As friends and classmates struggle to deal with the death of Julia Schaefer, a local pastor is reaching out.


As friends and classmates struggle to deal with the death of Julia Schaefer, a local pastor is reaching out.

Rev. Patricia “Pat” Lee, pastor of the Sterling and Hollisterville United Methodist Churches, says their youth group held a bonfire Tuesday night to bring the kids together. More than 20 kids attended, from Western Wayne, Wallenpaupack, North Pocono, and Dunmore.

“The children were crying and they’re angry and they don’t know what to do,” she said.
With allegations of bullying surrounding Schaefer’s death, the pastor said students were “blaming the school; they’re blaming each other. That’s unproductive. They’re trying to find individuals to blame and that’s very unproductive.”

A call placed to the Western Wayne School District revealed Schaefer had only just re-enrolled in the district the day before she died.

“I had heard that she was excited about re-enrolling at Western Wayne. The guidance counselors told me that she was very excited about coming back,” said Superintendent Andrew Falonk.
Extending heartfelt sympathies on behalf of the school district, Falonk said, “Our hearts go out to the family.” 

  Raw pain is what came through the text messages Pastor Lee started receiving from youth members the day Schaefer died.

“Total emptiness, total hopelessness,” she said. “I got a text message from the youth leader saying, ‘The kids are all upset.’”

They had so many questions: “Why did God allow this to happen? Why do bad things happen? Why didn’t somebody do something to prevent the bullying?”

People have free will, the pastor said.

Holding a bonfire at the youth leader’s home in Hollisterville Tuesday evening, the youth group had a chance to talk things out. 

“To decide what we could do to make a difference,” the pastor said.

What they decided to do was change their point of view and become a positive force. “A positive force in their schools and that’s what their T-shirts will say,” the pastor explained.

Known as the “Light Bearers,” members of the youth group will be wearing blue T-shirts with white lettering at Saturday evening’s vigil, T-shirts that spread the message: Positive Force. 
“If we are not a positive force, will we be a negative force. By doing nothing, we’re a negative force,” the pastor said. “It can be a very, very dark place, but if you light one match in the world, it can make all the difference.”

Inviting everyone to attend Saturday evening’s candlelight vigil, Rev. Lee said, “Please come to celebrate Julia’s life, to be healed and help heal others. As we reach to heal another, we’re healed ourselves.

“I believe that this child’s life was of ultimate value,” the pastor added. “She touched so many lives and will continue to touch so many lives because we’re going to make her life count. Every time a positive thing is done in school it can be done because of Julia, because she lived, so that it never ever happens again. So that her life makes a difference in the lives of others that are hurting.”