“Many of the 49 victims of the United States’s worst mass shooting share much in common: Young Latino men in their 20s and 30s, most of them gay, who gathered at an Orlando club to dance.”
For nearly a decade and a half I’ve had a very interesting relationship with the graveyard. I don’t know how many of the 49 massacred Orlando victims will be cremated, and how many buried in the ground, but that horrific story has evoked my graveyard musings.
Most people I know who love the books and audiovisuals of the late Dr. Myles Munroe never really met him. I had the privilege of a face-to-face; and it was life-transforming. When he asked “Where is the richest place on earth?” nearly all of us got it wrong because our minds went to mines, oil sands and banks; to stock markets, palaces, the Dubais and the like.
Our guts wrenched—at least mine did—when he revealed that the richest place on earth is the graveyard; a locus people of African descent generally would rather not countenance. For the many years I’ve worked with other ethnicities, I’ve realized Africans are not alone in our discomfort around death. Nevertheless, Munroe’s point was that the cemetery is the richest place on earth because there lie several dreams, world records, Grammy-winning music, bestselling books, Oscar award-wining movies… you name it, that were never realized. Buried potential, period.
I was but a medical student then and the sudden death of one of my dear colleagues who had ‘fought the good fight of faith’ to make it to final year drove the point home poignantly. Since then I’ve had a picturesque line in my personal mission statement: “I want to die empty;” I want to die having let out every gifting, book, speech, sermon… every potential God has placed in me. I want to rob the cemetery of any further enriching!
When I wrote YouthPower! in 2004 that was part of my clarion call to young people to arise and do something significant with their lives NOW! so we don’t die and add to the richness of the cemetery. Since then, my like-minded friends and I have travelled hundreds of thousands of miles to nearly 30 countries, sometimes at the peril of our lives in some dark and obscure corners of the world awakening, envisioning, inspiring and empowering young people of all nationalities and ethnicities regarding their YoungPower! We’ve done books, conferences, audiovisuals, engaged on social media, and utilized every platform imaginable to lessen the richness of the graveyard.
Alas! When I saw the above Washington post statement regarding the demographic of the victims of the United States’ worst mass shooting in history; I couldn’t help but wonder if my YouthPower! friends and I weren’t losing the battle against the graveyard.
A quick math eerily reveals nearly all, in fact 92%, of the victims were less than 40 years old! Come to think of it, two of them were even teenagers (18 and 19), 25 were in their twenties, and 18 in their thirties. Only four of the deceased were forty or older (40, 41, 49, 50). Indeed, how old was Omar Mateen the gunman himself who killed and was killed? Just 29.
For a moment—and trust me, it’s even harder for me as a clergyman—let’s forget about the ethereal and eternal ramifications of this, as if it were possible. Just for a moment imagine what YoungPower! in talents, influence, passion, strength, earning potential, impact etc. has been lost forever—and in significant numbers too! The world is poorer for this. Guerrero, who was only 22 and gay, for example, studied at the University of Central Florida and had just become a financial adviser at SunTrust Bank.
Six days after this massacre, a little less that number of young people as were gunned down would gather at a Montreal waterfront (picture above) to witness and celebrate the baptism of Evelyn, a passionate young-lady on the cusp of becoming a full-fledged pharmacist. By this public witness, the young Chinese-Canadian is declaring her death to self and sin and absolute dedication to live an abundant life for God and service to mankind for the rest of her days. The young man leading this somber occasion is about the same age as Omar Mateen but wields ‘the sword of the Spirit’ which conquers evil and gives life not a .223-caliber AR-15-type assault rifle that…well…just kills.
I can’t help but wonder, sometimes when I’m rather melancholic, if my friends and I championing the cause of YoungPower! are not losing the battle to the grave.
Losing the battle? Maybe, when considered on this world’s rating scale. But we have another scale, without forgetting the very real goals of the first. “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1Co 15:58 NIV) This verse has been a tremendous encouragement for me ever since I was a teenager.
Thanks for the encouragement! We’ve read the the Book to the end, right? And we know in the end “WE WIN!”