Interview with Kelli Boyle, By Brandon Ryan
ENOCH MAGAZINE: For those who may not know about RWPC (Random People Who Care) Can you give a little background on its purpose and how it started?
KELLI BOYLE: Random People Who Care is an online prayer and peer support ministry. We have “teams” of people from all over the world that offer prayer and attention to anyone who needs it. We do a lot of suicide prevention work, and we also search for referrals in our network of ministries and non-profits to get peoples’ practical needs met.
As far as how it started, it started a couple of years ago, with some people reaching out for help on the Underoath message board. Some were directly asking for help with problems and some were just posting comments that seemed like they were indirectly looking for some sort of support or guidance.
I have a background in counseling, and so I felt compelled to respond, and pray for these people. But soon after, other people reading these messages agreed to pray, so we set up times of prayer and fasting. Then other people came to the message board and we were helping those in need, each other and so on…
What I learned was, there are a lot of people looking for support, but don’t know where to find it. I also found that there are people who want to reach out and provide that support, but don’t know where to start. So, after arguing with God a bunch, and unsuccessfully trying to get someone else to do it, I started the myspace site to bring these groups together and let Underoath have their message board back.
ENOCH MAGAZINE: Wow thats really cool. I would agree that a lot of people are looking for help, and of course the first step is to always talk to somebody about what’s happening in ones life. So my next question is, why do you think it is so hard for people to honestly communicate the hurt that is inside?
KELLI BOYLE:It’s a type of self-protection, from rejection or disappointment.
Alot of people have been through things like abuse or abandonment that make it hard to trust others. And there’s a certain amount of stigma attached to emotional struggles, so I think they’re right in being cautious. It’s kind of like a kid that touches a hot stove, they don’t want to get burned again…
Some people just don’t know what they’re feeling or why they’re feeling it, so it’s not something they can verbalize.
Others, however, will talk to anyone about their problems in great detail, which is also another form of self-protection. It’s like, “If they’re going to reject me, it’s going to be on my terms”.
I think that’s why people find a semi-anonymous online situation so appealing, because they can talk about what hurts with very little emotional risk. RPWC shows people that you don’t have to live afraid.
ENOCH MAGAZINE: So with that… What Do you say to someone who might be reading this that may be thinking about suicide?
KELLI BOYLE:To a person who is thinking about suicide, I would say go and talk to someone that can help you get through this until you get to the other side. And speaking from experience, I can tell you there is another side- things can change, boyfriends and girlfriends change, friends change, family problems change, being dead does not change. As long as you’re alive, there is hope.
ENOCH MAGAZINE: Pain often can be so neatly disguised in ones life. In some cases friends and families are left in shock, left with memories of a loved one. So what would you say to a family of friend who has lost a love one to suicide?
KELLI BOYLE:There is nothing I could possibly say to ease that pain.
I would just let them know how incredibly sorry I am for their loss, and encourage them to find a support group of people who have also lost someone to suicide. A loss through suicide is unlike any other grief, and I think it really takes someone who’s been there to understand the complexity of emotion involved. I know that might sound like a cop-out, but really, what we don’t say is sometimes as important as what we do say.
ENOCH MAGAZINE: With some people taking their lives without warning, does it still leave you believing suicide is preventable?
KELLI BOYLE:If a person kills him or herself without warning, then prevention efforts don’t mean much at all, but that’s rarely the case. Usually in the days and weeks leading up to a suicide attempt there are signs and warnings that a person is at risk. At that point, yes, suicide is absolutely preventable. We see this nearly every week with RPWC. A huge component of RPWC is not just being available to people who are hurting, but to provide training and support to kids, families, and churches on how to recognize these signs, and deal with them properly. Far too often I hear from kids who have spent days or weeks working up the courage to ask for help from a friend, teacher or family member, only to find they are not taken seriously. I often hear from them after a failed attempt. I cannot stress enough, that if someone is talking about suicide, you must take it seriously. Do they sound like they are planning a suicide attempt, saying things like: “this world would be better off without me,” or “I can’t take life anymore?” Many people are afraid of overreacting. However, the consequences for overreacting is a bit of embarrassment, the consequences for under reacting could be death.
Of course, there are situations of chronic mental illness and untreated depression which contribute to a suicide. Sometimes the family, friends and community did everything right, took every precaution, and were still unable to prevent that suicide. The US mental health system is a mess, and access to care, especially for minors, is severely limited. Our system fails to protect people who aren’t making rational decisions about life and death.
ENOCH MAGAZINE: So your answer is both YES and NO?
KELLI BOYLE:I believe most suicides can be prevented.
ENOCH MAGAZINE: I like the word “most.” It’s a good word to fit in there. I believe it to be very sobering. Where would you like to see RPWC in the next few years?
