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Beloved Pastor Spoke of Mental Health Struggle to Congregation Just Days Before Committing Suicide — Watch His Final Sermon

09-01-2018

The wife of a young California pastor who took his life last weekend has spoken out about her grief. 

 Andrew Stoecklein,30, was the senior pastor at Inland Hills Church in Chino, California, and had been open about his battle with depression and anxiety. His wife, Kayla, took to Instagram Monday to pay tribute to the father of three.

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“Last night, the love of my life, the father of my children and the pastor of our incredible church took his last breath and went to be with Jesus. It wasn’t the miracle I was hoping for but he is now in heaven with his dad, free of pain, free of depression and anxiety,” she wrote.

“He was an amazing husband, he truly made me better, made me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world, and he loved me so deeply. We fit so well together, we were one. He was an amazing daddy, his three boys are going to miss him so much. He had such a unique and special relationship with each of them. He was an incredibly gifted teacher, communicator, and pastor. He was special, one of a kind and will be missed by thousands of people all around the world.”

 

Last night, the love of my life, the father of my children and the pastor of our incredible church took his last breath and went to be with Jesus. It wasn’t the miracle I was hoping for but he is now in heaven with his dad, free of pain, free of depression and anxiety. • He was an amazing husband, he truly made me better, made me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world, and he loved me so deeply. We fit so well together, we were one. He was an amazing daddy, his three boys are going to miss him so much. He had such a unique and special relationship with each of them. He was an incredibly gifted teacher, communicator, and pastor. He was special, one of a kind and will be missed by thousands of people all around the world. • Please pray for me and the boys. I don’t know how I am going to face this, I am completely heartbroken, lost, and empty. Never in a million years would I have imagined this would be the end of his story. • If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or actions, please tell someone. Please make sure you’re not alone, and please call a friend or family member before you make that irreversible decision. You are loved and valued more than you know! #godsgotthis

A post shared by Kayla Stoecklein (@kaylasteck) on

Kayla asked for prayer for her and the boys, noting that she was “completely heartbroken, lost, and empty” following her husband’s untimely death.

“Never in a million years would I have imagined this would be the end of his story,” she added. “If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or actions, please tell someone. Please make sure you’re not alone, and please call a friend or family member before you make that irreversible decision. You are loved and valued more than you know!”

In a recent talk, delivered on August 12, Stoecklein appeared alongside his wife to inform the church about some of the personal issues he had been facing over the past several months. He also took the opportunity to address the absolutely devastating mental health crisis that continues to plague our nation.

Stoecklein explained that his dad, the founding pastor at Inland Hills, had been diagnosed with leukemia a few years back. After his father, a key spiritual leader and mentor to Drew, had battled the disease for about four years, the worst case scenario became a reality – David Stoecklein died on Oct. 9, 2015, aged 55.

Around that time, as he was flattened by grief, Stoecklein’s mental health began to decline. The pastor said that even though his church was “thriving, growing and moving,” he was “crumbling, exhausted, weak and tired.”

The church leader then disclosed that his family was fighting attack on another front; they were being stalked. Not only this, but the person who had been harassing him and his family online actually “showed up to his house,” subsequently forcing them to move, and causing Drew to unravel psychologically.

“We have several stalkers,” Stoecklein explained. “This individual showed up and was pretty dangerous. We had to take some serious measures. It caused us to sell our home, and our mom to sell her home. We purchased a place together. When he showed up, it really began this downward spiral.”

“Physically, I was not OK,” the pastor continued. “I had two surgeries to remove a softball-sized mass from my chest and passed 60 kidney stones.”

“I thought on top of all of this, we should go to India and Africa for three weeks,” he noted, adding that this was when he “started experiencing panic and anxiety attacks.”

 

Stoecklein said that upon his return, he spoke at seven Easter services, before being discovered by a security guard “on the bathroom floor, with just this extreme panic.”

“That’s when we really started to know that something wasn’t right,” he added.

The pastor explained how he passed it off as “jet lag.” But then, Stoecklein hit a crisis point.

“I was upstairs, and Kayla and the boys were downstairs. And I freaked out,” he recalled. “The flooring guy called and said the floor wasn’t gonna be installed on time and that triggered me and I went into a full on panic attack. I was in fear for my life and I thought I was gonna die. I was pacing back and forth and not making sense.”

Drew explained how he initially “refused to go to the hospital,” before being convinced to do so by two separate doctors.

“I was totally wacked out of my mind,” the pastor noted. “They put me in a wheelchair and wheeled me in. I had my sunglasses on, because I thought everybody at Inland Hills Church was gonna be at the hospital watching me go through this breakdown. I was thinking these wild thoughts — I thought someone was gonna kill me – I was hiding.”

It was an incredibly honest look inside the mind of this suffering pastor. And there is no doubt that his message will affect great change in the uphill battle against the stigma that still surrounds mental illness, particularly in the church.

At this community of faith continues to process the devastating loss of their beloved pastor, Inland Hills Church released a heartfelt statement on this tragic turn of events:

“Inland Hills Church grieves with heavy hearts as our Lead Pastor Andrew Stoecklein was welcomed into Heaven on Saturday night after battling depression and anxiety,” the statements read. “It’s not the outcome we hoped and prayed for, and today we grieve as a church family.”

Such a heartbreaking situation. We pray, Lord, that you will give the family peace at this painful time.

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