Staci Stephens was a bright and beautiful 16 year old high school student, who impacted the lives of so many of her friends and peers. She loved lost things and wanted to rescue them, according to her best friend Ashley. Around campus she was known for her love of God and her love of people.
Staci passed away on March 13, 2005 from Viral Myocarditis. Staci came home from school on Friday morning not feeling well and by Sunday morning her heart had stopped. Staci attended a public high school in Orlando, Florida. So many were impacted by her death. The students (and parents and teachers) realized that they too will die some day, and are they ready for that? Staci's dream was for everyone to find Christ and to live with God forever.
Just a few months before her death, Staci was interviewed by Venture Media, telling her story of her relationship with God. Here's what she said in that interview said about Jesus Christ,
"I knew that he loved me and that he was there, but I didn't know that it was to this extent that it could really impact your life."
"I think the most important thing I've learned was how to really live my life and what I'm living for. A lot of kids know that they are not living the right way and if they will say something about it, you know they have a heart to change."
In her journal for a school class she defined tragedy as someone dying without knowing Christ; she wanted to help all her peers to have a relationship with God.
Staci wrote: "Tragedy: something that happens that is really bad. I feel that a tragedy is someone who dies and is not saved (no relationship with God). That is an eternal consequence. It is a tragedy to me that they do not get to spend eternity in Heaven. It is a tragedy that they got too wrapped up in the world to recognize their need for Christ. It is a tragedy the way they have to be like that forever."
In a letter to friends and family this past Christmas, Staci recapped her past year: "This has been the most life-changing year I have ever experienced. On January 18, 2004, I was reborn and found my Savior Jesus Christ at a conference put on by Student Venture . . . in Cocoa Beach. Since then, I have dropped my old ways of living and have completely given myself to Christ. My life has been changed for eternity and now everything that I live for makes sense and I don't have to fill my heart with worldly things anymore. I am completely satisfied and Christ has filled every little void in my life. Through Him, I have learned so much about myself and have able to let go of so many things. Everything I do is for the glory of God and I finally know the life I have been missing. There was a hole in my soul and I was trying to fill it with every little thing but the very one who can heal it. Jesus Christ is my best friend, my helper and teacher, and most importantly, my loving God."
In a personal journal entry shortly before her passing, Staci described her desire to go beyond herself and help others. She asked God for a unique ministry on campus. Little did she or any of us know what God had in store.
When word got out at school that Staci died, hundreds gathered in the Media Center to grieve. Students, teachers, and counselors broke out in song, singing Mercy Me's - I Can Only Imagine - Staci's favorite song. Others read excerpts from her journal, such as Psalm 78. Teachers and students led times of prayer. A number of friends put their faith in Christ after her death. One friend of Staci's gave his life to Christ stating that it was sad that Staci had to die in order for him to believe the truth.
Over 800 students, teachers, and members of the community filled the school auditorium the evening after her passing as six of her friends spoke about Staci's life and faith in God. One friend said, "Life is short, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, what is unseen is eternal. At the close of the evening, students and teachers dedicated their lives to Christ. Prodigal students returned to God."
One young tough football player wrote that evening, "Staci and family, I want to thank you and Jesus to provide such a great person who helped me become saved." Another girl wrote, "Jesus, please forgive me. The last months I have not been what I want to be. Please change me and love me."
Even the night of Staci's funeral, more of Staci's friends believed in Jesus Christ and invited him to be their Savior and Lord. Staci and her friends in Student Venture had prayed all year that students at their campus would realize the God was real and would want to know him. They even dreamed of a day when the auditorium on campus would be filled with people hearing about Christ's love for them. In one week, through the life and death of Staci Stephens, many of their prayers were answered.
One classmate of Staci's was heavy into drugs and said he was an atheist. He had started dabbling in drugs when he was in middle school, and two years later progressed to using ecstasy, cocaine and anything he could get his hand on to numb his pain.
He described horrifying nights of crawling around on his carpet floor licking up whatever excess powder he could find to maintain the high. Though he didn't acknowledge God at the time, God began to unfold a whole new life for him. He happened to sit next to Staci Stephens in one of his classes. He described conversation after conversation of Staci talking about Jesus Christ. His reply was always simple, "Jesus is your drug, I have my own."
The day he found out Staci was gone, an overwhelming sorrow rushed over him, along with a realization that he was wasting his life. Later that night he went over to Staci's memorial service while trying to hold back tears of bitterness and confusion. Throughout the night as he watched Staci's close friends pouring out tears of joy, and speaking words of hope, something hit him. He doesn't know exactly when he believed in Jesus; but he will tell you that he woke up that day one person, and went to sleep a whole new one. He went home and asked to be helped with rehab, hasn't touched drugs and has made Christ and his Bible study his priority. Christ is changing his life.
In the midst of Staci's death, God brought forth life in other people.
The last entry Staci wrote in her journal a couple days before she died was from Psalms 73:26:
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
The material contained in this memorial has been obtained from the Staci Story Web site: