORE choose to not be Christians. NEVER in my life have i seen any kid reprimanded or treated poorly for not choosing to be a christian. These staff people would have been FIRED IMMEDIATELY, as it goes directly against Young life’s policies. Are you kidding me? This is absolutely absurd. This story just proves to me how easy it is to get on the internet and just write something, and ANYONE will believe it, regardless of how true it really is. I have seen people’s responses saying they will not have their kids involved in Young life because of THIS story. If they don’t want them involved because they don’t like Young Life’s methods, that is one thing, and i can respect that. But this is libel. Anybody (someone hurt by YL in the past, someone anti-religion, etc) could get on this site and completely fabricate a story and everyone will believe it. CA- you preach against young life’s deceitful tactics. if you want your site to be one of integrity and credibility, you should really research stories before you republish them yourself. But if it is your mission to beat up and damage an organization by any means necessary, including lies and deceit, then i guess by all means carry on.

To be honest, I was a little shocked at the vehement insistence that this story was a “fabrication”  based on a “vendetta”.  But none the less,  MD responded that he would be more than willing to confirm his story with me in private, so I could say with confidence that this is no fiction and that this is a real Father who is grieving a real son. I have to say, that I felt wrong about making MD prove his story to me.  I’ve never made other folks who state “I’ve been a YL area Director,  I am a current Young Life leader, etc….”  have to prove these claims.  Why make MD do it?  But after a long break from the blog, I was able to converse with MD off the blog and he provided just enough information for me to confirm for myself, that his story is true.

Here’s what I learned after about 10 minutes on the internet: MD’s son was a minor (17) when he committed suicide on the campus of his High School.  Some of the postings I found on-line were fellow classmates of his son and they describe essentially the same details that MD describes about his son.  He was bright, well-liked, and the sort of person that no one could believe he would ever do such a thing. For all those who believe that MD’st story is a fiction, you are wrong. It is not a fiction, it really happened and I’d appreciate it if you’d show a little respect and sympathy for a man who has lost a child in the most horrible way you can imagine. I think most of us will understand if your experience of Young Life is different than his….but he is entitled to say what he feels about Young Life,  just as you are free to disagree with what is said.  But it’s time to move past the petty arguments of whether this event actually occurred .

A Response 

Without trying to speak for MD, let me try and clear up some of the questions that were raised in the comment above:

  Why is it that NOWHERE on the internet can you find a story about a teen committing suicide on a school property in or even near Reno, NV in 2007? Something like this would have had TONS of press. These days you should be able to substantiate that sort of account online. Yet i haven’t been able to do so at all.

Well you can, but you’d probably have to know who you were looking for, and since MD does not wish to splash his family’s name all over the internet, then it may be hard for you to find any info online.  Also, suicides do not get a ton of press…I mean, yes-if you were already famous-then it will get lots of press.  But in my own recent experience, I know families who have lost son’s to suicide-guess what-no press, no articles, no nothing.  They were minors, so if the police were involved, the child’s name would not be released to the public or the press.  Your assumption that this sort of information would be all over the internet is incorrect.

Why is it that when i called the Reno police dept., they have no record of this happening on any school property in the city or county?

I really don’t know for sure, but it is my understanding that you can not request a police report over the phone.  And again, you’d have to know which incident or investigation you were looking for, in most cases.  You can click here to see what it usually takes to receive a copy of a police report.

THERE IS NO SUCH YOUNG LIFE CAMP IN LAKE TAHOE

Actually, there is a YL camp in Soda Springs, CA.  When I lived in Norther CA, we would have referred to this whole area as the Lake Tahoe area.  Soda Springs, Truckee, Emigrants Gap, Donner’s Pass, are all within a short drive of the actual west side of the Lake and would qualify as part of the Lake Tahoe area.  Even Reno’s airport is named the Reno-Tahoe International Airport.    Besides all that, Young Life does sometime rent facilities it doesn’t own.  In my own experience, YL would rent a facility in Harvey Cedars NJ and we also held some YL weekends at hotels in the Baltimore Inner Harbor area.

