SOS Jason Dukes

Jason Dukes currently serves on pastoral team with Westpoint Church, and helped launch,, and

The Caller ID on my iPhone said “Mom’s Cell.” My wife and kids and I were on our way back from a week away with my brother and his family. It had been a week of writing for me, specifically my first attempt at a book which I had already decided I was gonna dedicate to my mom who had for so long encouraged me to write. We had also played a lot. My children have this magical bond with their cousins, even though we live 12 hours away from each other, my brother married my wife’s best friend from nursing school, and my brother is my best friend. So, you might say we enjoy time together.

We especially enjoyed it when Mom and Dad were there. They couldn’t be there that particular week because of some leisure as well as business travel. We had only texted while we were enjoying the rural surroundings of my brother’s north Mississippi home, so I was especially excited when I saw the call from Mom.

“Hey Mom!” I answered enthusiastically completely expecting the response I get every time we talk on the phone – “Hey sug!” It’s short for her nickname for me – sugar-pudding. She thought I was sweet. But the voice I heard was not the sweet voice of my mother encouraging me even in the simple way that she greeted me. It was instead a long-time friend of my mom and dad. Mrs. Linda Jackson and her family were long-time New Orleaneans who survived Katrina’s floods escaping to their attics and being rescued on their roof.

“Jason,” she started with a concerned tone in that familiar New Orleans accent. “This is Linda. I’m calling from your mom’s phone. Your mom and dad have been in an accident. They were walking out by the Seminary and were run over by a truck.”

The speeding vehicles through this always-a-construction-zone section of Interstate 75 seemed motionless for a moment. Was I really getting one of those dreaded calls that no one ever wants to get? Linda went on to tell me that both Mom and Dad were in transit to the trauma hospital there in downtown New Orleans. She did not know if they were still alive or not.

“Can you call Erik?”

She asked if I could inform my brother, while she tried to find out more about their condition.

Erik and I were both in New Orleans by the next morning. My friend, Chris, drove all night with me. We arrived to find Dad with a broken neck, three broken ribs, a shattered left arm, a left leg broken in 17 places and a right leg in 10 places. We were allowed to see Mom as she rested in a coma. She had two injuries – a broken wrist and a severe blow to the head.

Dad walked for the first time two months later. My brother and I practically lived in New Orleans for the next four months. Our wives and four kids each growing in our absence. Dad needed constant care. Mom appreciated our visits. We were grateful for the support from family and friends and employers back home.

Mom woke from her coma three weeks after the accident. She was never more than a remnant of herself again. She died August 3rd, 2009 at the age of 68-going-on-42. We miss her deeply.

Besides the beard that I grew during that time, which my wife requests that I keep to this day, two very significant refinements occurred in me. I was “sifted” I guess you could say.

First, I was challenged to prioritize my family as a pastor with no apology. I returned home trying to recreate daily rhythms with a renewed vigor to make disciples among my family before anyone else.

Second, I was stretched to actually believe that God is good and loving, not just espouse it as the Christian thing to declare. In that time of sifting, when everything was called into question – life, family, parents, marriage, ministry, purpose, time, schedules, priorities – there were plenty of days  when I wanted to fall into the thinking that God is a crutch we have invented to help us sulk our way through the difficulties of this unfair world. For the first time in my life as a follower and a leader and a child and a brother and a husband and a father and a friend and a believer, I was shaken to the core with a choice to make. Did I want to keep believing that God loves me and is good?

In all honesty, I have not been the same child or brother or husband or father or friend or leader since that sifting season. In some ways that’s good. In many ways that’s bad. It has caused a heaviness in me with regard to the effect of sin and loneliness and death upon us all. A heaviness that compels me to shine Christ’s love not because I should or because I think it will make God pleased with my performance. Rather, it has compelled me to shine because I am loved and know full well that without a present, real love displayed through my presence and real friendship, the lost and lonely of our world will sink into the disparity of difficulties much like I could have. They may well believe in a God who is unfair if I don’t deliver a no-strings-attached, unconditional love.

And I don’t want them to believe that way. For if they do, they may well never understand and accept the God who loved them enough to take the brunt of unfair and move one step beyond the effect of death toward a resurrection hope that is so much more than a crutch in my difficulty.

Thank you Lord for the sifting. Please help me, I beg you God, to be grateful during the next sifting season, too.

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