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Church’s teens persevere after youth minister’s tragic death

PETAL, Miss. (BP)–Just weeks after losing their youth minister, the young people from Indian Springs Baptist Church nevertheless made their way to Mississippi Baptists’ youth week at Gulfshore Baptist Assembly.
Their youth minister, Brian Smith, took his life May 21 at age 25, according to Smith’s fiancee, Stacy Holderfield, who attributed it to severe depression.
Holderfield, who came to Gulfshore as a sponsor with the youth group from Petal, Miss., displayed great strength as she shared her story of Smith’s death.
“He did not want anyone to think he had any problems,” she recounted.
“Night after night, I would ask God to give me guidance to help him.” Holderfield said her fiance’s death has made her more aware and concerned about other youth ministers who may suffer from depression as well.
“If there is anything I would like the youth in the state to learn from this, (it) is that youth ministers are human and have problems, too,” she said. “I would like young people to know that they can be there for their youth minister just as he/she is there for them.”
There are many ways youth can show support for their youth minister, Holderfield pointed out.
“A simple phone call just to say, ‘Hey, I’m thinking about you,’ could be worth millions,” she said.
Other ways youth can show support, according to the youth at Indian Springs, are by listening to their youth minister when he/she has something to say and being prepared for the Sunday school lesson each week.
Holderfield has helped the Indian Springs youth to stay together during this hard time: showing them she was still going to stick with the youth group, she inspired many likewise to stay.
“Stacy came to church, sang in the choir and was always positive,” said youth member Christen Goodin. “Stacy is such an inspiration to me. She has tried to be here and do some of the things she knew Brian would do.”
Smith is missed greatly by the youth at the church in Petal.
“He (Brian) was such a great guy,” said Susan Collier, another youth sponsor with the group at youth week. “He was always there for them and wanted to carry everyone’s burdens.”
“Over half of our youth group was saved after he came to our church,” said Kathy Hall, an Indian Springs youth member.
As hard as it was to let go of the past and still have fun at Gulfshore’s youth week, Holderfield said it was what Smith would have done if he had been there.
“We are all looking for Brian,” Holderfield said. “In the auditorium, we are trying to find him. When we sing the funny, silly songs, we can picture him acting crazy and loving it.
“When it comes time to be serious, we can see him singing and praising the Lord.”
Holderfield and the youth at the Mississippi church said they want other young people to learn from this situation.
“If someone sees this, hopefully it will lead them to call their youth leader and show appreciation for all he has done for the group,” Holderfield said.

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  • Chad Polk