christianagnostic- for years now i have read your blog and comments on this site. While i disagree with your stance and position, I have generally found you (while in my opinion biased and one-sided) thoughtful and careful on what you both write yourself and allow on this site. Clearly you have always had an agenda, but have gone about that respectfully. I have appreciated your thought and care when publishing. But if you seriously are going to continue to allow this on your site, I believe you have lost your credibility, as the facts in these allegations are completely not true. I’d give you a pass on not researching things yourself because your emotions likely got wrapped up in this story (understandably). But now you know- Young Life doesn’t even own a camp there, so this just ridiculous, and the rest of the story should be taken with a grain of salt.

Well this comment feels like a back handed compliment.  I appreciate this person taking the time to read my blog for years and the compliment that you find me thoughtful and careful.  As for biased,  I am not sure what to say.  My experiences and opinions are my own, but I also allow anyone who differs with me to do so.  If I were completely biased, I wouldn’t allow you or anyone else who disagreed with me to comment.   You may want to ask yourself, how much of your own emotions and bias come into your allegation that MD’s story is not true.

I have been to Young Life camps for literally dozens of weeks of summer, and camp properties around the country over the last 10 years. I have seen many kids become Christians, and MANY MORE choose to not be Christians. NEVER in my life have i seen any kid reprimanded or treated poorly for not choosing to be a christian. These staff people would have been FIRED IMMEDIATELY, as it goes directly against Young life’s policies. Are you kidding me? This is absolutely absurd.

I am glad to hear that this is your experience.  In most of my own time in Young Life,  I saw pretty much the same thing….but not always.  I did witness some pretty hostile reprimanding at a Young Life camp on more than one occasion.  I’ve even seen some pretty unkind arguments between leaders and area directors at some others.  Just because you haven’t seen something doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened.

After all,  I’ve never witnessed YL leaders sexting teens, but it has happened.  I’ve never known leaders that were having sex with one of their YL kids, but it has happened at Timberwolf and Castaway.

Suffice to say, experiences of Young Life can be very different from person to person. I just plain tire at the accusations that I am out to get Young Life, or that MD’s story is the reason some kid doesn’t get to go to camp.  I am out to share my story and to allow others to share their stories as well.  If a parent reads this site and then decides that their kid isn’t going to camp or Young Life-then you haven’t earned the right to be heard.

Lastly, if you read something here that you disagree with-by all means-feel free to post your feelings about it.  I may or may not have to time to respond, and others may or may not agree with you.

But please do me a favor…play nice.

Especially with those who are sharing stories of abuse and suicide.  It’s just a common courtesy to show some respect for those who are hurting and grieving.  It doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, or even believe them…but please remember that there’s enough pain and tragedy in this life.   Can we not add to it by beating up on those who are already beaten down?

Advertisements

YoungLife pushed my son to suicide

17 Feb

Some of you might have read Mechanic Dude’s comments here at CA and picked up on the sad, sad story of his son’s experience with Young Life. Here is the whole story from the perspective of a grieving father who believes his son was pushed to suicide because of his involvement with Young Life.

Young Life Pushed My Son To Suicide

This is the story my son told me before his death at just 17yrs old. I have left it raw and emotional. The Young Life Organization is a Christian youth ministry with a special focus on public schools. In fact they are practically non existent outside of the public school system and their elaborate summer camps, usually located in very scenic and expensive areas of the US.

My son attended a public high school in Reno NV. My first knowledge of YoungLife was when he asked if he could go out with a friend that had a car. He said that he was older and a very nice person from his high school. At just 15 yrs. old I was skeptical and wanted to meet this person. A very young looking person shows up at the door and assures me he is a safe driver and that they were just…

View original post 1,708 more words

And Then He Was Gone…

24 Sep
Depression

Depression (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had another dream about him last night.  Even after all these years he still haunts me.  Not that I mind, it reminds me that I cared about him and care about those he left behind.

