It always starts simply. Issues within our own life, family or community do not generally come as a tsunami. While success comes after much repeated preparation, crisis comes after that which has been building up finally breaks down.
Nate’s parents, Jeff and Judy, saw in their son someone who by all early measurements was succeeding. He was smart, independent, an excellent student, even engaged and excited about being in youth group. Like so many of us parents, when we describe our own child or others, Nate would have been called a “good kid.” He was not unusual and despite being strong willed, didn’t create problems for his parents.
Jeff and Judy modeled a loving relationship, challenged their children academically, had fun together, valued family and the church. Yet Nate’s life began to change with just one step down a different direction from what they had taught and lived. Gradually, it became worse and worse. It’s just hard to pinpoint when exactly, but like all patterns, we don’t generally recognize the full tapestry of what is unfolding until our lives have
For parents today, navigating issues facing youth is simply different. It’s not that we can’t connect with the underlying roots of security, identity, and relationships. But the mechanisms that cover or uproot those insecurities have changed. How can something as simple as video games or friends and followers on social media platforms cover over the reality that we all need to feel significant? That our self-worth and value often is falsely found in whom others say that we are.
As Jeff and Judy began to recognize a pattern that was emerging, their concern led to action. When they took action, they found their son, who had excelled at school and had been enthusiastic at church, was no longer the same young man. Somewhere, he had changed and lost hope. And his parents couldn’t see what was coming next.
What came next were the confrontations. Nate went from being a child who didn’t create problems to someone whose parents had to call the police on their own son. Arguments escalated. Little things like turning off the video game became major issues. It’s hard to imagine that something as simple as not playing a game could lead to physical altercations. But for Nate, in his virtual world, one in which he occupied for close to 20 hours a day, he was something, he mattered. In the real world, he was losing hope.
It didn’t start with playing a video game on the computer for 20 hours a day. As adults, we don’t always notice the habits forming in our own lives. The same is at times true for our children. We may see where the behavior is going, but we can’t imagine it going as far as it does. You simply don’t think about it that way. But for the Thompson family, they had no way of imagining that when they tried to gain back control, how irate Nate would become.
Nate was disconnected from reality, addicted to technology and drugs. In his mind, in the game he was important; he had followers, status, and success. But he was important in a place that wasn’t real instead of feeling important, in a real place; home.
Losing connection to family led to a loss of hope. Everyone was miserable. The escalation continued until finally, an altercation was so significant that the police had to be called. For Jeff and Judy, nothing was more miserable than watching their son be put into the back of a police car at their own home. They changed all the locks, and would not allow Nate back in their home for the sake of their other children. Until he was ready to change, he was no longer welcome home. Nate had become a prodigal. They endured calls and messages pleading to come home. The stress, heartache, and pain were beyond measure. When Nate attempted to take his own life, he had reached the bottom.
Ready for change
After surviving his attempted suicide and being in the hospital for a few days, Nate was finally ready to change. Nate had begun to realize that his choices were dictating his circumstances. His decision to change became a chance to regain hope.
From the outset of going to the Paul Anderson Youth Home (PAYH), Nate was serious about dramatically altering the course of his future. He was looking for hope and he was committed to being different. He believed that his life could be better. Life is the birthplace of hope!
Spiritual, emotional, mental, social, and physical growth all became the seeds that were growing in his life. Strength could be measured in the progress he saw in his life and so success came bit by bit, building on each previous success and lessons learned from mistakes. His parents saw the change when they came to visit. What was once marked by anger and violence became replaced by peace. They were being reconciled and restored to each other.
Nate’s issues and altered view of reality affected more than just himself. It changed him, his family and others who would come to know and love him.
People couldn’t imagine who Nate used to be. Those who know him best could not be happier with who he has become. Nate’s candor, openness, and joy of what the Lord has done in his life are a source of pride in a Savior who can deliver us all from the deepest pit.
We all have a past, but sometimes we are surprised at the details of the depth. The Nate we see today is not the person he used to be. It surprising and hard to believe in one sense but at the same time, not surprising because of what we know the Lord can do. The PAYH gave the Thompson family an opportunity to face reality, fix their foundation, and extended far beyond Nathaniel. The whole family was healed.
Nate and his wife Emily are currently working on Master’s Degrees at Columbia International and remain passionate about sharing the Gospel. As a husband, student, employee, son, and missionary, it is difficult to fully understand how far transformation reaches into those closest to us and the world. Change starts with one. One day at a time, one life at a time. It always starts that way; simply.
“God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.” Soren Kierkegaard
Together, we can continue to create stories like this one.
Make a contribution today that will provide another young man this same opportunity.
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