The example of faith left by 15-year-old Aleya Brooks continues to impact her middle Tennessee community.
Brooks died March 4 from injuries sustained from a falling tree while helping her family clear debris after strong storms. A member of her high school’s cheerleading squad, she was known for sending daily texts to teammates with Scripture verses and encouragement.
“I think a lot of people would see her as a quiet, humble leader, but she was not in any way subtle,” said Grant Allen, high school student pastor at Long Hollow Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee. “Her life was the best kind of convicting for others.”
As a result of Brooks’ memorial service at Long Hollow, Allen said 49 people made personal faith decisions, including 36 students. More young people responded during a spring break mission trip, and the church is following up on those decisions, he said.
Ten people were baptized at Long Hollow March 26, including eight students and one adult who made decisions after Brooks’ memorial. More baptisms are scheduled in the coming weeks, Allen said.
‘She wanted to leave a legacy’
“Those who knew Aleya knew that she wanted to leave a legacy,” said Robby Gallaty, Long Hollow’s pastor, in his March 5 sermon. “That was the passion of her life. She wanted her friends to know the Jesus that she knew.”
Gallaty also shared an excerpt Brooks wrote about resiliency in adversity. This “grit,” she wrote, reminded her even in the darkest hours to “inhale faith and exhale fear.”
While she was referencing coming back from an injury, Allen said, the words have been a balm to a grieving community. “The words that she chose to write, that I think the Lord allowed in His kindness, have been ministering to both her family and to us as a church,” he noted.
An expected response to a beloved friend’s death, Allen said, would be for people to want to honor her, to stand alongside her in faith.
What makes Brooks’ testimony different, he noted, is that students have looked at the example of her life and recognized something is missing from their own. They see the spiritual fruit she exemplified, her desire to read God’s Word. They are clearly convicted that they need the relationship with Jesus that she had.
One example, Allen said, is a high school freshman who went to school with Brooks. The young man grew up in church but realized he hadn’t yet experienced the God she knew.
“He separated going to church and attendance with the true encounter with Jesus that Aleya had,” Allen said. The same student is working with Long Hollow’s student ministry to create an “Inhale Faith, Exhale Fear” bracelet in honor of Brooks’ faithful example.
Eyes on revival
Long Hollow has a long history of experiencing God’s work through grief and loss, Gallaty noted March 5.
“God has chosen in his sovereignty to take students prematurely who were sold out to Jesus,” he said, sharing the names of three young men whose deaths each resulted in people coming to Christ. “After their passing, God sparked a revival in the hearts of students at our church and in this community,” Gallaty said, as people were forced to wrestle with who Jesus really is, and come face-to-face with their own mortality.
“Knowing Jesus doesn’t make the pain go away,” he said of Brooks’ death. But there is comfort in knowing where she is now. “Because she knew Jesus, who was the One who conquered death, hell, and the grave.”