As I try to put thoughts down, my words are a shambles of bits and pieces, please also excuse my lack of clarity. Whatever I put down seems to be inadequate. I'd like to be profound, but the case is simply that we don't understand. It makes no sense to our mortal minds. I wish I could be a fly on the wall in heaven today as these two men figure out what was going on, why they've been called to heaven so early and left those who loved them behind.
What I can say is that my emotions are mixed. On the one hand I feel a bit like David when his first child with Bathsheba died (2 Samuel 12:15-23). He pleaded with the Lord for this life of his child while he was ill so much so that his attendants were afraid to tell him when the child died, however David cleaned himself up and appeared to be "normal" again:
So, in a way, it is a relief that we now know these men are with Jesus. Yes they will be missed and we still don't understand why they had to die in the midst of fruitful ministry, but the end of the waiting period is over. I hope that doesn't sound callous, if it does, please keep reading.
I feel like the grieving has continued on several levels for months, but especially these last four weeks or so. Obviously when we first heard last year it was a shock and we've prayed ever since. Then in February things were looking up, it looked like the stem-cell transplant had taken for our field director, but in late March the news was bad again and continued that way.
Periodically we heard news that cheered our hearts. Our Field Director's wife (my OMF line manager) was particularly good at pointing out all the good that God was doing in the midst of this horrible situation. For example, after they knew there was no earthly way to recover from this they had a few weeks to say all they needed to say to one another before he went to heaven.
It is only just over two years since another OMF missionary in his 50s died from cancer. I wrote about that here. On top of that a teacher from CAJ is also battling what looks like terminal cancer and less than two years ago another missionary in the CAJ community also died from cancer. It feels like an epidemic and it's easy to give in to fear, but I know our Lord doesn't want that. Sometimes it seems hard enough that we've been called to minister in a land that shows little fruit, but this too?
It is scary to me, putting this down in black and white with the intention to hit "publish" when I'm done. However the psalms give me courage. Psalm 42 is a good one to dwell on:
The night before my birthday early this month we received what turned out to be the last email from our Field Director. Here is a portion of what he wrote:
vs 3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”vs 5 Why, my soul, are you downcast?Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. (NIV)
Here's the whole song:I challenge you to keep on with the good work and ministries you are engaged with in Japan in the hope that many will turn to Jesus and be built up in Him.We are not a people without hope. We have found the words of one of the verses of Stuart Townend’s song very helpful in recent days:There is a hope that lifts my weary head,A consolation strong against despair,That when the world has plunged my in its deepest pit,I find the Saviour there!And the second half of the first verse:I stand in Christ, with sins forgiven;And Christ in me, the hope of heaven!My highest calling and my deepest joy,To make His will my home.May God be glorified in all things. We all have the hope that one day we will meet again in a better place.Your brother in Christ.
Here are the lyrics of the whole song:
There is a hope that burns within my heartThat gives me strength for every passing dayA glimpse of glory now revealed in meagre partYet drives all doubt awayI stand in Christ with sins forgivenAnd Christ in me the hope of heavenMy highest calling and my deepest joyTo make His will my home.There is a hope that lifts my weary headA consolation strong against despairThat when the world has plunged me in its deepest pitI find the Saviour thereThrough present sufferings future's fearHe whispers courage in my earFor I am safe in everlasting armsAnd they will lead me home.
There is a hope that stands the test of timeThat lifts my eyes beyond the beckoning graveTo see the matchless beauty of a day divineWhen I behold His faceWhen sufferings cease and sorrows dieAnd every longing satisfiedThen joy unspeakable will flood my soul
For I am truly home