Wow! I sit here at 10:45pm on Tuesday, April 4th and I sit and ponder just where in the world the time has gone. I feel that this past week has simply been a blur. By that, I simply mean that I feel that I have just lived the last seven days of my life in about a six hour period of time. So many different things have happened recently, I just don't know where to begin.
This past week, I, and those closest to me, suffered a tragic loss as one of our friends took his own life. Michael Pritchett was one of the kindest, deepest, most sensitive guys you would have ever known. His heart was overflowing with love for everyone around him.
In all my life, I've never seen so clearly how just one person's life can have such a profound impact on so many people. I've seen this portrayed in the movie, “It's a wonderful life.” However, I've really been able to witness first hand how so many lives were changed for the better by simply knowing Mike.
Over the past few days, I've experienced a great deal of emotions. At first, I experience shock as I first learned about what had happened. It was as if I didn't have any emotion at first, and I simply began to seek ways to minister to the needs of those who needed it most. There was a time where I was angry. I was angry for Emily, who so desperately loved her father and needed him so much in this cruel world. I've experience deep pain and sorrow as I thought about the fact that it was this cruel world that he was trying to escape. More than anything, I experienced great peace as I brought my feelings before the Lord in prayer. Peace knowing that Mike had given his life to Christ and had accepted the gift of eternal life as it paid for by the death that Christ died on the Cross.
On Wednesday evening, I sent out an email to several of my friends who must have been asking themselves where Michael would spend the rest of eternity. It is this email that I am going to paste here for you to read… (Note the message below contains an email from Mike that he sent to me back in October. I've omitted a very PERSONAL statement by typing ********* in its place.)
Whenever I'm faced with a death of someone I know, the first question that immediately comes to mind is “Was this person saved?” No doubt, that when I got the call early this morning about Mike, this was the first thing that crossed my mind. Of course, I feel in my heart that I already knew that Mike had given his life to Christ as I had specifically discussed this with him a while back.
For the rest of you who may not have had the privilege to discuss with Mike one on one where he stood in his relationship with Christ, I'd like to forward this email to you to set your mind at ease so that you will know, as I do, about his confession of faith in Christ for his eternal salvation.
First, let me say… I recall early in my life, thinking that suicide was some “unpardonable” sin. However, in my ministry, my study of the scriptures, and through life experience, I've come to the conclusion that hell is not mandatory penalty for suicide. Is suicide a sin? I believe so. However, Jesus once spoke to a crowd that was condemning a woman who was caught in a sin, that by their law was punishable by death by stoning. When Jesus spoke, he stated… “Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.” That day, there was one man who had every right to throw the first stone. That man was Jesus and he said to the women, I do not condemn you, go and sin no more!
The Bible teaches us that Jesus Christ died for our sins, all of them. It is with this that I personally am at peace knowing that Mike Pritchett has entered into that eternal life with Christ. No sin can separate us from this eternal life in Christ that we share all share.
I imagine that many Christians would be hesitant to say everything that I just said for fear that all who accepted Christ's gift of eternal life would have a fast ride to heaven when the going gets tough simply by committing suicide. I don't fear that this will occur. I believe what I have said to be TRUE. And I don't fear the truth.
My point for this email is to share with each of you, that I have a message from Mike that should be taken to heart when asking yourself the question, what was Mike's status in his relationship to Christ?
Here's the message.
From: Michael Pritchett [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Tuesday, October 12, 2004 10:13 AM
To: [email protected]
Subject: I am praying for you!
I wanted to say this a long time ago, but for what ever reason I just never got around to actually “doing” it. Well, here goes . . .
I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you have done in starting Cell Groups and for seeing it through. I really do not know where I would be on my walk with Christ if we (Christina and I) had not started with your group. So many awesome things have happened in my life because of the relationships I have built through Cell Groups. Both Keith Blum and Dave Jamieson were there for me about 3 months ago when I desperately needed a friend. Phil M. was there with me at Promise Keepers when I turned my life and soul over to God and asked Him to take away the pain ************* ~ BTW the pain is now gone! Just by a direct result of your passion in Cell Groups! Those 3 guys were brought into my life because of Cell Group.
