As a typical teenager, Avery Farmer often came home late, but he would always check in with his parents, Matt and Melissa Farmer.
“Even as a 17-year-old boy, the first thing Avery would do was to seek out Matt and me,” Melissa said. “It was usually later at night, but he would say, ‘Momma,’ running up the stairs to tell me about his day or the special-needs kids. He just really enjoyed sharing with us what was going on around him and in his life. It’s just different for a teenager to do that.”
Occasionally, he’d bring a buddy along with him.
“We laugh because he did the same with his friends,” Melissa added. “He’d bring them into our room, and we’d literally be in bed, and he’d say, ‘So and so wants to talk to you.’ It may be about a problem. He reconnected with one of his close friends, Nick, who had been struggling. He brought him home after C-group and came into the room to tell us the things that he was going to do to change his life and get reconnected to God. Avery was on cloud nine.”
On Feb. 9, 2021, Avery, who was a senior at Martha Layne Collins High School, died in a car accident.
As devastating as this season has been, the Farmers know that Avery is now on “cloud nine.”
“God works in such huge ways,” Melissa said. “God has been so present through it all. He has blessed us with so many people in our community that just circled around us. People have literally been the hands and feet of Jesus for our family. I think about Kyle Idleman’s sermon that God created us to really love and comfort each other during times of struggle. That has been real and present for sure. Through Christ’s sacrifice, Avery’s in heaven waiting for us to come, and I’ll get to see him again one day. We will all be reunited.”
The Farmers and their 13-year-old daughter, Maddie, are members of Southeast Christian Church’s Shelby County Campus.
“Everybody says, ‘Life is short,’ but that really hit home when Avery passed,” Matt said. “It really makes you stop and think, ‘What are you doing with your life? Are you making a difference in people’s lives? Are you living for yourself or for your career?’”
Avery loved people.
“Avery didn’t care about social status and being cool,” Matt said. “He would just go up and make friends with anybody. He didn’t care if they were a special-needs kid or a popular kid on the football team. It didn’t matter. He just loved people.”
Sometimes Avery’s passion for helping others interfered with his schoolwork.
“We laugh because often he wouldn’t be in class, but out in the halls helping somebody, talking through a problem,” Melissa said. “As a mom, I’m like, ‘Buddy, you still have to go to your class.’ But he just loved people. He didn’t have a crowd, so to speak; he kind of floated between all different people.”
The afternoon of the accident, Avery spent time comforting a special-needs student who was having a bad day.
“He had reached out to me and said, ‘She is having a really hard day. I’m going to FaceTime you later so you can see her.’ She was crying a lot. She is nonverbal and can’t walk. Avery was holding her the last class period of the day,” Melissa added.
Avery started volunteering in his school’s special-needs classroom a couple of years ago, and Melissa said that changed his heart.
“Those special-needs kiddos were his kids,” Melissa said. “He brought his guitar in to teach them how to play. One of the kids had a really hard time staying in class and following directions. Avery connected with him, and so he ended up becoming a special-needs mentor. Some of his teachers reached out after he passed and said, ‘It was so funny because he would run into class like, “What are we doing because I want to get it done so I can go to the special-needs classroom.”’”
Avery ran track and played golf and attended Bill and Beth Watts’ Shelby County Campus high school C-group for three years.
“The first year Avery was a typical high schooler, but this past year as a senior, he had really changed significantly as a Christian,” Bill Watts said. “It was very evident that he experienced spiritual growth.”
The last time Avery attended the group, he called “Mama Watts” to let her know he was bringing a new friend to the group.
“That was the way Avery was,” Beth Watts said. “He saw people. He acknowledged them. He loved them, and he did what he could to point them toward Jesus as the solution to their lives.”
Though Avery wasn’t perfect, the other boys could relate because he opened up about his struggles.
“Up until Avery’s last night with our group before his passing, there were so many messages he left with our group that greatly impacted the lives of our students,” Beth Watts added. “He mentioned Psalm 1 being his favorite passage that he wanted to get tattooed on his arm. He talked with the boys in the basement about how he deals with temptation. He said he was so overwhelmed by the song ‘Reckless Love’ that he pulled his truck over. It quieted the voice of temptation in his heart. He was vulnerable to share that with the boys.”
More than 600 people attended Avery’s funeral.
“We talked to one girl at the funeral whom we never met before, and she’s been coming to our C-group ever since,” Beth Watts said. “God has worked through such tremendous loss in incredible ways. God’s grace has manifested in Avery’s life and transferred to others.”
An ophthalmologist in her 60s attended the funeral and was so moved that she started going to church again for the first time in years.
“Avery was more than just that kid on the street, he was my guy,” said Andy Potter, a Children’s Ministry associate at Southeast’s Blankenbaker Campus. “To our community, he was more than just another student; he connected the lost, forgotten, outcast, popular, cool kids, losers, those in need and in crisis. He impacted everyone he crossed paths with.”
God is continuing to work through Avery’s life.
The Shelby County Campus launched on Sunday, April 18, and Avery’s sister, Maddie, was the first person to be baptized at the new campus.
“It felt good to just let go of everything,” Maddie said.
Maddie was baptized by Olivia Loy, who has poured into her life since Avery’s death.
“She’s been one person who I can tell different things to that she wouldn’t go and tell other people like some of my other friends would,” Maddie added. “She would let me talk to her and she wouldn’t talk. She would just listen. She would do things with me—like go hiking—instead of just sitting around.”
Maddie remembers good times fishing and swimming with Avery, though she wasn’t a fan of his music.
“My favorite music is newer country music, and he would play older country music that I didn’t like,” she said. “He would turn it up so loud, and I would get so mad at him.”
Avery Farmer Scholarship
The Avery Farmer Scholarship was created to be given to a Martha Layne Collins High School senior who exemplifies and embodies Avery’s commitment and love of serving their community.
The $5,000 scholarship was awarded to a student last month.
“We were thinking about, ‘How do we carry on who he was and what he was all about?’” Melissa said. “He definitely was a kiddo who loved people. Anybody he came in contact with he just loved.”