Open Letter to the Patrick Family

Teleka and I became friends during our junior year in undergrad. She has always been a source of inspiration and encouragement for me. 

Teleka and I became friends during our junior year in undergrad. She has always been a source of inspiration and encouragement for me. 

To the Patrick family:

I have thought about this for weeks; wondering if it would be appropriate, well received, misunderstood, etc. Yet I wanted to reach out particularly to my homie Matthias, and of course, Pastor and Mrs. Patrick. And even though I never met Tenesha, I have thought of her often. I figured that with all the “stuff” that media/social media manufactures, you might appreciate hearing from one more person who stands with you. Yesterday after church I had a member walk up to me and ask if I had written an article on some website about Teleka. Nope, wasn’t me. But it was all the confirmation I needed to just go ahead and write this. These are my two cents.

I’m not sure exactly what her story was, but this is how I understood it.

I met Teleka in my junior year at Oakwood. I don’t even remember seeing her on campus before that. Maybe that’s not all the way true because when Matthias first came to Oakwood and I spoke with Pastor Patrick at Peterson Hall, I remember making the brother-sister connection then. So maybe I did know who she was, but we actually met junior year.

Junior year was pretty much that year when your entire school day is spent in your department focusing on core classes. 15, 16 credit hours worth of hardcore courses in your major subject area. And in pops Teleka. I didn’t remember seeing her in any of my intro theology courses. Greek 1, Religion and Language, or anything like that, but here we are taking these serious theology courses like Homiletics, and Old Testament Prophets, and there she was. The thing was we knew she was a biology major. Turns out, not only is the girl a biology major, but she’s also a music major. And as the story goes, she had just declared herself a theology major as well.

It wasn’t simply the fact that she was a triple major (she’s the only one I’ve ever met). It was the fact that she was a triple major, and still acing all her course work. Here she was a bio major on her way to becoming a doctor, and she was embarrassing the young pastors and theologians in theology courses. I liked her immediately! I was totally impressed by her. I had never met anyone so diligent.

For me it was a no-brainer. If iron sharpens iron, then let me find out what makes this young lady excel. I was curious, and so I started looking over her shoulder after class, asking her questions, following her to the library. She and I became friends.

I don't remember who was the Valedictorian our year. I don't think Oakwood even publicized that award. Yet, Teleka was at the top.  

I don't remember who was the Valedictorian our year. I don't think Oakwood even publicized that award. Yet, Teleka was at the top.  

I’m pretty sure it was that same year that she entered the Miss Oakwood pageant. I wasn’t really into stuff like that, but I went to support my classmate and friend Teleka. I was amazed, because I knew Teleka. Teleka is the biggest NERD I know. She’s corky and silly, and although she is very pretty, you would never get the sense that she was trying to be cute or alluring. She’s just not that type of girl. She was a serious student. No boyfriend and not looking for one. But when she was on that stage she was so graceful, elegant, and charming that it was almost unbelievable. I always thought that she had approached it like a math problem, or a science project. She thought it out, planned her procedure, and executed it masterfully. When she got second runner-up, we thought she got robbed (no disrespect to those who won). She was just so perfect that night.

Speaking of being perfect, even though she would be the first to tell you she wasn’t, I was certain that she was. You gotta understand, where I’m from, girls don’t study, or act like this. There were a few exceptions, but this was certainly not the rule. I was convinced that she was simply a cut above the rest. No vices. No drama. No issues. She was just so clean and sweet and caring. And of course nobody's perfect, but I just think so highly of her. The only time I ever remember her even getting upset was when the university wouldn’t let her take more classes.  She already had like 18 hours and she was trying to take 21. I think she ended up getting approved for the course.

During our senior year we both lived in the new apartment complex on the very edge of the campus. Neither one of us had a car so we’d sometimes be trooping partners making our trek to the far country of the theology building and back. We would talk about everything: theology, assignments, relationships, future plans, etc. I was having a really hard time that year. I had a bad case of senioritis and was going through some really difficult personal issues. I wasn’t handling things well and was having my worst semester academically and socially. Yet those walks and talks were like water to my soul. She only sought to encourage me and lift me up. And that’s exactly what she did. I’m certain she helped me more than I helped her.

When we graduated, she went off to pursue her MD, PhD program. I went back home to teach and preach, but we stayed in touch and talked on the phone often. I started dating this young lady who lived in the same town and went to the same school as Teleka, so I called her up to get the lowdown. Once I realized Tracy was the one, I called Teleka to ask for advice. She spoke words I’ll never forget. “What God has for you is for you.” That was all the confirmation I needed. I proposed shortly thereafter.

I knew she was a genius when i first met her. She's one of the reasons why I've determined to pursue a terminal degree.  

I knew she was a genius when i first met her. She's one of the reasons why I've determined to pursue a terminal degree.  

When I wrote my first book, Teleka sent me an email to say how proud she was. Then when I wrote my third book, she reached out again to tell me slow down so the world could catch up. All along I’ve been trying to keep up with her. She inspires me so much to work hard and to do my best and I was simply doing what I learned from her. I was in California handling a personal matter, and she and I talked briefly but couldn’t get our schedules to match. Yet, it was enough to just affirm each other.

When she finished the Ph.D. I celebrated from the sidelines. Whenever there’s an article published or a blog post up she sends an email or a facebook message to give words of encouragement. When she finished the M.D. I was amped and sent her facebook props. When I started my doctoral program we talked again and she gave more encouragement. We push each other. So when she messaged me to tell me where she matched and about how excited she was for the future, I was so happy for her, and I’m still waiting to see all that God is going to do through such a brilliant, inspiring young woman.

This is the Teleka who I think of everyday! I pray for her safe return daily. She means so much more to you, yet she means so much to me! I miss her and I want her to come home safe and sound too. I’m looking forward to the day when we #FindTeleka!