On September 19, 2014, Jack disappeared among the Colorado mountains. Recently a skull was found on top of Peak One. It was confirmed to be his. He was 27 years old.

I was a friend of Jack’s since he was about 10 years old. He was truly one of a kind. Even as a boy, Jack was one of the most unique, authentic, adventurous, and passionate people I had ever met. He said and did things that were so hilarious and unbelievable that family and friends would gather just to share “Jack stories.” I still laugh when I think of Jack and his family visiting his big sister in college. Jack wandered into a vacant hotel room, and spent the entire day watching movies and ordering room service. Every time a bill came, he just signed his name, “Jack.”

That is just one example of a “Jack story”…there are dozens.

Jack lived a life of unpredictability and adventure. And, as he grew older, his adventures increased, especially among the mountains. He would hike, snowboard, camp, watch meteor showers, mountain bike, and jump off cliffs, sometimes alone but often with friends. When I think of Jack, the quote from Braveheart comes to mind where William Wallace says, “Every man dies. Not every man really lives.” Jack really lived, he lived the adventures of multiple lifetimes. 

I consider it a great blessing to have known Jack on a spiritual level for over 15 years.  I still remember being a counselor at a Christian sports camp that Jack attended when he was 11 years old. During one of the first nights of camp, we finished doing a Bible study and I asked if anyone would close us in prayer. Jack raised his hand confidently and said, “I’ll do it!”

He closed his eyes and enthusiastically said, “Dear God.” After a long pause, he looked up at me and said, “That’s all I got.”

I still laugh when I think about it. And, to my surprise, by the end of camp, Jack was praying out loud for those being persecuted in China for their faith. He was only 11 years old! It was there that I first heard a whisper of one of the major themes of Jack’s life, his empathy for those hurting, lonely, or overlooked. Jack understood suffering, and he was a friend to the broken.

Throughout his life, Jack developed a sincere and passionate relationship with Jesus Christ. It was evident in his conversations, his convictions, and his actions. It led him to feed the homeless, share his faith, and seek to be a missionary. Jack also struggled with temptation and discernment throughout his life. Every so often he would exhibit signs of mental illness. Some even thought of him as a tortured soul. But I believe it is far better to be a tortured soul knowing Jesus than to enter eternity without Christ.

Jack is doing better now than all of us by far. He is with the Lord. He has graduated from this earth and is experiencing more freedom, more love, and more joy than we could ever imagine. Jack understood that God loved him, that Jesus died for him, and that this life is not the end.

Some of the things friends wrote about Jack on his Facebook wall are telling:

I loved skiing with you…talking about God and relationships…. and jumping off cliffs.

I loved studying the Word with you! I’ve learned so much from you.

You helped put me on the right path when I didn’t want to live and I can truly say that without you I would not have a relationship with God.

This is just a small sample of the impact Jack had and is still having.

And here are a few things Jack wrote on his own Facebook wall. I believe this is his message to us.

To all my family and friends who have stuck by my side through all of the things that I have put myself through and who have suffered with me just for the sake of never leaving me, you are all truly incredible people and I love you so much.

One day I’ll get home, I’ll be in heaven with my God and it won’t matter what I failed at or what I succeeded at in this life.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

If there is hope for me then there is hope for you.

That is the message of a life who understood the power and the hope of the gospel. A life of adventure, a life of struggle, a life redeemed, and now a life fully restored.

He once was lost, but now Jack is found.

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Jack’s family seeks to build wells in Kenya in Jack’s name through Living Water International. If interested in donating, please go to www.water.cc/jack-mcatees-well-of-love. To learn more about the nationwide search for Jack over this past year, go to www.findjackmcatee.com.