in the last couple weeks, i’ve heard a couple stories of youth workers that were so inspirational and challenging to me. both stories were inspirational because they capture a vivid snapshot of the passion of people who truly love teenagers. and challenging, because, in both cases, they poked at my comfort and my willingness to really empty myself (as christ did).
yesterday, i shared the beautiful (and difficult) story of tim and sue. here’s the 2nd story:
would you offer to give up one of your kidneys to a teenager in your youth group who needed one?
i have a few nurses in my immediate extended family, who i recently spent time with in the detroit area over the christmas and new year’s holiday. one of them was present the day a volunteer youth worker came in for surgery, along with a teenage guy from his youth group. apparently the kid desperately needed a new kidney, and a match and donor had been difficult to find. so this youth worker–let’s call him dan–stepped up with an offer than falls significantly outside the normal role description of any volunteer youth worker i’ve ever known. really, it falls outside the job description of any paid youth worker for that matter!
i would have prayed with and for the teenager, sure. i would have likely visited him in the hospital. i would have tried to be a listening ear when he was struggling with mortality and the brokenness of his body. but i truly don’t think it would ever cross my mind to say, “take one of mine!” in this case, though, if i had been this youth worker, i would have died.
my family member who’s a nurse, and was there, said the two–dan and the teenager–were prepped for surgery and both rolled into adjoining surgical bays at the same time. family waited.
but in a time-frame that was confusing at first, because it wasn’t long enough, the teenager was rolled back out. turns out: when the surgeons went in, they found dan’s kidney was cancerous. it had been completely undetected in all pre-op tests and was 100% unknown to dan and his family. the doctors were able to remove his cancerous kidney and save his life. and some time shortly thereafter, another kidney donor was found for the teenager.
the end of the story is amazing: dan’s life was spared, and the teenager is fine also. but that’s almost a distraction from why dan is an unknown youth ministry hero. dan’s a hero–far and away beyond anything i have ever, ever done in 33 years of youth ministry–because he was willing to go to irreversible, costly, intimately personal lengths to give to a teenager.
paraphrasing, “greater love has no youth worker than this, but to offer up his kidney to a teenager in need.” seriously. dan, i don’t know you; but you’re my hero.