Better to go to the house of mourning
Than to go to the house of feasting,
For that is the end of all men;
And the living will take it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
For by a sad countenance the heart is made better.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
But the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 (NKJV)
All of us here in our mission family have been mourning for the past two weeks. Two weeks of struggle with God’s sovereignty. We are very fortunate at AIM-IS to have a Pastor on staff. One thing he shared that really got me thinking was a reference to the above verses. The importance in our lives of the house of mourning. God takes us there, purposefully. He wants us to be there, because He knows we need to be there. I have written many times before about how God wants us to change, to grow up. He is not satisfied with the men we are, even (especially) if we are. There is no learning in the house of feasting, there is no changing in the house of mirth.
God does bring us time of celebration, time of laughter, times of pure happiness. But those are just a taste of heaven, a glimpse at what will be to keep us going. The real work in life is the hard times.
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials
There are times in life when death seems to be prevalent. Since coming to Africa we have heard about many people who have lost their lives just in the last year. The first was the death of a lady’s husband who attends our church, shot by a thief (which happened during our second month here while living with Pastor Stephen). Then the lady who sells us vegetables lost her son-in-law, killed in a car crash. Soon after, Paul’s friend, Ken (who cuts his hair),lost his brother. Not that long ago, our neighbor’s daughter, Nina, passed away after being hospitalized for being sick – she was only 11 years old. It was a shock to us all. Recently, our gardener’s mother died…and two days later an AIM AIR plane went down…
Now our hearts are mourning the loss of two dear men who have dedicated their lives to serving the Lord. Frank Toews and Ryan Williams, both missionaries with AIM AIR, went home to be with the Lord as a result of the plane crash. Paul worked with them every day and I was in a Bible study with the wives. It is hard to imagine that their time on earth is over…each father leaves behind four young children. Words are inadequate to sum up emotions we are going through – we feel for the ones left behind. Frank and Ryan’s death was a tragedy in every sense of the word. It is painful to see the grieving of those close to them, especially their children. It breaks the heart. Frank and Ryan’s lives glorified God…and now we witness glory in death – God is being glorified in all of this. We see it in the lives of those who knew these two precious men, and even in the lives of those who didn’t personally know them. People from all over the world have been joined together in prayer for the families. There has been constant support as people have stepped up, allowing God to use them as His hands to minister to various needs of the families – from meals to babysitting, running errands to sitting with the wives. From the beginning there was a commitment that the wives would not been left alone, including scheduling another lady to stay with them over night. The missionary family is tired but God has given the strength to push on and help – it has been a beautiful expression of God’s love. My thoughts through out this time are toward a Compassionate, loving God who is more than able…and in complete control of all things. In the midst of sorrow, we all can rejoice because Frank and Ryan are ALIVE in Christ Jesus, living in the everlasting presence of the ALMIGHTY GOD.
Our boys are processing this tragedy since they know the children who “lost their daddy”. Shortly after hearing the news that Frank was dead (Ryan died a week later, suffering fatal burns), Petr came into the kitchen and said, “Mom, I am praying that Jesus will raise Frank from the dead – He did it for His best friend, and Jesus can do anything!” (Petr was referring to the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead) Oh, the faith of a young child!!! Petr had a smile on his face that showed he believed Jesus could do it! I explained God already answered his prayer as Frank has been raised from the dead because the Word of God says, “…whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” Praise God!!!
You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. 2 Timothy 2:3-4
A thought occurred to me last night, and I am not sure how I got to thinking about it. A good general has the ability to sacrifice his soldiers for an objective. One of the problems with the Northern generals in the American Civil War before Grant was that they were too timid. The did not press the enemy when they had the advantage because they were afraid of losing too many men. In the end, a general not willing to sacrifice loses more than the one who will accomplish his objective and more quickly win the war.
God does not need us to win His war. He is, however, willing to sacrifice His soldiers for an objective. The story of Stephen in Acts 6-7 immediately comes to mind. Stephen is one of the all-stars in the New Testament. Luke tells us, “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people…And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.” What did God do with this superstar? He had him stoned. Had it not been for this event, the church would not have spread beyond Jerusalem. That was what God used to spread the Gospel to Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.
The soldier, above all other men, is required to perform the highest act of religious teaching – sacrifice. – Douglas MacArthur
We were blessed to have our brother-in-law, Bob, come and visit us while he was in Africa on many speaking engagements. If you attended our wedding you will remember that Bob has the gift of teaching and is an eloquent speaker – he was the one who officiated our wedding. Bob is well versed when it comes to travelling so he prefers to travel with only a carry-on…somehow he managed to fit all kinds of things for our boys in his small carry-on. A big treat was cereal from the States since a box of cereal costs close to $10. When Petr took one bite of this wonderful cereal he exclaimed, “I feel like I’m in America.” Andrej could barely contain himself when he took his first bite. 🙂 Uncle Bob also brought Uno cards, kites, and some really cool toy “sticky wall” guys from London (These were perfect because the boys got to thrown something – your suppose to throw them at a window and then they slowly roll down…very entertaining!). It is always nice when people bring us special things, but nothing can compare to the actual visit.
We had two opportunities to see Bob; one between speaking engagements and the other when he was concluding his trip. Bob went to see the hanger, Paul’s place of work, and then stopped by to see our house. The boys were proud to give their uncle a tour, focusing on their punching bag in their room. A highlight of the visit was when Uncle Bob played American football with them. They still talk how their uncle taught them to throw the ball from under one leg. They say, “Look, I’m going to do an “Uncle Bob!”
We spent most of our time visiting Bob at his hotel, enjoying a couple of nice dinners, a swim in the pool and a chance to watch some TV (we were pretty spoiled since we don’t have TV at home – we only have a TV for watching movies). It was hard to say good-bye…as it always is. At the time we had no idea we would be seeing him again in August – and this time Bonnie, his wife (Paul’s sister), is coming too! We are so excited!!!! God continues to bless us with visitors and we couldn’t be more thankful.
Cammy has been doing a lot of work with hospitality, coordinating meals and care for children of the two families. I have been helping with the management of AIM-IS dealing with all the issues that have arisen.
We appreciate your prayers for us, and especially for the two families hardest hit.