Last Tuesday morning while I was getting ready for work, I received a call that everyone fears but no one expects. My cousins Christen and Will had been in an automobile accident.
I can still hear my father's shaken voice on the other end of the phone. "They tell me Christen didn't make it," he said.
Christen Renfro (right) stands next to Mirror Staff Writer Kristopher Wells at his wedding in September. Christen died in a single car accident on Cobbham Rd. on Jan. 20. From left are Will Renfro -- Christen's youger brother who was also in the accident, Chad Renfro -- Christen's older brother, Keli Wells and Priscilla Wells.
After I hung up the phone, I laid my head on the table where the phone sits and sobbed. A precious, loving, faithful child of God was gone at the age of 16. It seemed so senseless.
In the hours that followed, I spent much time at the hospital checking on Will (who had a broken arm) and trying not to remember all the time my family and I had spent with Christen.
Even if I succeeded at that, it made little difference at the time. It hurt to see my family suffer. Yet they are holding up surprisingly well.
I called Christen "my real sister" because we looked and acted alike. She was a light in a dark world for me. Even while she was alive, I treasured every moment I was able to spend with her.
The one comfort I have in this horrible incident is that I know without a doubt that she had given her life to God by trusting in Jesus. Just like her name means, she was a Christian.
I don't mean a casual Christian like those that fill the pews of so many churches today. As a youth minister, her faith inspired me.
Posters in memory of Christen hang in the halls of Augusta Christian Schools.
Jim Blaylock/Morris News Service
This is what she wrote in her diary on Friday, four days before the accident:
"Could I stand for Christ if there was a gun to my head? I want to say yes, but people say you can never really know until you're faced with that situation, and it makes me realize how many times I've failed the Lord. Thank God for his loving forgiveness! Praise Him! Praise Him!
"I pray that the Lord gives me strength and if that time ever comes -- I don't like to think about dying -- not because I'm scared, but because there's so many things I haven't done.
"But when any dies or a tragedy happens, you have to remember God's perfect timing, and he is in control. Thank the Lord that He is!
"I want to die living for Christ."
And she did.
It's almost as though she knew what was coming, and she was writing those words to comfort us who were left here to grieve. I'm still heartbroken over losing her, but I know that God had a plan. I see its pieces coming together every day.
Something awesome will come from God taking such a young and wonderful servant home in this manner. Her family is clinging to the promise found in Romans 8:28: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose."
That something awesome has already started to happen. I received an email from one of her classmates at Augusta Christian that said, "Many people at school have given their lives to God as a result already."
My prayer is that many more do the same. We may never know God's full purpose for calling Christen home. But as Richard Smith, the speaker at her funeral said, she had fulfilled the purpose for which God put her on Earth.
That was true. She loved God with all her heart, soul, mind and strength. She got what Christianity was all about. And through her death, she may reach more people for Christ than she ever could through life.
More than 2,500 people stood in line Thursday night at visitation, some for two hours, just to give a hug and say, "We're praying for you."
Estimates for attendance at the funeral are more than 650 people.
Everyone at the funeral took part in a worship service and heard the truth preached. Christen wouldn't have had it any other way.
I know too often I am guilty of spending the words of my column complaining about the way things are in McDuffie County, in Georgia and in the rest of the world. By doing so, I hope to effect change.
This time, my purpose is similar. I hope to change the life of everyone reading this.
If you want to know how a family can find hope in such a dark time, I'll tell you. If you want to know why Christen was so mature and respected, I'll tell you because you need it too.
Christen and her family all believe that Jesus was 100 percent God and 100 percent man. They believe that He came to Earth to live a sinless life and die to pay the price for the evil things that every person has done. That includes you.
They believe that because this happened we no longer have a barrier between God and us. They know that if you believe this too, and if you let God take control of your life, you will find true joy and live forever with Him in Heaven.
If you have any questions, or if you want to know God and have the peace that Christen had, please contact a Christian church in your area. Or contact me at The Mirror.
Remember, God loves you and He wants you. And Christen wanted you to know that. Fulfill the purpose of your life and the purpose of hers.