It was the early spring of 2006. Lorah-Kelly, my eldest daughter, was fourteen years old. She had just started attending a new secondary school and her life was very unsettled.
Driving Lorah-Kelly and Jordan, my eleven-year-old daughter, to school each day, was really special as the Cotswolds were in full bloom and so very beautiful this time of year. Cheltenham, by comparison to London, from where we had moved, was breathtaking. We were enjoying our new home and our new life out in the country. Eric and I, along with our two daughters, had moved to Cheltenham to build a new life for ourselves. Although everything seemed to be going according to plan, we did have a slight issue in that the Cheltenham schools were oversubscribed and the nearest school with a vacancy was in the next city, Gloucester.
Lorah-Kelly had no option but to go to a Gloucester school, which didn’t seem too bad at first and it wasn’t very far to travel at all, especially after the lengthily travel time that we had become accustomed to in London. We were convinced she would settle in quickly as her pleasant nature made her easy to get along with and she had always attracted friends similar in nature to her. My favourite quality in Lorah-Kelly was that she always seemed so happy and carefree! She took delight in so much, complained about so little and expressed gratitude whenever she could. She truly was a blessing to all who knew her, which is why you can imagine why her depression came as a shock to us!
We had been so busy adjusting to this new life ourselves that we barely noticed Lorah-Kelly’s change in demeanour. The change was subtle and to all intents and purposes, she seemed content at home. Perhaps the fact that she was quiet by nature meant that we missed the turmoil that was going on inside of her. Occasionally she mentioned that she was having trouble making friends at school and at the time I thought this very odd, as she had always found it easy to make friends. My advice to her was to give it a bit of time and not to lose heart.
A little more time passed and she revealed that it wasn’t that she couldn’t make friends but the problem was that she didn’t like anyone that she had made friends with. After some investigation, we discovered that she was unable to find anyone that shared her values and morals. Simply put – she didn’t fit in! It was only years later, when she shared her testimony in church, that we realised the depth of her struggle during this time. However, it is not the struggle I want to focus on, it is what she did with her struggle that is so important.
It was another beautiful summer's morning and we were stuck in a queue of traffic. Being stuck in traffic yet again with Lorah-Kelly and Jordan in the car, was actually quite pleasant! This was one of the few opportunities we had for some really good girly chats. I loved driving the girls to school, listening to 'their’ music and hearing their thoughts and opinions on all sorts of things. On this particular morning, during one of our usual chats, Lorah-Kelly said something that would change the rest of our lives! She had made a decision, a very profound decision, and she shared it with Jordan and I as we waited for the traffic to ebb forward. Little did we know that crisp summer’s morning how much this decision would change EVERYTHING for our family and many others too. This is what she said,
“Mommy, I am not going to go to school anymore to find friends like me. My school is going to become my mission field and I am going to win my friends to Jesus. That is the only way I am going to have friends like me!”
Her decision was made and she declared it to us. It seemed simple enough and I was very proud of her for finding a positive angle in her time of struggle. Little did we know that on that fine summer’s morning, stuck in the traffic in our little red car, that Lorah-Kelly had moved the rudder and turned the compass of our entire family’s life in a completely different direction. Her ‘little’ decision, made from her place of struggle, would affect thousands of lives for all of eternity.
Time passed and Lorah-Kelly, true to her word, began to see her friends through different eyes. They were no longer there to please her but she was there to reach out to them. It wasn’t long before Lorah-Kelly’s vision started to grow which meant she needed to recruit helpers! And so we had another little life changing conversation on another day in the car on the way to school. She said,
“Mommy, do you remember when you used to run a youth group in South Africa for all those children?”
“Yes” I said suspiciously
“Do you think we could do something like that again?”
“Of course” I said quite relieved.
Youth groups were the one thing I was confident in, as I had worked with children for several years back in South Africa. I had forgotten that the groups I had worked with had been with children at the same age as my children, when they were much younger. Now my children were teenagers. This was a completely new ball game to me, but that penny would sink in a little later on, when it was too late to back out!
This is a part of a chapter from The Tale of a Church Planter, more chapter snippets will follow in the meantime find out more about this book here.