Sam Casada 



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The Moment the Surreal Turns into the Sure-Real!

Have you ever been sitting in your vehicle in a parking lot and looked out your windshield to see someone backing up? Then you begin to realize that it looks like they are headed right for you. You think, “Surely they see me here and are going to…STOP!!!” It becomes a moment that is surreal. All of sudden you realize that reality is hitting your bumper (…grill, headlight, etc.) and the horn blowing is in vain.

We all have moments in time where life seems surreal and then reality hits unexpectedly…here is one of our moments…

Over these past 10 years, we have seen from hundreds to even thousands of children, youth and adults whose lives have been touched in East TN by the ministries of American Missionary Fellowship (AMF) now called InFaith and Galilee Bible Camp (GBC). This has been done through local missionaries using campus programs, Bible classes, VBS programs, retreats, summer camps and a variety of other ways.

As we have ministered throughout the years, we have met people of all ages. Some of them have become ministry acquaintances, opportunities or partners while others have become close friends. Some of them have started out as one and become the other—in both directions (acquaintances to close friends and from close friends back to more like acquaintances). All that to say—I would like to share about someone (and his family) that we have grown closer to.

We first met Sam at GBC. To look back at pictures of when he first came makes us laugh even now. He not only had a great smile but was fun to be around. Over the years Sam, like all of us, had grown. Not only did he mature physically and as a person but most importantly he grew spiritually. In fact, by the grace of God, Sam’s Uncle (fellow InFaith missionary, John Lowder) led him to Christ at GBC.

Sam started out as most campers did…going through the camp schedule…being involved in as much as he could. But if you watched him over time you knew he was not just an average camper. Keep in mind though, he was still human, he was not a “Golden-Child”. He had his faults, issues, struggles like all of us. However, he was still different than most.

Sam became more involved than just a camper. He served alongside us by becoming a Junior Worker. For a couple of years he was washing dishes, helping with meals, cleaning the Showerhouse—and yes—even cleaning toilets. In all he did, whether it was a fun or not, he had a willing servant’s heart. This was so wonderfully taught not only in word but by example from his family.

Sam had then become a cabin leader for our children’s camps. Not only was he taught by example, but he lead by it. Sam made quite an impression as a cabin leader—on at least one camper—our son, Noah (and several more I’m sure). He was making an impact, not only on lives, but in lives. What I mean by that is—not only did he do things for people on the outside but he made changes inside people.

On May 23, 2011 we received that surreal phone call. It wasn’t “Sam isn’t feeling well” or “Sam was going to have some tests done” or even “Sam was in an accident while out running and is going to be in the hospital for a while”. It was the cold reality…it was sure-real…it was…

“Sam Casada is dead.”

Please let me insert a portion of Mary Lou’s Blog (Sam’s mother):

Today, we very unexpectedly and unaccountably lost our 17 year old son.

He was perfectly healthy, an athlete, and a completely beautiful fine young man. And with no rhyme or reason, we found him this morning, already gone home to be with God.

He was the joy of our home – a prankster and a ham, with a servant's heart and compassion for stray cats and hurting people, and every single person he met found a friend. He was a total extrovert. Every meet he ran in cross country, every 5-K, every Boot Camp, he shook hands and said, "I'm Sam. Who are you?! It's my pleasure to meet you!"

His quotes on Facebook included lyrics from Christian rapper LaCrae:

"Living to know God, dying to make Him known."

That was our beloved Sam.

Welcome home, baby. We'll be along shortly.

"‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’" Matthew 25:21

For some time there was no human reason given for his death. At his Celebration of Life Service (most call a funeral—this was more appropriate for Sam) I began to realize my explanation for his death: It is a very rare condition. It is what is known as EFS (Enoch's Faith Syndrome). It is caused by walking so close to God that you get carried away—literally.

Genesis 5:23-24

23 And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: 24 And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.

Notice in verse 23, that Enoch was 365 years old when he died. When Sam died he was living for Christ 365 days a year. No he was not perfect, none of us are, but Sam's life still continues to challenge us all in our walk with God by reminding us that we are to live for Him 365 days a year...for a lifetime.

There’s something else about Sam that we all need to learn. We look at others and think (and sometimes even say), “I can’t love this person because he/she…looks like this…said that… does this…”. Sam looked at others and gave of himself. He also had the ability to “love without filters”—something that only God could have enabled him with.

Later on, in mid-July, the results from the medical analysis came back. The only physical reason they could come up with for Sam’s death was an enlarged heart. How perfect was that to describe Sam and his love for his Lord, his family, and his friends. The only people in Sam’s life that were not his friends were the people he had not met yet. In time they would have been too.

Sam’s example has challenged me in so many ways—especially the amount of quantity and quality time that I spend with, my Lord, my family and others each day. He has touched my life in so many ways. Earlier I said Sam’s life “was” making an impact. Actually, He is still making an impact on lives—his legacy lives on!!!

-- Adam E. Fladie -- Friend & Brother-in-Christ