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2023 Miracle Offering: Road of Hope is an opportunity to be the Church

By: Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas UMC

"The point of being Christian is not just to go to church. More important is to invite people to the table, establish those relationships, promote the community, friendship, and love for all," said Elizabeth Medd, a FirstLink Board member who lost her son to suicide.

One night in February 2021 forever changed the lives of Todd and Elizabeth Medd. After having dinner with their kids, Liam and Selma, Todd and Elizabeth left to take care of an errand. An hour later, they returned to discover that 15-year-old Liam had died by suicide.

"He didn't show any signs or symptoms. He was an excellent student. He was an athlete, super involved with his friends and other organizations and scouting," shared Elizabeth. "He just got confirmed at church. Just a super kid! Nothing even made us slightly concerned about ever leaving him home, especially that evening."

Shortly after Liam's death, the Medd family established the 463 Foundation because Liam was a second baseman. A 4-6-3 is a double play where the second baseman throws to the shortstop for the force out, and the shortstop throws to the first baseman to get the batter out. The numbers in the play refer to the defensive positions.

Barry and Karen Medd, Liam's grandparents and members of Zion United Methodist Church in Grand Forks, North Dakota, are advocates for the 463 Foundation along with other family members. 

"All of our family members are strong supporters of 463. We are cheerleaders and volunteers. I encourage donations from the people that I know," said Barry. "One of the biggest fundraising events is the Liam G. Medd Memorial Baseball Tournament. It is about more than playing baseball. There are meaningful conversation about mental health." 

The mission of 463 is to help youth and families understand that there are not always symptoms or red flags leading to suicide, that suicide is not reliably predictable, and to highlight the importance of access to resources, having difficult conversations, and providing education around mental health. Through these conversations, we want to help erase the stigma around mental health challenges and suicide and to build hope for our kids and families.

The 463 Foundation partners with other organizations like FirstLink to reduce the stigma, build hope, and end suicide. Suicide is the leading cause of death of young people (10-24) in North Dakota and is the second leading cause of death for the same age group in the nation.

Elizabeth Medd is in her second year serving a three-year term on the FirstLink Board. "I was invited by another board member not long after the suicide death of my son. It is a passion of mine to help support FirstLink and to help further conversations around mental health and suicide. Resources like the 24-hour phone line are important to me," she said.

There are a lot of questions and a lot of myths. Elizabeth spends time talking with others about mental health and suicide. The 463 Foundation and FirstLink are all about prevention. "I talk to different organizations. I've done talks for just youth groups. I've done talks with youth and their parents. We've done talks where it's me talking to a room full of adults who may not know they have the influence and should be having these conversations with their kids. It is all about prevention. This is a public health issue," said Elizabeth.

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There is a stigma around mental health. "Many parents think, 'This is not my child.' One mom approached me after I talked and told me that her daughter did not need to have this conversation. Kids are at the mercy of their parents. Parents need to be aware that mental health is important. That's why the fight needs to happen. People do not understand that resources are needed, so they can get help whenever and wherever they struggle."

Partnerships are critical to mental wellness. Pastors often are a resource or touchpoint for struggling individuals and families. "FirstLink has resources. It is a good idea to learn about the resources and partner with organizations like FirstLink," said Elizabeth.

Faith plays a role in mental health. Liam was a Christian, who was confirmed, the Sunday before he died.  He leaned into his faith for meaning.

"Liam told his pastor that he liked how he brought meaning to the stories of the Bible and Christianity and applied it to our lives," said Barry. "When  suicide happens we can ask questions like, why did this happen? If there is a God out there, why did this happen? God did not make or want this to happen. What our family has learned is that God does not make anything happen. It is a decision made by a person, a young person like Liam, who just cannot see any other way. "

Sharing your story and starting a conversation is part of who we are and who God calls us to be as Christians. "Vulnerability increases vulnerability," states Elizabeth. "The more we share our story and open up to others, the more others open up to us. We realize that we are not truly alone. There is no reason to be ashamed of anything. Instead, we need to build hope."

In response to the increasing numbers of deaths by suicide, ideation of suicide, and attempts among youth in North and South Dakota, and the mental health crisis in our nation, the 2023 Miracle Offering: Road of Hope recipients are Helpline of South Dakota and FirstLink of North Dakota. Our goal for the 2023 Miracle Offering is $50,000 to be shared with Helpline of South Dakota and FirstLink of North Dakota.


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