You planted a seed for a tree to grow and with your love and passion. You have overseen the growth of that tree. Today, I get to enjoy the shade from that tree. Some day, if I am lucky enough, I will be planting my own seed and making a tree grow, too!
Mere words are not enough, but I want to say Thank You. Thank you for your love and passion for Jesus Christ. Thank you for your love and passion for Cell Groups. Thank you for your unwavering love for the people in Cell Groups.
With great respect,
—–End of Message—–
I pray that each of us will see just how “eternally” important it is, what we do in our cell group. Mike and I share one thing in common. We both knew of Christ before life in a cell group. However, we both, as Mike put it, “turned our lives and souls over to God” as a direct result of a life transforming relationship WITH Christ as the result of being in a cell group.
In Mike's case, involvement in a cell group was not enough to keep him from taking his own life. However, I believe that his cell group did everything that was not only humanly possible, but also everything that was spiritually possible to do to try to keep Mike from making such a decision. I, along with others prayed intensely with Mike over the past few months. I know that many of us took steps to make sure that he was getting the proper pastoral and godly counseling that he required. I know the men from the Hanak Cell Group spent countless hours surrounding Mike with Love, and community and with prayer to the point of great sacrifice without complaint.
I have said this a few times today… The news of Mike's death was a Shock that rocked my world this morning. I'm still in a state of shock even now. However, I don't feel that this event took God by surprise and that while I don't have a theological view on predestination or anything like that, I do simply believe that God knew that Mike's death was going to occur the way that it did whether it was pre-ordained or chosen by Mike's free will. Either way, I believe God knew it would occur just as it did before Mike was even formed in his mother's womb.
It is for this reason that I believe that God had things work out in such a way that Mike and Christina would begin to attend our cell and that he would hear and accept Christ's offer of eternal salvation. Today, I believe that Mike is with God as a result of his being in a cell group.
Let us continue to remember our calling as we go forward to call others to Christ. Let us bind together and minister to the needs of Christina and Emily. Let us minister to each other. Let us pray for one another as we all grieve this great loss.
For someone who often has an unlimited number of words to say, I simply am seeking wisdom and discernment of just how I can effectively minister to each of you. Please let me know of any way that I can serve you!
Little did I know it, but this email that I sent out really helped a lot of people experience the same peace that I had in my heart about Mike's eternal destiny.
So here I am now on the other end of this week. The visitation and funeral of this great friend is now behind me. Tomorrow, I will be at work, doing my daily routine. However, somehow, I think that I will be a different person from this point forward. I continue to pray for Christina and for Emily. I pray for all of us around them to adopt them into our hearts and lives so that they will forever feel loved by us and that they will always feel that we are their family. I will continue to pray for Dave Jamieson, thanking God for him and who he was to Mike and asking God to help Dave know deep in his heart that he did everything that God desired of him to do. Nothing more, nothing less. I continue to pray for Rob and Jenni Hanak, who as leaders of this cell group who were not only grieving the loss of someone so close, but also who were nursing Very Sick children and then only to find out that Jenni's mother had recently suffered a heart attack. I continue to lift them up, and Jenni's mother up in my prayers. And then of course, I lift up everyone else in the Hanak Cell Group and those in My Cell Group that knew Mike. I thank God for each of them and what they all mean to me. I was so proud to see how they served and ministered to one another during such a tragic time.
One thing I'm certain of. There will come a day when I will no longer use the body has given me for this world. I pray that day is far off in the distant future. However, I know that when God calls me HOME, I know that my wife and my children will be in good hands with such kind and caring folks who REALLY love me.
For these people, I am eternally greatful