Eugene Cho

in memory of brenden foster

While being away in the East Coast last weekend, I did not receive the news of Brenden Foster’s passing last Friday, November 21, 2008 until this morning.  Brenden is the 11 year old boy from Seattle diagnosed with leukemia three years ago who stirred a movement of compassion and genersosity.  On a recent trip from his doctor, he passed the homeless community called Nickelsville and his last wish was to help feed the homeless.  It’s an amazing and beautiful story.

Like many others, I’m moved, compelled, and deeply encouraged by the short but significant life of Brenden.  His life is an encouragement – simply – as a reminder that one person really can make a difference.  And even more so, he isn’t alone.  We are not alone.  There are many people seeking to be agents of hope, compassion, and generosity.

The stuff below didn’t make the news and we don’t do it for the purposes of making news but I share these recent things not to be boastful but to remind folks that despite what seems to be a regular barrage of “bad news,” there are GOOD things going on here, there, and everywhere.  And while we certainly need to be reminded of the depravity of the human condition and fallen world, we need to also be reminded of the beauty that is all around us and Brenden’s short life is a reminder of one such beauty. Our faith in Jesus transforms us in such ways that we become agents of Hope, Grace, Mercy, and Love.  So, what are some of your stories? 

Here a few of the stories from our community?

  • Couple Fridays ago, we partnered with the good folks at Nickelsville for a benefit show at Q Cafe. I was so encouraged to see a pack house and nearly $3000 raised.  Q Cafe also donates 10% of our profits to a new profit/cause each month.  Over the months of November/December, we are giving to local food banks because of the dire need. 
  • This past Saturday night, Quest Church welcomed 136 men, women, and children that are homeless for our annual Thanksgiving Meal.  We had so many people this year that we planned two separate meals.  I was very encouraged to hear from DeAnza, our pastor of Compassion & Justice, that we had many volunteers come out not only to serve but simply to sit and eat with our guests.  I hope the many volunteers will join DeAnza, Sam, Chelsea, and others for the monthly To the Streets Homeless Care and Distribution. 
  • Over our Giving Sundays at Quest on November 9 and 16, we raised over $47,000.  Half of this will go towards local food banks and recent immigrants to the Seattle area.  The other half will go towards people within our church who are also facing crisis during this economic downturn. 

Brenden: You are not alone.  Thank you for the beautiful reminder of compassion and generosity.  We need to be regularly reminded and inspired and you certainly did that for so many people around the world.  I never got to meet you but have heard from friends what a delightful young man you are.  Rest in peace and we all look forward to a time when there will be no more disease or hunger.  You will not be forgotten and like you, I have many questions for God but till then, will do my best to Love God and Love People:

His mother recalled that one day Foster said, “When I get to heaven, I’m going to ask God why it had to be so soon, because I had so much more I wanted to do.”

And for those who are not familiar with Brenden’s story, here’s an article from KOMO News:

BOTHELL, Wash. — The day I met Brenden Foster, I met an old soul in an 11 year old’s body.

“I should be gone in a week or so,” he said calmly.

When I asked him what he thought were the best things in life, Brenden said, “Just having one.”

I didn’t understand how this child, who was a year younger than my own son, could be so courageous facing death.

“It happens. It’s natural,” Brenden told me.

Three years ago, doctors diagnosed Brenden with leukemia. The boy who once rushed through homework so he could play outside found himself confined to a bed. But there was no confining his spirit.

“I had a great time. And until my time comes, I’m going to keep having a great time,” he said.

Brenden’s selfless dying wish was to help the homeless.

“They’re probably starving, so give’em a chance,” he said, “food and water.”

But Brenden was too ill to feed them on his own. So volunteers from Emerald City Lights Bike Ride passed out some 200 sandwiches to the homeless in Seattle.

Then Brenden’s last wish took on a life of its own.

A TV station in Los Angeles held a food drive. School kids in Ohio collected cans. People in Pensacola, Florida gathered goods.

