On that night, I began writing with this line,
“So I get this text from, let’s say, a guy named T.J. It contains the following question. What if you woke up today with only the things you asked God for last night? Would you be happy?”
That question pushed me headlong into writing.
The T.J. referenced on that December night now over two years ago was, T.J. Sutton.
Inquisitive, passionate, had a heart that wanted to serve the people of Honduras, and he did.
T.J. was leaving in eighteen days to go on his second mission trip to that country.
I watched T.J. help collect enough change with a group of college age adults to sponsor two children, one from Albania, one from Honduras, for a year.
I sat in the floor with T.J. as he and others counted out a mound of change.
I remember the compassion I saw in T.J.’s eyes when he told me he had decided to go on his first mission trip which was January 2013.
I can see T.J.’s face turn a bright red when I asked him to read a specific verse from the Song of Songs during a relationship class.
I recall the night that T.J. rededicated his life to Christ and came up to me afterward and asked, “What do I do now? How do I help?”
He would tell me about his job. His latest project.
He would tell me about one of the girls he had his eye on in the college age group at church.
He was much smarter and wiser than he admitted being.
His “aw shucks” demeanor never fooled me.
He had a lot to offer.
He helped me rekindle a long lost fire of my own.
And T.J. like the rest of us, just wanted to know where he fit in, what was his purpose.
Earlier this evening, I walked through the foyer of Cannon Cleveland Funeral Home.
As I approached the front door, Todd, T.J.’s father, walked through the other side.
I already knew Todd was on the way.
I did not say a word, I held my arms open, Todd fell into them, and he cried.
Big, burly guy, tough guy, hangs out in tree stands.
His broad shoulders shook and I just held onto him.
In a short time I will leave to go pick up T.J. Sutton and bring him back to where he should be, with his family and friends.
As I told his father, “Once I get to him, I will not leave T.J. until I bring him back to you.”
Twenty six years is way too short.
But T. J. in twenty six years did what millions of people only long to do…
…he changed lives.
He lived out the slogan set by the college age adults that helped sponsor those children…
…change a life and change the world.
T.J. continues to do just that.
Even, now, years later…T.J. is missed and remembered.