We were standing in the lobby of a church where I had just spoken. A young man walked up to me to say thank you. He was surrounded by a group of kids he had packed in a van and brought to church. “Why do you thank me?” I asked. I thought his words were ironic because I was admiring the relationship this radiant college kid had with this group of kids who really looked like the children of Youth Mentoring. Then he started into a story that held the rapt attention of his group.

“When I was 11 I was basically an orphan. I lived with my mom and my grandparents, but my mom and grandfather were both alcoholics and my grandmother was clinically depressed. I was the only sane one in the house. My mom would bring men home. I knew it was wrong. I told them all what I thought but I was discounted because I was a kid. My mom would come home from work, get dressed and go out. Grandpa would be passed out on the couch and grandma was in bed. So, the TV raised me.

Then Youth Mentoring matched me to Randy Evans. This is why I say thank you. I remember the first time he came over. I thought he was there to see my mom or grandpa. He said, ‘I am here to hang out with you.’ That felt good. He later told me that he loved people because Jesus loved him. It made sense to me.

When I was 12, my mom married again and decided to move to South Carolina; without me. I went to live with my mom’s new husband’s brother’s family. Really, I had no home, so Randy became my home. I could be myself around Randy. I was at home with Randy. He was like having that cool older brother who has his own apartment. My mom would call me when she was drunk. She would cry and tell me how awful everything was. She would talk about how they stole me from her, which was ridiculous because I was there when she gave me away. I have a picture of me and Randy during that time in my life. The storms were raging all around me, but I had a big smile on my face, and it was a sincere smile. I was with Randy. He was my shelter from the storm when it got bad.”

Three years ago Randy went into the hospital. I thought it was routine. He died. When I went to the funeral home I saw him in the casket and kneeled down to look at him. At that moment I saw it. He had gotten the love from Jesus and he had handed that love down to me. Now it is my responsibility to keep it going.

I spoke at his funeral. I said I wish I could be like him, to have his strength, to be able to love like he loved….The cemetery is just a few blocks from me. I wish he could see my kids [in his youth group]. I tell them about Randy and I tell them about our Jesus. It’s funny, I go into the junior high to meet with my kids and be introduced to their friends. The teachers remember me and can’t believe what I have become. They end up introducing me to other kids who ‘need to meet me.’

I remember one time that Randy took me to a friend’s house who had a go-kart and a track. I know I’m rambling. The only trouble was, it started to pour and we had to head back soon. He asked me if I still wanted to ride. I told him I did. So I rode, mud splashing in my face at every curve. You know, Randy stood out in that downpour just watching me. It felt so good just sharing that moment, hearing him yell, ‘good lap Andy!’

“Randy is the only father I ever knew. Randy led me to the Lord. Before he died he told me no matter what I do, hold on to Jesus. I’ve been holding on ever since.”

As I walked to the car, it all came back to me. I remembered Randy and this is the kid that Randy always spoke of. I hadn’t seen him since he was tiny. Randy was like a cheerleader for Long Island Youth Mentoring. He had been so blessed by being Andy’s mentor that He thought everyone needed to step up and invest in a child’s life. He spoke of his investment in Andy’s life as one of the best things he had ever done. Well, Randy is with the Lord. Andy received the love from Randy that Randy had first received from Jesus. Now Andy is passing it on to other children. “Well done Randy. Good lap Andy.”