And here in Western Washington, KOMO viewers from all over took part in the Stuff the Truck food drive in Brenden’s honor. Hundreds with generous hearts donated six and a half huge truck loads of groceries and more than $60,000 in cash to benefit Northwest Harvest and Food Lifeline.

Brenden touched hearts all over the world. His wish came true, and he lived to see it.

“He had the joy of seeing all of the beautiful response to his last wish,” said his grandmother, Patricia McMorrow. “It gives him great peace and he knows that his life has meaning.”

“He’s left a legacy and he’s only 11,” said his mother, Wendy Foster. “He’s done more than most people dream of doing just by making a wish.”

Days before dying, Brenden surprised us with a sudden burst of energy. He wanted to get off the oxygen, hop out of bed and go buy a video game. Wise beyond his years, but still a kid.

“I have been so blessed to have this child. A mother couldn’t ask for a better son,” Wendy said.

The B-Man, as his family called him, had one more wish before going: sprinkle wildflower seeds to save the bees. He had heard bees were in trouble.

Someone answered B-Man’s wish. A retired pilot asked his pilot and flight attendant friends to sprinkle wild flowers around the world, from Bali to Brazil, on Brenden’s behalf.

When asked what made him sad, Brenden said, “When someone gives up.”

Brenden Foster never gave up. Even as he clung to his last hours of life, Brenden kept giving.

“Follow your dreams. Don’t let anything stop you,” he said. 

Filed under: family, health, religion, , , ,

15 Responses

  1. Brenden, Brother, I look forward to meeting you some day. Thank you for showing us what it means to be utterly selfless and to love those whom so much of the world scorns. You’re incredible. Please, bro, take confidence in the fact that through your incredible heart and compassion for the homeless, God has worked his never-ending mission of redemption by turning the tables on the enemy’s attempts to squash your life by way of your horrendous disease. You have left quite a legacy my brother. Well done. God speed.

  2. PS. You have touched more lives than you could ever imagine and will never be forgotten. Your family will be in my prayers.

  3. Sue says:

    Eugene,
    Thanks for this article. It is so encouraging especially in this holiday season and current economic situation.

  4. eugenecho says:

    more good news from this Seattle PI article: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/389439_philanthropy26.html

    Citing a critical need to help “people on the financial edge,” heavy hitters in the local philanthropic community announced a plan Tuesday to provide at least $8 million for food, housing, job and other vital services over the next three years.

    The initiative, a response to the crisis in the economy, comprises at least $2 million on hand at United Way of King County and $6 million to be raised by the Seattle Foundation.

    “We need to set an unprecedented goal because these are unprecedented times,” said Phyllis Campbell, president and chief executive of the Seattle Foundation, which helps local donors coordinate their philanthropy.

    A survey of 187 nonprofit organizations served by the foundation showed that more than half the respondents have experienced a recent increase in requests for food, housing, utilities, bus passes and other bills.

    Those findings echo a stream of other alarming statistics. Foreclosures in the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area have increased 74 percent in the third quarter compared with the same quarter last year. The state unemployment rate in October increased to 6.3 percent, its highest point in about four years. Nearly 480,000 people have applied for state unemployment benefits, up from 333,000 a year ago.

    In response, United Way will direct $1 million in previously unallocated funds to specified partner agencies over the next year to help people in need to gain housing, food and benefits. The money will:

    Help 325 families get into housing or avoid homelessness and pay utilities.

    Place 500,000 pounds of food into the food bank and meal-delivery system, helping 16,000 people.

    Enroll 1,000 people into the federal food stamp program, give 3,600 people tax preparation help and connect 10,000 people with resources through the 2-1-1 information and referral line.

    United Way also has raised an additional $1 million in the past month — with $900,000 given by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for Food Lifeline, a food-distribution agency — to further expand its efforts to provide basic needs.

    The $2 million raised by United Way “should just be considered a down payment” on the help the agency will provide, said Jonathan Fine, United Way’s president and chief executive. He said 96 cents out of every dollar donated to his agency goes toward programs and services, according to a June audit.

