It’s hard to say when Michael’s Ultimate Mission started.
Was it Dec. 31, 2009, or eight months earlier as his dad, Mike Warren, was driving Michael Jr. to Atlanta to catch a flight to Japan for his second mission trip? His first was to Peru.
“He said, ‘Dad, there are a lot of kids who would like to go on a mission trip, but they don’t have the family or the networks,’’’ Mike Warren said.
“It was easy for him,’’ Warren said. “Lisa and I know people he could ask for support, and we could write a check ourselves.’’
Mike and Lisa Warren have established a foundation, Michael’s Ultimate Mission, to identify and assist young people with their son’s heart for missions but without the wherewithal to go.
The Warrens wish they were still writing checks.
Michael died Dec. 31, 2009, in a crash on Georgia State Route 15 near Greensboro as he was driving to the University of Georgia, where he was a senior.
It takes no imagination to see the rock-solid truth in Warren’s statement that losing his son was the absolute worst day of his life.
It’s also easy to understand why the Warrens couldn’t just let their son’s goodness die with him on that dark road.
So far, the foundation named for their son has helped two dozen college students go on mission trips in the United States and countries as far as India and China.
Mike Warren rides a bicycle to get fitter and has turned it into a fundraiser for the foundation. He and 14 other riders have formed a team in the annual Bicycle Ride Across Georgia that starts today in Atlanta and ends June 11 in Savannah. The tour stops in Hinesville on Friday. Warren’s team will raise money in pledges for every mile ridden — the route is 350 miles — or in donations.
“I collect baseball cards,’’ Warren said. “Michael collected friends. He really liked getting to know people.”
One of those friends, Virginia Belt, suffered a crisis of faith when Jacob Nyenhuis died a few years earlier in a crash on the same road as Michael. That was reversed when she took a mission trip to Indonesia funded by the foundation.
“I get it now,’’ she wrote of her trip. “I understand why Michael loved people so much and why he loved mission trips so much. I get why Michael developed relationships with people, not just because he wanted friends but because he wanted those friends to know about his God.”
Warren had joked that Michael could bail out of a plane anywhere in the country and meet a friend on the ground. He has learned it was no joke.
“We still get emails, it might be somebody who remembers him from a sixth-grade camp,’’ he said, smiling.
As he rides across Georgia, Warren hopes to meet people and tell them what he’s doing in his son’s name. He hopes to make friends who will go or help send others to places that Michael would have gone.
Like son, like father.
Dickson is the Florida Times-Union’s Georgia editor. This column was reprinted with permission from the Times-Union.