Vividly I remember the day sitting in a coffee shop with my friend Joe.
Joe knew how much I prayed for him and his ministry with Young Life.
He asked me that day to pray for one specific kid that he had just become friends with.
He wanted me to pray that this new friend, Payton, would come to know Jesus as Savior and LORD of his life.
Of course I said yes. And so began my prayers for Payton.
I remember the first time I met him, with his sweet smile and me winking at Joe, that this was Payton!!
That spring, through many questions, long talks and the promptings of the HOLY SPIRIT, Payton did meet Jesus and began his lifetime adventure with him.
Only about two months later, Payton wanting to know and experience more of Jesus, came as a new believer to Woodleaf to be on workcrew. He worked so hard, and I got to see him everyday, and his smile was contagious and could make anyone smile. He also could be a bit mischievious too!!
It was toward the end of his three week assignment that after work and time for some fun at the pool that after diving off the diving board, he broke his arm.
I remember getting to the pool right after and the lifeguard intern telling me all that transpired. I remember joking with Payton about he trying to get out of work.
A simple break, casted and off he went.
About a month later or so, I was in Chico and attended a Young Life club and Payton had hurt his shoulder and we kidded about how clumsy he was. But his spirit was infectious with life and he laughed with me.
It was when he didn't heal that the doctors determined he had some type of bone cancer.
We were all shocked.
Joe was devastated and took Payton on a road trip to have some fun before all this therapy would start.
Most people are side swiped when they hear they have cancer. Its one of those gulp, punched in the gut feelings. It takes the breath out of you. I don't really know if Payton felt that, but his friends and family certainly did.
Payton became more alive once he was diagnosed.
All he wanted to do was tell people about Jesus.
Payton wanted everyone to know that Jesus was the answer, the hope, the security of his life.
He told his high school friends. He told his mom and sisters and his grandfather. He told their friends. He told anyone who would listen.
He became a Wyldlife leader, which is Young Life's ministry to junior high or middle school kids.
After going through chemo and radiation, he still had that smile.
He still wanted to be with his junior high kids.
When he found out later that I too, had cancer, he would text me verses and say that we both would be ok.
We had this "cancer bond". The kind of bond that you don't really want to have with someone, but are also grateful that you can be real and vulnerable, because you get what the other is feeling.
I prayed for Payton to come to know Jesus. He did.
I put Payton on my daily prayer list when he got his cancer and probably missed maybe 6 days in the past 22 months when I didn't pray for him.
He struggled. Chemo and radiation wracked his body. He got thinner and thinner. But his spirit, it grew brighter and brighter each day and all he wanted to do was tell people about Jesus.
Payton loved life and he loved Jesus.
He was in a wheel chair for awhile. That was hard for him, but then he would crack jokes about it.
Some dear Chico friends started to raise funds for him to get him to another hospital to see if they could help. Over 25 thousand dollars was raised. Payton was blown away by people's generosity.
He took his Wyldlife kids to camp at the beginning of July this year. He couldn't do many of the activities although he did try and I feel like my eyes were always on him, because I didn't want to see him get hurt. He wanted those boys to know the SAVIOR like he did.
Oh Payton, you leaked Jesus wherever you went.
Last night, Jesus thought Payton had gone through enough.
Jesus took Payton home to heaven.
No more pain.
No more suffering.
No more trouble breathing.
A new body bowing in reverence and awe as he met the ONE he told everyone about.
A new body that could run and dance and rejoice that he was in the presence of the LORD and SAVIOR that he told everyone about.
In our eyes, he was taken way too soon-way too soon.
Most likely in His Lord's eyes, he came home at just the right time.
To me it seems so unfair. Payton was young , and so full of life, and I weep as I write this.
But Payton Contestable did everything in this life that he was made to do.
He lived fully, he had fun and pulled pranks, he had a family who adored him and friends who would do anything for him.
And Payton told people about Jesus. That was his mission. That was his passion.
Payton, you taught so many of us so much about Jesus and what it looks like to live for him.
For someone like me, who has lived three times as long as you, you radiated Our Lord.
You encouraged me to cling to him and I did the same for you.
Oh yes Payton, you told so many of your friends about Jesus. That's what you were called to do.
You did it so so well.
And now you are in HIS presence and I know that as soon as He saw you, His words were:
"Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master."
Oh you will be missed terribly and will never be forgotten by us. You did exactly what you wanted to do: you told us about Jesus and you lived wholly for Jesus.
I hope that we can be just like you now.
Enjoy your eternal home with your new whole perfect body.
You lived a life we all can aim for.
I will miss you my friend and I love you.