October 3, 2023

Suicide Awareness

Written by: Jon McKanna, Director of Worship and Communications

I had the privilege of sitting down with Chuck and Gloria Gerringer. They are charter members here at Gateway Church. That means they've been a part of the journey here for over 20 years. It was evident they have a deep love for Gateway Church! But that wasn't the topic of our discussion. We looked through family pictures, I listened as they reminisced of years gone by, and we talked about what they've been through in the last 18 months. 

It all started on the morning of May 19, 2022, just 4 days after celebrating 60 years of marriage. There was nothing seemingly out of the ordinary that day, until they got a call from local law enforcement asking to meet them at home. They headed that direction knowing that something was wrong and hoping it wasn't any of the possibilities they were thinking of. But once they arrived at home they received news that would change their lives drastically. A son, soldier, and a source of great joy was gone. Their son Jonathan had taken his own life. He was a loving man who served those around him and was loved in return by all who knew him. It was hard to take in.

This is a common occurrence in our world today. The most recent publications from 2021 show that there were 132 suicides per day in the US. In that year alone over 48,000 Americans died from suicide (https://afsp.org/suicide-statistics/). That's 48,000 families who long for one last goodbye, one last hug (in Jonathan's case one last "fierce hug"), one last chance to simply sit and talk with their loved one. This is something that not only the Gerringers but my family and many others are familiar with as well. What may or may not come as a surprise is that suicide isn't something that the church is immune from. In fact in the last 5 years there have been 3 families here at Gateway Church who we know have lost a loved one to suicide. So while Chuck and Gloria may have felt alone in this journey at times, they weren't. 

You're probably wondering why we would share this story. That's a valid question. There are a few answers to that question, coming out of this conversation. September (Suicide Prevention Month) has come to a close. We want to acknowledge the struggles that are around us and our need to care for those struggling. It reminds us of how great the world around us needs the hope of the gospel. Also it's an opportunity to share some insight from the Gerringers. Several have reached out to them to share a meal and one man from the church stopped to pray with Chuck at church on a Sunday and even started meeting with him on a regular basis. At the same time they have noticed over the past 18 months, that not everyone seems comfortable talking. People tend to shy away from conversation altogether or at least conversation about their son Jonathan. This is most likely in fear that it would cause them pain. But it's actually something that they have found a need to talk about, as they continue healing. So if you know someone who may have gone through a situation like theirs, don't be afraid to ask how they are doing or to even ask about their loved one who is gone. 

Last but not least, I want to remind you that here at Gateway Church we have a Pastor of Care and Counseling. Pastor Robert does a great job of caring for the members of our church. It's something that he has a passion to do. But the reality is, he can only care for those who let us know there is a struggle. Please don't hesitate. If you need to talk with someone, call the church office and set up an appointment today! 

A Fierce Hug by Chuck Gerringer

A fierce hug is what we crave from him,
Who now from us is gone.
We’d treasure just another hug
For which we fiercely long.

He did not know how much we’d miss 
His hugs - so tight, so strong.
How with his “too soon” passing,
We’d lose that loving bond.

Though days can never lessen
The emptiness we feel.
We cling to what we know is true:
His love is with us still.