Published June 3, 2014

Shelia Shares....
"Coping with the Unexpected"

Tragedy can strike anywhere and life changes drastically in a moment. Where do we go when that happens?

For the Terre Hill Mennonite High School in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, it has been a tough year. Until recently the senior class had 30 members. Now it has two less.

On a recent class mission trip to Grenada, Jared Gehman drowned in a freak accident. That was completely unexpected and students (and parents) needed to dig deep to find the courage and faith to accept this sudden loss of a promising 17-year-old life that was just beginning.

Another classmate, Josh Martin, died just last week. His death was from cancer — and everyone, including Josh, knew it was coming. He accepted that he was dying and asked that classmates not treat him differently, a wish they respected.

Death is difficult for anyone. But, when you are young, you expect life. Even if it is an unconscious thought, death is for "old" people. But, real life doesn't follow a set pattern. It happens in most unexpected ways.

The scheduled commencement speaker for the school was Nelson Gehman, Jared's father. But, after his son's death, he felt he was not up to speaking in that forum.

Instead, he sat for an interview with the Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era newspaper, where he did share three pieces of advice that he would have given to the students:*

Never live in the past.

Never doubt that there is goodness. (Gehman said his family has seen that goodness played out in the caring of others since his son's death.)

Finally, be true to your class motto and do not give up the fight. "It's important we don't go through life just chasing dreams," he said, "but to choose to do something with eternal value, something that is lasting."

Life throws curve balls at all of us. Sometimes it's a baseball, sometimes a bowling ball, sometimes a wrecking ball on an oversized crane. Sometimes we can dodge it and sometimes it is a square hit. Sometimes we can shrug it off and go on. Sometimes we need to dig deep. Sometimes, we need to call on the strength inside ourselves. But, sometimes, we realize our own strength is completely inadequate. We need to call on God's strength and ask Him to increase that mustard seed of faith that will take us through the roughest storm.

When tragedy strikes and life changes drastically, where do you go? There is only one secure, faithful, unchanging person to whom we can go. That is Jesus Christ.


*Reported by staff writer Cindy Stauffer in Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era, Lancaster, PA, May 29, 2014, pages A1 and A4.

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