KELLI BOYLE:I’d like to fulfill our mission statement in a more balanced way. To paraphrase, it says- “meeting emotional, spiritual and physical needs, being youth driven, faith based and being a bridge between those seeking help and those needing help.”
I think right now we have an incredible foundation of people, organizations, bands and ministries that have the same goal; to love God and love people. We’re working toward building a network that utilizes all the gifts and resources that have been offered to us, but this takes time. And right now my time is very limited.
Ultimately, I want everyone who finds us to feel like we truly care about them, whether they find us online, at Cornerstone, Warped tour or just by seeing a RPWC t-shirt. At the same time, I’d love everyone involved to be able to say they’ve made a difference and know that it’s true. I think we’ve got the ‘loving God and loving people’ mission down, but in 2 years I’d like to see our network of people grow and function more efficiently.
ENOCH MAGAZINE: Do you see RPWC being at Warped Tour next year?
KELLI BOYLE:Yeah, one of our west coast team members, Sarah Jean, suggested it and offered to run a booth for us on the San Diego stop. Cornerstone went really well this year, and our parent organization, Wellspring Revival Ministries, is really supportive of us getting out like that. The great thing is, since we’re not a “personality driven” organization, I don’t have to physically be there.
I can have a trusted team member do it, and that will keep it pretty affordable to have local people handle it like that. We have a tiny budget, but I’d like to do 3 major festivals a year.
ENOCH MAGAZINE: Wow thats cool, Nate (one of our staff members) goes to Warped Tour a lot and hangs out and interviews some really cool bands. So a lot of what I see with RPWC, is that it is centered around prayer. All the hours spent in prayer and meditation, do you ever have doubts as to whether or not it’s actually making a difference?
KELLI BOYLE:No, I really don’t. I often get frustrated that it’s not making a difference in my timeframe, or in the way I want it to. But there are times when God shows me in hindsight what he was doing and why he was doing it. For instance, last year I got a prayer request from a family that was having money problems, and we began praying for them. It just went from bad to worse. Their car got repossessed, the electric got shut off, they pretty much lost everything, and my prayers started to sound like, “God, are you kidding me? What’s the deal?”
In the midst of that, she mentioned that her son was sick, but she couldn’t afford a doctor. I helped her navigate how to get him to a doctor and get it covered by medicare. It turned out her toddler had a brain tumor and required immediate, extensive and very costly care. Because they had no assets at the time, they qualified to have everything paid for. If they hadn’t lost everything, it would have been much more difficult to get their son the needed treatments and they would be paying for it for decades. This way, they can start clean, and their boy is doing really well now.
That experience helped me understand why God called me, as an older person, to start this ministry. Up until then, I was convinced he made some kind of mistake and picked the wrong person. But I’ve realized my depth of life experience has been instrumental in understanding and meeting needs.
I’m really glad you asked about prayer, because at its core, RPWC is a prayer ministry.
That’s really what started this, and why I was on the Underoath site in the first place. I had been praying for the band, and was just checking the journal to see how they were doing. I really don’t understand the mechanism of prayer, or why our will is somehow influential in moving the hand of God, but I know He always responds, rarely in the way we expect, but he always responds.
ENOCH MAGAZINE: Kelli, I was wondering if in closing. If you would please share some of your own struggles through out life, past or present. And what do you see God teaching you?
KELLI BOYLE:My past includes alot of shame, pain, and destruction. The person I used to be is not a person I really like to revisit, but I will say that nearly every issue that comes my way at RPWC is something I’ve dealt with personally: Addictions, abuse, self-destruction, depression, poverty, cancer. I understand wanting desperately to belong somewhere and to someone and making alot of bad decisions trying to fill that desperate need. But Jesus Christ gave me the strength to become a different person. And now, with my family, job, friends, and ministry, life is wonderful and my biggest struggle is figuring out how to pursue and enjoy all the wonderful opportunities in front of me. Just this past week, I was onstage with Governer Sarah Palin, and backstage with Chiodos. It’s nuts.
What God is teaching me now is that His ways are not our ways, and that He really finds joy in our joy.
I saw this last weekend as God allowed me to witness the absolute joy in a dad and his sons when they met Chiodos. There was no logical reason for me to be in that room, it was me, the band, and this family I just recently met- that’s about it.
But I had been going to the venue a few times a week and just praying for God’s will to be done there. I didn’t know what that might be and didn’t expect to find out, but in the end it was just about God delivering some happiness to a family that needed it. I know it might sound weird, that God is up there orchestrating backstage guest-lists, but God will use the most unlikely people and circumstances, for His own good pleasure, and for ours.
God is in the small things too, and I really believe He wanted to see their joy, and for some reason, I think He wanted me to see that too.
ENOCH MAGAZINE: Well thank you so much Kelli for taking time to sit down and have this talk with us.