    Microsoft Corp. gave $250,000 each to United Way for immediate needs and the Seattle Foundation for the new initiative. The Boeing Co. gave $250,000 to the foundation for the new initiative.

    Campbell said the Seattle Foundation’s $6 million initiative will focus on longer-term needs that go beyond basic food and housing, such as job training, employment and financial literacy and planning. Helping families stay out of an economic crisis is easier than pulling them out of one, she said.

    Grants will be awarded to four multi-service agencies, not yet chosen, that are high performing and “culturally competent.”

    Services will be aimed at geographic and demographic areas in need, which includes low-income families in South King County.

  5. Jim Chen says:

    Hes got a big heart.

  6. joypink says:

    Truly heartwarming. God bless you.

  7. Madison says:

    Brendon, you are such an inspiration. when i saw your story i couldnt help but cry! you have helped so many individuals, not just the homeless, but others as well. we all have learned something from you. i know the world will be a wonderful place with such a brave soul looking down and watching us. you have accomplished so much, things that none of us would ever be able to do in a long life time. and as you sit through your interview for nbc, you say you are ready & you are not affraid & your time you have had is all good times… it is amazing how brave you are. Brendon, you are my hero. i hope one day when i have a child, i will name him after you & prey my child is as wonderful, brave, smart, and inspiring as you. you will be greatly missed, and i am praying for your family through such a hard time. Because of you, Brendon, I am now inspired to help more people…. not even just with feeding the homeless, but giving people second chances, opening doors for people, being there for people, helping a stranger… my eyes are more wide because of you. Thank you for a wake up call to our Nation & to me.
    I love you, Brendon!
    Rest Easy! You will be truely missed!
    Madison, Sunbury, PA

  8. The Gagnon Family says:

    God bless you. You made a big difference in so many people’s lives in your short life. Your story has touched my heart. You lived your life to the fullest. Your family must be very proud of you. I sure am and i never had the honor of meeting you! RIP.

  9. Robert Spark says:

    Well I was impressed by this little boy and felt ashamed that I as adult hasn’t done the same thing as him through my life. He gives us adults a lesson and I hope we will learn. I made a song about him and for him, a tribute

    http://www.esnips.com/doc/22f4fa13-7b8f-496e-aa99-6f3eaadba524/Brenden-Fosters-change_©Robert-Spark

    Greetings Robert

  10. jennifer says:

    Dear Brenden, Although you have passed with the angel. I know I will never forget you. I wish I could of known you and your family, you all seem so strong, so there for each other. I have watched and read anything I could find out about you and although I try not to I cry, every time I hear your voice and see the tears running down your beautiful face I can’t help it the tears fall. I pray for your mother because I think of losing one of my own sons your age, I don’t know if I could be like her. Your mom is a very strong women:) may God bless you and your family sweet angel. No more pain, no more hunger, no more tears I love you like one of my own. I can’t wait to meet you someday.

  11. Brenden you have such a beautiful soul. You will be in my heart forever and I was blessed to see your story.
    You helped the world more with just one wish then any man or woman could do with a life time.
    Your words dear sweet child now I know there is a God and I know you walk beside him.
    I hope you knew how very special you are.
    Gos Blessed you Brenden and he blessed your family with you.
    Rest now dear sweet child. Love Sheila “Sue” Laws, Gaithersburg, MD

  12. Taryn says:

    This boy is a true insperation. I am doing a speach on him for homework the assignment was a speach about an inspirational person who a new world leader could learn from x God bless this boy he is in my heart. I hope this sweet child rests happily and peacefully in a place where his beautifull heart, mind and soul will be apriciated for evermore x

  13. Flávio says:

    My name is Flávio Im from Brazil, I was studing in USA in 2008.
    I heard the news about Brenden Foster and I have just one thing to say.
    Brenden is a enlightened soul,He makes me belive in life after death and He is probably helping people in another atmosphere. Thanks Brenden for everthing.

  14. Jeff Coots Viper KY says:

    It’s been six years today since you left for heaven. The world and the people were blessed to have you the short time you where here.I will remember you as long as I live.If only there were more like you. You were amazing.

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As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer.

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