God Will Never Waste Our Pain
As a kid living in San Diego, Ryan described his life as “perfect” until tragedy changed everything on Mother’s Day 2006.
“On that day around 10:30AM, my life would be forever changed,” lamented Ryan. “We were going to Yuma, Arizona to pick up a dog as a Mother’s Day present. We were traveling on a stretch of interstate when all of a sudden the truck started flipping.”
Ryan was airlifted to the hospital where he later discovered the horrific news that his mother, Mellissa, and his sister, Kendra, didn’t survive the crash. He bears a scar on his wrist from that ill-fated day that compares nothing to the hole this tragedy left in his life.
Scared, confused, and disoriented, the 8-year-old was terrified to get back into an automobile. He had constant nightmares that carried him back to the devastating wreck site over and over again. In hopes of starting their lives over, Ryan and his dad moved to Tennessee where they ended up in a public housing neighborhood. Their first night in the hood, there was a stabbing on their front doorstep. Two days into the school year he became the laughing stock of the school for wearing second hand clothes. He was bullied throughout the next three years. “The thoughts of losing my mother and sister plus the bullying was too overwhelming for me. I started having thoughts of ending my own life,” he confessed.
On the day that Ryan was planning to commit suicide, he got an unsuspecting call that informed him of a scholarship opportunity Breakaway Outreach had afforded him to go to summer camp. He postponed ending his life and decided to go and check out camp. “It was the best decision I have ever made,” he said.
Ryan had a life-changing experience at camp that also birthed some new mentoring relationships in his life. He went on Breakaway KidVenturez trips where he learned more about living in community with God’s family. Some volunteers with our ministry started picking him up for church on Sundays where he eventually began playing percussion on the worship team, got into a youth group, and was baptized. Since 2009, he’s been coming back to camp every year where he now serves as a staff leader.
“Before the first year at camp, it was the lowest part of my life,” he said. “I know now that God will never give me more than I can handle. My life still has ups and downs like everyone else, but I know now that God has me no matter what.”
At the time of this writing, Ryan is a few weeks into his freshman year at a Christian college. Two months ago he was part of a mission team of young leaders Breakaway took to Germany to lead a gospel-centered baseball camp for youth and children in Berlin, where Ryan also worked with Syrian, Bosnian, and Albanian refugees who attended our sport camp. It’s hard to imagine where Ryan’s life may have ended up had he not been afforded the kind of mentoring relationships he found through camp.
One of the things he recently told Jimmy was that he wanted to mentor one of the younger boys we brought to camp this year—a boy who has a father incarcerated and has been abused by his stepfather. Ryan is a young man of boundless compassion. God never wastes our pain. He never wastes our suffering. Even though the pain of Ryan’s loss will never go away in this lifetime (it’s not meant to), God will always use it for His redemptive and eternal purposes.
Ryan is now a Shaper because others have played a role in shaping him. We never know how our coming alongside of others is going to have a ripple affect in changing the world. We need to do for one what we wish we could do for everyone. Ryan is proof that a little love can produce a big change in a young person’s life.
UPDATE (September 2016): Ryan has just officially been admitted into the United States Army, where he will be serving his country while continuing his education. We are so proud of this young man and praise God for His redemptive pathways in Ryan’s life!
Thank you Breakaway partners for making all this possible! Your gifts change lives and help us foster resilience in kids facing adversity, helping them turn from despair and grow into responsible contributors to society.