They say God still is good. Loving. And sovereign.
Even as their friend lay in a coma in an Indianapolis hospital after a tragic skateboarding accident.
And that friend himself might well understand his peers’ perspective. Because Columbus North High School’s Cameron Fathauer wants people to know that bad things sometimes inexplicably happen to good people.
In fact, that has been a part of the weekly student Bible study he recently launched across the street from Columbus North. The first day of the study following the accident, 37 people — almost 15 more than usual — attended the second of two outdoor sessions at the home of local youth leader and Bible teacher George Cockrell.
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“Without a doubt, where we see tragedy, God sees opportunity,” Cockrell said. “And he will find a way to use it somehow for his glory.”
Tragedy unfolded Sept. 18 when the 17-year-old Fathauer was struck by a car while skateboarding in front of his family’s home on Marilyn Drive and suffered a serious head injury. He recently became a patient at an area rehabilitation facility.
Five-year friend and former North basketball teammate Marquis Humes thought the Bible study might end until Fathauer recuperates. But Cockrell suggested that Humes, now a North graduate, and North sophomore Whitley Eicher assume leadership in the interim.
“To be honest, I felt like I couldn’t pick up the torch at first,” Humes said just before he led the group for the first time. “I’ve been on the sidelines supporting Cameron — kind of like the way Jonathan supported David (in the Bible). But I’m a little more watered down than Cameron is.”
The 19-year-old Humes said that Fathauer’s friends good-naturedly have kidded him — and admired him — for some time about being “a theological troll” in his basement spending hours studying Scripture, sermons, apologetics and other Christian material. Humes decided to embrace the faith because of Fathauer, who stepped away from organized sports to make time for ministry.
“This is Cam’s heart.” said Columbus’ Bryce Fathauer, Cameron’s older brother, looking around at students who had plopped on the ground for the study on a breezy, sunny day. “He was concerned when he would walk the halls of the school and see so many students chasing lesser things.”
Popularity. Sports. Partying. The opposite sex.
North student and basketball player Bailey Hester attends a Bloomington church. So the 20- to 30-minute Friday study gives him a chance to “reflect on God” beyond Sunday and visit with friends. He sat amid a group that signed get-well posters for his injured friend.
At the front of the group sat Humes, who opened his teaching with a look at the Old Testament character of Job, who seemed to suffer tragedy out of the blue.
“This dude had everything,” Humes said. “He devoted his life to God. But there came point when he was tested.”
And lost his home, his belongings, his family — and wondered why. The wondering and questioning is something that Cameron Fathauer’s friends and family say they will skip. Instead, they say they will trust God, even when life makes little sense on the surface.
Eicher is among those. She agreed to help lead the study after a friend of hers attended one of the recent gatherings that Cameron Fathauer led.
“He loved the way Cameron made everything so easy to understand,” Eicher said.
She will allow God to have his way with the groups.
“I just want him to be glorified through every part of this — and keep seeing more people coming out to learn about Christ,” Eicher said.
Columbus Christian School sophomore Levi Sallee heard about Fathauer’s accident and the Bible study. He asked Cockrell, his school Bible teacher, if he could get a ride to the study during his school lunchtime.
“I think it’s fun just getting to know some of the other people,” Sallee said as he sat on a couch talking with other teens in Cockrell’s garage. “And I think this definitely can grow.”
Not just even amid a tragedy. But perhaps even because of it.
What: Weekly interdenominational student Bible study covering topics such as “Why I’m Not a Christian,” and other obstacles to the Christian faith. Originally launched by Columbus North High School senior Cameron Fathauer, recovering from serious injuries in an accident Sept. 18.
When: Two separate Friday groups. One meets at 11:10 a.m. and one meets at noon. People simply can show up.
Where: Home of youth ministry leaders George and Jodie Cockrell at 1405 25th St. in Columbus. Held outdoors as long as weather allows.
Lunch: Free sandwiches.
Information: George Cockrell at 812-657-1785.
What: Cameron Fathauer’s senior project is a conference, “Why I’m Not a Christian,” highlighting answers to various objections to the faith and obstacles to people becoming a follower of Christ.
When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 31.
Where: YES Cinema, Fourth and Jackson streets in Columbus.
Admission: Canned goods for Columbus’ Love Capel food pantry.
Speakers: Youth ministry leader George Cockrell; Tim Tallent, pastor of First Baptist Church of Hartsville; Dan DeWitt, dean of Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky; Jim Pursley, pastor of Columbus’ Sovereign Christ Bible Fellowship; and Kevin Ridder, pastor of Bible Baptist Church in North Vernon.
Themes: Trusting the Bible; How Can a Good God Send People to Hell?; How Can a Good God Allow Suffering and Evil?; Why is Jesus the Only Way?
Information: Facebook page at Why I’m Not a Christian — a Senior Project.