These 14-year-olds were so broken and hurt for various reasons, I just wanted to take them home. I said that to one of the girls, and she said, “Please take me home with you.” All I could do was hug her until she let go and then pray for her.
In 2016, our nation experienced the devastation of teen suicides in the northern Prairie provinces. There were six teens between the ages of 10 and 15 who took their lives in a matter of two months, and many more who were rescued from attempted suicides. It was so devastating for parents, families and friends from Lac La Ronge, Stanley Mission and Loon Lake in Saskatchewan, and from Thompson, Manitoba.
This became more personal when my cousin Darlene’s little girl, Eileen, took her own life at the age of 13. She would be the sixth one. I went to Lac La Ronge to be with my family during this heart-wrenching time for the funeral and community wake. There will always be a sense of loss and a deep sadness. Two weeks before Eileen’s death, her best friend, Jadene, had taken her own life. I saw parents and families who were so overwhelmed that even hearing a siren would make their hearts seize with fear as they wondered if another youth was following suit. There were many attempts. I felt for the families, but also for the school, as their classroom had lost two classmates within two weeks. It was overwhelming for the teachers, friends and family members.
When I came back to Medicine Hat after spending time in Lac La Ronge, I shared the story of what happened with my ladies group, and one of them suggested that we do something. Everyone had ideas, but together we decided to create some wristbands that would say “Your Life Matters,” and on the inside “Jesus loves you” with a contact email address. We wanted to send them to family, friends, and to the schools affected. When local business owners heard about what we were putting together, they stepped forward and wanted to support the Your Life Matters (YLM) movement as well. We received a shipment of 5,000 wristbands, which have been distributed to Canada, Ethiopia and India. We are currently looking into sending them to other requested areas.
These wristbands will let people know that we stand behind brokenhearted parents, families, friends—and you yourself, if you think your life doesn’t matter. We want you to know that your life does matter to us, to your families, and to God. When you are wearing these wristbands, you are sending a message of love. So when you see someone wearing a blue wristband that says “Your Life Matters,” you will understand. Let this wristband be a reminder to say a prayer for those who are missing their loved ones.
Since this movement started, I have had the opportunity to take these wristbands and share with Eileen and Jadene’s classmates. It was a very touching and emotional time to pour into their lives, to let them know that they do matter, that there is help, and that people want to love them. You could feel their grieving hearts. Later, they excused themselves to go for a walk in the hallway to pull themselves together for their classes. I thank God for opportunities to love on these young people.
I have also had the privilege of sharing this vision of hope with parents, teachers, youth groups and churches, increasing awareness and bringing an end to this dilemma of hopelessness within our young people.
On one occasion, after speaking at Onion Lake, Saskatchewan, I was approached by several young people who had been brought there for counselling because of their personal attempts to take their lives. These 14-year-olds were so broken and hurt for various reasons, I just wanted to take them home. I said that to one of the girls, and she said, “Please take me home with you.” All I could do was hug her until she let go and then pray for her.
I just received a letter from Chief Tammy Cook-Searson from the Lac La Ronge Indian Band sharing how impacted these communities are and expressing how helpful these wristbands are to the youth and their families.
Pastor Matthew Redstone and our youth group, EPIC Youth, began to wear and distribute over 600 wristbands with “Jesus loves you” printed on the inside. They are standing behind these teens and are handing out wristbands to their friends in the schools. They also want to take part in letting kids know how important their lives are.
It may not seem like much, but I just want to do what I can to let all who are struggling know that somebody cares. I thank my Jesus for allowing me to be used in this way, and I thank you for allowing me to share my heart with you. God bless you.
Laura Berg and her husband, Lyle, are lead pastors at First Assembly Church in Medicine Hat, Alta. For more information, visit the YLM Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/yourlifeitmatters or contact Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images courtesy of Laura Berg. Used with permission. This article appeared in the May/June 2017 issue of testimony, the bimonthly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada.