My dog’s been shot!” Brayden* blurted out in tears to his friend Payton. “Would you speak at his funeral?”
Twelve-year-old Payton (see at right) had never conducted a funeral, but wanting to help his friend, he agreed to do what he could. “I planned the whole thing out,” he said. “The dog is buried in my yard—Brayden and I dug his grave.” After Payton did the eulogy, the boys added the dog’s dish, collar, and squeaky toy before filling the grave.
When Payton and his family first moved into the neighborhood, Payton befriended Brayden and learned about the struggles he was facing at home. “I told him that I was a Christian and shared my beliefs with him,” said Payton, and then he told me, ‘I want to try that out!’”
Brayden began spending more time at Payton’s house and often spent the night—especially on Fridays, so he could go with Payton and his family to church the next day. Before long, Brayden’s cousin, Hunter, wanted to stay with Payton, too, “So I was housing three people in my room,” Payton explained.
While Payton’s bedroom may be small, his heart is big. He befriended another neighbor, Wyatt, whose father committed suicide. At age 13, Wyatt had been kicked out of several public schools, and his mother didn’t know what to do with him. Payton spent time with Wyatt and invited him to come with him to Pathfinders and to church, along with the other boys, but Wyatt’s mother would not allow her son to join in.
Over the next three years Payton often shared his faith with Wyatt, and one day after hearing that they might be moving, Wyatt handed Payton and his sister, Stormy, a note. The note is so precious that Payton keeps it in the family safe (you can read it below; original handwriting is at left).
“Dear Payton and Stormy,
Before you move I want to thank you. When you first came I had lost my way. I stopped going to church and didn’t plan on coming back. When we became friends I was trying to act tough, but on the inside, I wanted to be more like you, Payton. When the hard times came and I lost my father, talking to you was a comfort. I learned about God through you. You were and still are a hero, inspiration, and role model to me. Your parents should be very proud of you, knowing that you helped me find Jesus.”
*All names of neighborhood children have been changed.
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