Raymond is dying. He has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Over the last couple of years the medical treatment for this cancer has taken it's toll on his body, and now Raymond has chosen to end the cancer treatment.
Two days ago I sat in stunned silence as my friend and Christian brother shared this news with me. Raymond very calmly revealed his choice and gave me a detailed description of how devastating the treatment had been on his body.
As I sat there, the silence was deafening. Then I heard Raymond say to me,
It took everything I had not to cry, and it took everything I had not to tremble, as I thought about this wonderful man of faith who has done so much for the kingdom of God.
Who is Raymond? Raymond is a father. Raymond is a husband. Raymond is a TUMI Graduate. Raymond gives to the community. Raymond mentors men around him every day. Raymond is a teacher. Raymond is an over-comer. Raymond is a man who has fought the good fight, and is absolutely standing in victory.
Several years ago Raymond came into my life while he was incarcerated in a California prison. During his time of incarceration he worked diligently to excel academically and he created a plan to break the cycle of drugs and incarceration. He also knew that he could not succeed on his own and that he needed God's help if he were to have any chance at all to succeed in obtaining and retaining his freedom. Being a man of faith he enrolled into The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI) and began a 3 1/2 year journey to obtain his seminary education through this program. He went on to graduate and shortly thereafter paroled to the city of San Diego.
When Raymond paroled he became a house manager for one of the partnerships of Serving California, and this is where he serves today. He is a house manager at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program facility that also has a transitional home available for TUMI students who parole to San Diego County. It’s through this partner, Training Center, that Raymond has had the great opportunity to mentor many men who are transitioning back into our communities from lives that have been dominated by drugs, alcohol, crime and broken families. Raymond has been a light for many of these men, and even while fighting cancer and going through the treatments Raymond has never missed the opportunity to teach or encourage anyone who has asked for his assistance.
As we sat and talked I asked Raymond what his greatest worry or concern is for when he passes away. His face became very serious and I saw the depth of concern in his eyes as he very quietly responded,
Raymond shared with me that his wife is still struggling with drugs, and that his son is a good young man who is caught in the middle, and this is the weight that he carries upon his heart. As we spoke I was reminded how important it is for each of us to leave behind a legacy for our family, for our friends, as well as for the community.
As we talked about legacy and what that actually means, Raymond very quickly grasped a hold of the fact that even though his father has long passed away he still can hear his father's advice. He remembers the things his father taught him, and how many times he has fallen back upon those life lessons that only a father could have given him. Both of us found great joy in this, and we also found that there is a common relationship lesson in all of this for both of us.
Our father, God himself, has provided us with great wisdom and life lessons that have guided us through good times and bad times in our life. Many times, when we were completely lost, it has been the gentle voice of our Father that has calmed us, given us peace and hope, when there appeared to be no hope or peace available.
Raymond and I were both encouraged by our discussion and the confirmation that everything is OK because we trust God. Raymond's son will have his father’s legacy and just as Raymond could subconsciously hear the voice of his own father speaking to him, his own son will hear his voice as he shares wisdom and guidance that is based upon faith in God and the teachings of Jesus Christ.
As I write this story I am blessed to know that I have met such a tremendous man all because of the seminary program (TUMI) Serving California delivers in California prisons. The TUMI program most definitely has a positive impact upon individuals - who then create ripple effects throughout their families and their communities.
Raymond is one of many who have enrolled into the TUMI program, and he is one of many who have "paid it forward" by utilizing the ministry tools he has learned through this program.
Please take a moment and pray for Raymond and his family as they face what is inevitable, and please realize that we will all one day face this same situation. There will come a time when we will all die. What will be your legacy when you pass away?