January 13

Chances are you have probably seen or heard something about the twitter buzz, #PrayForRyan. Ryan Wood was a student at West Forsyth High School. His grandmother, father and uncle attended here at SF years ago. Last year Ryan was diagnosed with cancer but in August was told that he was cancer free. In November the cancer had returned and more chemotherapy was not successful. This month Ryan was dismissed from treatment and told he likely had only a few weeks to live. Ryan passed away late Wednesday night at home.

During the last couple of weeks Ryan’s friends began the twitter onslaught of support. It grew into the thousands of supporters and followers, from all over the world. WF grad and NBA star Chris Paul has joined the cause and is paying for a “Make A Wish” trip to Florida. Local newspapers, TV and radio stations have picked up the story. Even opposing schools, when playing WF teams, displayed WF colors, and supported Ryan and his friends with signs and prayers. Students gathered before school for a special prayer vigil.

And what’s the purpose of it all? The students, as the hashtag says, simply asked people all over the world to pray for their friend, to “prayforryan.” As one of the students said, the miracle was not Ryan’s healing but the community coming together and God and prayer brought back into school. At a time when much of the news is bad, when many of the studies are saying that more and more people, including young people, are pessimistic and cynical about the future, you see something that demonstrates those reports are not completely accurate.

This should come as no surprise to members of our South Fork church family. While our young people are, well, young people, and have all the imperfections and needed spiritual growth we should expect, they have time and again displayed a desire to serve God, to be active with the church, and to help and minister to others. We owe David and Kiera and all who work with our children and young people a special debt of gratitude. They have taken seriously Paul’s words to the young minister Timothy:
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)
What’s your attitude about our youth? What are your first thoughts when they come to your mind? Do you focus on the negative things? Do you rarely (if ever) consider the good they are doing, the difficulties they face, and the great potential they have, because instead you are focusing on the things that may annoy you? If this is you, then you need to consider that instead of being like Jesus and calling on the children to come to you (and thus to Him), you are more like His disciples and, because these are children and youth and actually have the audacity to act their age, reject them, criticize them, gossip about them, and discourage them. (Matthew 19:13-15)

My question is, who are the more mature followers of Christ here? I’ll take my place with the kids, the ones who call on others to “prayforryan” and do other acts of unselfish service. Oh yes, they are far from perfect. But guess what? So are the rest of us. Thank God for them. Ask God to bless them. Encourage them.

Bill Allen

Dr. Bill Allen preached at South Fork from 2005 to 2015. He received a Bachelors degree in Bible from Oklahoma Christian in 1978, a Masters in Bible from Abilene Christian (ACU) in 1988, and a Doctor of Ministry from ACU in 1992. He now preaches at the West Erwin Church of Christ in Tyler, Texas.

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