By Chad Bonham
2003-04 Men’s Basketball Season: St. Bonaventure University
When Jayson Gee left his post as head coach at the University of Charleston, an NCAA Division II program in West Virginia, his intention was to work towards taking a lead role at the Division I level. In order to do so, he would need to climb the ranks as an assistant. And that’s exactly why he traveled with his wife and two sons to Olean, New York, for the opportunity to start that journey at St. Bonaventure.
But towards the end of 2003, his oldest son Brandon came home from school complaining that his teachers were talking about him. A few days later, he claimed that his classmates for doing the same. Brandon was a notoriously honest boy, so Jayson and his wife Lynette took him seriously and worked toward resolving the problem.
Then, while staying with friends back in West Virginia, Brandon’s condition worsened. He began hallucinating, hearing voices, and growing paranoid that people were trying to harm him. Jayson rushed back from his road trip to bring Brandon and his younger son Bryan back to Olean where he and Lynette took Brandon to the pediatrician. After multiple evaluations and several days in the hospital, the diagnosis of child onset paranoid schizophrenia was handed down.
Over the next several weeks, Jayson and his wife Lynette took their son to multiple hospitals and mental health institutions until they were finally instructed to have Brandon admitted into the Western New York Children’s Psychiatric Hospital. For nine months, he lived there apart from his family. And nearly every day that Jayson wasn’t traveling with the team, he drove three hours round trip to see his son even though Brandon was mostly unresponsive and would only stay in the room for five minutes.
One day, Jayson decided to start reading the Bible to Brandon. He focused on Genesis chapters 37 through 50, which chronicle the story of Joseph whose jealous brothers faked his death and sold him into slavery. Joseph ended up in Egypt where a tumultuous experience ultimately resulted in him becoming second in command behind the Pharaoh.
“He heard that story hundreds of time,” Jayson said in the documentary The Battle For Brandon. “Very seldom could I get through the whole story, but I always ended with, “‘You’re gonna come back. Just like Joseph. It’s gonna be a great comeback.’”
For Lynette, it was a difficult struggle to see how her son would ever be the same again. She had heard her husband read about Joseph to Brandon in that hospital room, but Lynette’s moment of inspiration came one night while reading the Bible alone in her bedroom. A series of verses captured her attention and gave her the courage to fight even harder.
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10:10)
“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
“So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)
Brandon was 11 years old when his journey with schizophrenia began. The struggle continued as Jayson’s career took the family to Cleveland. And while doctors told his parents that he would be institutionalized for the rest of his life, Brandon incredibly walked out of a day home at the age of 14 and never again stepped foot inside a mental hospital.
When reflecting on his story, Brandon referred back to the part in that story from Genesis where Joseph forgave his brothers for tossing him into a pit and selling him as a slave. Just like Joseph, he had finally found some perspective on everything he had gone through.
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)
“I feel like the purpose of these things are starting to become clearer to me now,” Brandon added. “My purpose is geared toward helping people. I feel great about the opportunities that I have. I’m really excited. I think I have a chance to impact people’s lives. That’s what I feel called to do.”
This devotional is brought to you by Museum of the Bible, a 430,000 square foot museum being constructed 3 blocks south of the US Capitol in Washington, D.C. and is set to open in November of 2017.
(Photos: Courtesy Jayson Gee; Chad Bonham)