Keith-My Cousin

Keith was my cousin, but I didn’t meet him until his early teens when his Dad married my Aunt.   It was my first experience with a blended family.  Two sisters and three brothers now occupied my Aunt’s hallways when before there had only been the girls.  Those early years of visiting my Aunt’s (and new Uncle) home was filled with a ton of activity and excitement.  Of the three new cousins, Keith was outgoing, but not overly so like his younger brother.  But he could also be shy and sensitive, but not as introverted and awkward as his older brother.  He was like the perfect blend of my other two cousins; he was well liked and very talented.

The first time I ever envied him was after he was chosen to appear in a local TV ad for a very popular candy company.  In the ad, Keith was shown walking with a pretty blond-haired girl, walking and talking as the shared a tasty treat.  The ad aired during the broadcast of a local sporting event, and I was instantly jealous that my new cousin was on TV.  I grew even more envious when I learned he had been paid hundreds of dollars to appear in the commercial.  He was so lucky….I was so boring and broke.

As we grew older and went to college, I only ever saw Keith at the holidays when we would gather to feast on my Uncle’s cooking.  At these events, I’d catch up with Keith about college and other small talk.  But I sort of lost touch with him other than these few family get-togethers.  One year, he was trying to earn some extra cash by selling Ginsu knives.  I remember my family being gracious and even a few sales were made.  Keith was always so good natured and humble.  I thought he had the world at his feet.  But I was wrong….

Personal Demons

I really was unaware of Keith’s inner struggles.  I had just seen him at my cousin’s wedding.  He was handsome and looked sharp in his suit.  He was quiet, but spoke of his job and plans for a hiking trip with his brothers.  We laughed across the table at the wedding reception and had a generally good time in each other’s company.  I had no idea he was struggling.

Later that summer, my folks called to ask me to keep Keith in my prayers.  He had lost or quit his job (we never really found out) and moved back to my Aunt’s to live, at age 34.  My folks also said that Keith was struggling with depression and that my Aunt and Uncle were very worried for him.

I immediately began to pray for Keith.  I prayed that he would come to know Jesus and that the demons of depression would be bound from his life.  I prayed for him every day and even considered going over to visit him now that he was back in the area.  But I never got the chance.

Darkness

A few weeks later, my Aunt was home early from work and decided to check on Keith.  He had been staying in their basement converted apartment, while he tried to find new work and sort out his struggle with depression.

She called out for Keith at the top of the stairs…but no answer.  She decided to go down and check on him.  Opening the door to his room, she saw what no earthly mother should ever have to see.  She saw Keith hanging from the ceiling; lifeless, dead, gone.  The darkness of depression had won.  My prayers had failed.

Keith had taken his own life by hanging himself in my Aunt’s basement.

Why?

It’s been almost 20 years since my cousin’s death, and I still can’t tell you why he chose suicide over life.

Was it the loss of identity because of his job?  Was it because he was gay (something I didn’t know until after his death)?  Did he have AIDS?  Did he get fired for being gay?  Was he just a mentally depressed person by genetics? Why didn’t my prayers of protection and binding work?  Why would God allow this?  Why did God allow my Aunt to find him?  Why didn’t God do something?  Why, Why, Why!!!!????

The Dream

In the dream, we were all sitting around my Aunt’s kitchen table.  I think we were playing cards at the beach house, like we used to when we were all kids.  But this time we were all grown up.

We all seemed to be having a good time when Keith’s face appeared around the corner of the kitchen doorway.  It startled me a bit, because I remembered that Keith was dead.  But for a brief moment, he appeared around the corner and was being pushed towards the door in a wheelchair, by a man no one knew.  As he was wheeled through the kitchen, Keith turned his head slightly and acknowledged us with a slight nod.  A nod that was knowing, knowing that this might be our last goodbye.  We all nodded back in deathly silence, acknowledging his injury and his movement towards the door.

Maybe there was nothing that could have been said to stop him.  Maybe he felt like a cripple with no hope of ever rising to walk again.  Maybe the mystery man was death, a welcome friend at this point in Keith’s life….I just don’t know.

He then turned his head, the mystery man escorted him out of the house…and then he was gone.

And I awoke.