MONROE COUNTY – Many older people think of death occasionally, if not often. The aches and pains, the prescriptions for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and arthritis and the frequent visits to the doctor’s office are constant reminders of the brevity of life.
Young people aren’t nearly as preoccupied with death as senior adults. Some even think of themselves as, invulnerable, indestructible, even immortal. However, none of us, regardless of age, should presume upon another day.
It is for that reason that we should make our peace with God by trusting Christ as our Savior, live every day as if it were our last, and tell others about the redeeming love of Jesus, our Lord.
The story you are about to read should motivate you to make a commitment to reach the next generation for Christ. The children and teenagers of your church need to know that Jesus loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives.
A story came out of the High Falls community in Monroe County last week that captured the attention and the emotion of central Georgia. Christian Burdette, a 12-year-old boy with an effervescent personality, drowned at High Falls State Park when he slipped and fell while attempting to walk across the park’s tallest waterfall.
Thirteenth person to die at or near the dam since 1964
Christian Burdette and his 17-year-old brother, James, were together when they both slipped and fell. James survived the fall and was rescued by helicopter. Christian’s death marked the thirteenth person that has died at or near the dam at High Falls State Park since 1964. The majority have been teenagers or younger.
Glen McCall, state missionary with Georgia Baptist Men’s Ministry, is the interim pastor of the First Baptist Church of High Falls, and commented about Christian’s personality. He explained, “Christian was an exuberant 12-year-old boy. He was known and loved by everyone in the community and the church.
“When he was not in school he would ride either his bicycle, mini-bike, or dirt bike around the neighborhood and stop by the homes of friends and also visit the local stores and businesses. Everyone knew Christian and usually treated him to a snack, which he loved. He was just full of life and always on the go.”
The Macon Telegraph described Christian as “gregarious” and quoted his father, Warren, as saying, “He packed more life in the little time he was here than some people who get to be 100 do.”
According to McCall Christian was involved in the church’s AWANA program, occasionally came to Sunday School and was usually present for the worship services.
McCall added, “On a Wednesday night near the end of the month of July, Christian shared with his AWANA leader that he wanted to accept Christ and be baptized.
“I was not yet the interim pastor, but had already preached there several times, so one of the men in the church, Harvey Ellis, called me with the news of Christian’s decision. I made plans to talk with Christian and his father. The church has an annual worship at the Lake at High Falls State Park each summer and I heard Christian share his salvation testimony at that special event.
“We baptized him on the morning of August 6th at High Falls First Baptist Church. Interestingly, the church baptistery has a mural of the water falls at High Falls State Park.”
McCall recalled, “Christian was excited about his baptism. I preached a message that morning titled, ‘My Baptism and the Increasing Evidence of Jesus in Me.’ I also used that message to challenge the people to baptizing 50 people during the coming year.
“It was a fanciful thought at first, but then I asked them why would we not expect to baptize a great number of people. There are certainly more than 50 in the community who need Christ. I believe that God was preparing our hearts with a harvest for souls mentality. As I reflect on Christians’ death I realize that it was a tragedy that has brought us face to face with hundreds of people from the community.
“Many people in the community, including many church members, have made comments about the difference they saw in Christian after his salvation. He was well mannered and well liked, but as most boys, a bit mischievous. However, after his conversion there was a marked difference in his demeanor.”
Overflow seating needed for the 300 in attendance at the memorial service
McCall led the memorial service for Christian on Saturday, October 14 using Ecclesiastes 3:1-9 as his primary text. Overflow seating was needed for the 300 people in attendance. Many young people and children, teachers and school administrators, family and friends were present for the funeral.
Jordan Harmon, Christian’s Royal Ambassador and later his AWANA teacher, talked about how honored he was to have taught Christian to memorized the RA Pledge and various scripture verses.
Melissa Reynolds not only taught Christian in church, but also was his school bus driver. She also spoke at the memorial service and shared many endearing words about the deceased and talked about how “all boy” he was. She remarked, “When he got off the bus in the afternoon his books and jacket would go flying as he ran to get his dirt bike in order to chase the bus, primarily to entertain his bus friends with his dirt bike riding skills.”
McCall exclaimed, “The service was quite a worship experience. We had six people to raise their hands at the end of the service indicating that they had prayed to receive Christ into their hearts. On the next day, there were twelve new visitors or people who had not been to the church services on Sunday in a long time.
“This one little boy’s life has touched nearly everyone in the community through his friendliness and personality. At his memorial service it was evident that the community was greatly impacted by the life and the death of Christian Burdette. We hope that other children will ponder what Jesus did in the life of Christian and consider their own need for a loving Lord and Savior.
“Families are holding their own children a little closer.
“Warren Burdette mentioned in a Wednesday night service that Christian loved all the children and young people that were there from the community; and that he loved Jesus. Then he said, ‘If you want to see Christian again, then do what he did, and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior.’ We are trying to repeat that message to those who knew him.”
Recent studies indicate that the percentage of Christians is decreasing with each new generation. The task before us is urgent. We know that most people who come to faith in Christ do so when they are children or teenagers. We only have a short window of time to reach the next generation. The harvest season is quickly passing us by.