The following post is from my husband:
When I preached regularly at our house church in Chad, I would often say: “we’re all in this together!” And I meant it every time. I remember like it was yesterday wrapping up sermons with an encouragement for us to stand with one another and to not leave anyone behind – a foundational message of Christianity. Sometimes during our services we would pray for someone who was sick (we’re all in this together), an individual who needed particular help at home (we’re all in this together), or any other issue someone in our church was facing (we’re all in this together). These moments solidified our commitment to one another, particularly as we all shared two basic realities: our faith in Jesus Christ and our service in Chad, Africa.
But as the days have passed and many of us who worshiped together have moved on to places like Hawaii, Louisiana, Texas, Washington State, Oregon, Australia, Ohio, Minnesota, Northern Virginia, etc., distance has grown between those memories of our precious church group. Although there’s distance in time, nothing can change our experience together.
And today, although many of us are not together physically, we are crying for one of our own. Last week, we learned the tragic news that one of our key members, Eric, unexpectedly lost his beloved bride. When I read the email notifying me of this horrible news, my heart sank and all my focus turned towards Eric. I thought about all the times I shared with him in Chad – serving together at work and worshiping together at church. Most Sunday’s, Eric and I sat together up front. Eric was also one who would routinely preach, pray for our service, and lead us in Holy Communion. Always faithful and tremendously kind, Eric was very much a father to our group. I don’t mean this in age, but in spirit. Eric is so firm in his faith that just being around him for a moment, one can instantly receive encouragement in Jesus Christ. That’s who Eric is. He’s completely sold out for Jesus.
But today I am crying for Eric because of his loss. His wife, a dear Christian woman, visited our church one Sunday (she lived in South Africa for her job at the time) and I remember so clearly her and Eric sitting on the couch at the front. She had a huge smile on her face and she was such a joy to have in our small service. I know that Eric was thrilled to have her too and for his church family in Chad to meet his bride whom he loved so very much. What a couple!
And as I think about her death, I think about life: eternal life. She is now in Heaven because she placed her faith in Jesus Christ. She started her forever life with her Savior this past Friday not because of the things she did, but because of the faith she had in the Friend of Sinners. And as I ask the “why” question of her unexpected death, I think about the chance we all have to once again proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the life of His beloved daughter, Jonita.
But even in the joy of this truth, Eric, a tremendously close friend and member of our church family is hurting today. His life has been shaken to the core. And today I am crying for Eric. Today I repeat the truth that we are all in this together. And when our friend mourns, we all mourn; when our friend cries, we all cry; and when our friend hurts, we all hurt.
Eric: please know that your church family is praying for you today, tomorrow, next week, and in the coming months as you walk this difficult road. It’s with a heavy heart that I write this post and I want you to know that your friends from that small church in Chad are standing by your side today. We are surrounding you with our hands, resting them securely on your shoulder in prayer, and believing with you that God is good. We believe that He deliberately approaches us in our storm bringing peace, trusting that His ways are higher than ours, and that by His stripes, we are healed.
Today we cry with you, Eric.
We love you.