Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I Found this Strange and Beautiful

It's like something out of a Cormac McCarthy story. Joe's got it exactly right in my mind. God bless him.

Nathan Neel (24) collapsed and died from heatstroke

Nathan Neel told his dad Joe last Thursday that he was going to be driving 100 miles or so from Lubbock to Palo Duro Canyon to get away for a while. Joe thought about trying to talk him out of going by himself, but remained silent.

After all, he and Carolyn Neel's youngest son was 24. He loved Palo Duro Canyon, had been there many times. He wanted to be alone, to talk with God as he often did at this time in his life, so maybe, his dad figured, he should be alone for the day.

"He was so extremely excited about this new job," said Jerry Joplin, pastor of Lubbock's Bacon Heights Baptist Church. "He was ecstatic."

He had a fiancee, Nicolle Meers, and was ready to embark on a career in church ministry as youth minister at First Baptist Church in New Home. He was savoring life. He came to pray, to thank God, to ask for direction.

Nathan called his dad to tell him he'd arrived, and he didn't forget to tell Joe he loved him. Typical Nathan. "He would leave us notes all the time, buy us cards for no occasion whatsoever," Joe said. "He might see you struggling, see you were down and write a person a note with a Bible verse. We received so many over the months and years."

Not that Nathan didn't have his own struggles. He had his share of medical issues early in life, including a minor malformation on the right side of his brain that caused some lack of coordination and vertigo. His church, South Plains Fellowship, prayed over him and that made a huge difference physically and spiritually. "From that, he overflowed with God's love," Joe said. "He wanted to show people God's love because he was so blessed with it himself."

The first time Joplin ever met Nathan, Bacon Heights' youth minister told him he had a guy who wanted to be an intern with the youth. Joplin said there was no money in the budget. Nathan had said he wasn't interested in money. That was three years ago.

"He was committed to the Great Commission," Joplin said. "He loved God and loved to tell people about Jesus. That was the sum total of his life. He was a gentle man. He had such a gentle spirit, tender and kind."

He was never intimidated to talk to others about Christ. Joplin joked that Nathan always got the difficult ones. He relished talking with them just as he relished his first real ministry job in New Home.

And then Friday evening the Neels got the call. And so did Joplin. And these stark calls spread through the network of Neel's friends. His parents find their faith undamaged and so does Nicolle. "It hurt at first, but Nathan left in a perfect way," Nicolle said. "Every dream he wanted was coming true. It was perfect. If anything, my faith has grown stronger."

Joe believes from autopsy and Randall County sheriff reports that his son overheated and fainted, slipping down a cliff into a creek 20 feet below. He regained consciousness and walked away, having lost his shoes. He walked another 100 yards or so, then collapsed again from heatstroke. His body was found near a picnic area by a family from McKinney.

"I've told myself and other people in the last few days," Joe said, "that Nathan not only went to talk to God, but he went to meet God at Palo Duro Canyon."


Ms. Moon said...

I don't know, dear Ms. B. It just makes me sad.

michelle said...

Wow. That's fucked up

Steph(anie) said...

You tryin' to make me cry? :)

Sarcastic Bastard said...

Funny, it didn't make me sad at all. I only thought that it was beautiful.

Syd said...

He was where he wanted to be. It sounds as if his parents had great faith.

The Dish said...

That is beautiful. I will never have that kind of faith. In anything.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

Yes, Syd. Exactly. I'm glad they had that comfort.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

Me neither, and sometimes, that knowledge is painful, you know? I wish I did have that comfort.



Heather said...

I thought it was beautiful and sad

Findon said...

A sad story SB, but one which has a poignancy. Hope you are very well.