There are two types of heroes. First, there are the ones who generate national attention, such as Michael Phelps and many other Olympians. The record books are full of people such as this who have accomplished amazing things. Yet there are also heroes whose names no one knows, but whose achievements are just as inspiring.
Last Sunday as I sat in church, I received word that one of our former Awe Star missionaries had been killed in a motorcycle accident in India. Most of you have never heard the name Justin Magers, but he is one of my heroes.
I met Justin and his wonderful family many years ago: his dad, Mark; his mother, Jan; and his sister, Jennifer. My wife took care of both Justin and Jennifer as small children in our church’s Mother’s Day Out program.
As Justin grew older, he became passionate about the things of God, with a deep desire to understand His Word. As a college student, he went with me to Panama on a mission trip. Each time we took a long ride out into the jungle, Justin sat beside me with his Bible open, asking me to teach him something. He didn’t care what I shared as long it was a truth from God’s Word. Sometimes, we discussed the creation and fall of man. At other times, we talked about what it meant to lead a Spirit-filled life. Three months ago, he asked me to teach him the entire book of Revelation.
In the summer of 2007, a year before he graduated from college, Justin was one of Awe Star’s team leaders, taking a group of students to work in India. While he was there, God implanted a love for the Indian people deep in his heart. In June, he returned to their country to serve them. And by mid-August, God called him home.
What makes Justin my hero, though, was not what he did, but who he was. A typical college student, yes-but there was something different about him. He started a Christian organization on his campus that influenced a great number of other young men. Justin not only served Christ in the big things, but in the smaller, less visible ones, too. Early one morning, he was out for a drive when he came across a man who looked as if he might be in trouble walking down the road. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, Justin pulled over and asked if he could help. The man began to explain that his wife had been very ill and that this had taken a huge toll on the family. Justin, wanting to be Jesus in the situation, asked what he could do. The man responded, “What are you doing at 5 o’clock tomorrow morning?”
For the next six months, Justin got up every morning to carry out his new assignment: driving the man to work. In spite of sometimes having to study until 3 a.m., in spite of his many other obligations as a college student, he faithfully got up every morning to fulfill his responsibility. Eventually, the man and his family had to move. Justin packed a truck, loaded their furniture and moved them to their new location.
Justin saw needs and, without any fanfare, did what he could do to meet them. When a missionary needed a laptop computer, Justin used his hard-earned lawn mowing funds to help him purchase one. Recently, another student felt called to go on a mission trip. Justin, who had arrived in India only the week before, sent a substantial sum of money to help this student reach the field.
On Aug. 16, as Justin was returning from an evening of sharing his heart with another group of students, a motorist ran into him broadside. The accident killed him instantly and seriously injured the young man who was riding with him. Only three weeks earlier, Justin celebrated his 22nd birthday. This young man impacted more lives in his brief 22 years than most people do in a lifetime. He touched people from his college campus to the jungles of Panama to the country of India. Yet I know that if he were to read this article, he wouldn’t understand all the fuss. Being Jesus to others was a normal, natural part of the way he lived.
This young man leaves an incredible legacy. In his honor, Awe Star Ministries has created the Justin Magers Scholarship fund. We are praying God will use this fund to encourage other students not to look at a situation and do what Jesus did, but to look with His eyes and . . . be Jesus.