Thursday, January 2, 2014

My Strong Hold and My Day of Trouble... January 6th

January 6th is coming. For me, it is a special day. I lost so much, but I also gained so much.

And the beginning of a new year is a great time to look back at God's grace. I doubt I would be on the mission field today had I not learned these lessons. I know I would not be here without God's grace and forgiveness.

(Written 2012)

As I reflect on how the Lord brought me through the sudden loss of my Dad, I realize that the story goes farther back than January 2012. I would say that my life has been sprinkled with the amazing grace of God, but honestly my life has been drenched and fully saturated with His grace so much that it is impossible to keep silent. So I must tell you the story-- the WHOLE story.

If I were to pick a starting point for telling you this part of my life, I think I would start in 2003. In January 2003, I had been a Christian for almost eight years. I was serving in our church and doing all the right things, but to be honest, I didn't have the love for people that I should have had. I was serving the Lord because I wanted to do "the right thing."

On January 6, 2003, I had a heartbreaking miscarriage. We had been praying for another child. Even Ben had been praying for over a year for a baby sister. I was not prepared for the grief that the miscarriage would bring, but the Lord got me through it. We named the baby Elisha, and January 6th became engraved on my heart. It would not be long after that that I would experience another loss that would change my life forever.

It was Friday, February 21, 2003. Mom called me to let me know my older brother was in the hospital in a city about an hour from us. As far as we knew, his life was in no danger. That Friday night, the Lord burdened my heart to go and talk to my brother... to go tell him how much I loved him, share the Gospel with him again, and ask him about his salvation testimony. I brushed it off that night because I was too busy. The burden strengthened the next day, but it was too inconvenient that day, too.

Sunday was busy with the usual church obligations of Sunday school, playing the piano, etc. We had even invited some friends over after the evening service. I remember confiding in my friend about my brother being in the hospital. I remember telling my friend that I was concerned about some dangerous choices my brother was making. I told them that I was afraid that one day I would get a call that my brother would be dead. (How those words haunt me!)  I asked my friends to pray for him, but in my heart I was ignoring God's call to go to my brother.

Monday was my day to recover from the busy weekend.  I had to get the kids' homeschooling started and clean the house. I didn't have time.  That evening I promised the Lord that I would go visit my brother the next day. I was fully committed to stop ignoring God's urgent call and to obey. I was willing to obey as long as it was in MY timing.

Tuesday morning, February 25, 2003, before I got out of bed, the phone rang. It was my mother. Her voice was shaky. Her heart was broken. She said I needed to call Jason and tell him to come home. Before she said the words, I knew. There has never been a knife that has cut as deeply as that call that morning cut me. All I could say was, "No! No... no..."

That day is the day I finally began seeing myself in a whole different way. I began seeing what a terrible sister I had been. I began seeing how selfish I am. I began seeing my pride and how ugly it is. I began seeing how little I loved people and ultimately how little I loved God. Over the next several years, God began grooming my heart and teaching me to love people. I was so broken. It was a scar left on my heart that would take a long time to recover from.

As the Lord began burdening me to tell people the Gospel, I began learning not to put it off.  I began growing in my boldness because I began growing in my love for people and for the Lord. I started praying for people and crying for them. It is a change in my heart that only the Lord could do.

A couple of years ago, Daddy and I began chatting on the internet. Our relationship was growing closer. One day while chatting with him, the Lord burdened my heart to share the Gospel with him and ask him about his testimony.  This time I obeyed the Lord’s voice.  Daddy really thought it through, and replied. He was very confident he was saved. He told me about how in 1998 he prayed and made sure. How precious those words are to me today! I am so thankful he patiently listened and really inspected his heart before giving an answer!

With all our travelling for ministry, I didn't get to see Daddy often. This past December, I asked Jason if we could go for a visit. We began counting down the days until our visit. December 22nd and 23rd were such wonderful days! We played games with Daddy and my little brother, Jonathan. We laughed and enjoyed such a peaceful, sweet visit. When we left I sent him a text.

"Missing you already. Enjoyed our visit. Praying for u! Love u!"

Our family had a missions conference to attend in Greenville, SC, on January 5th-8th. I had hoped Daddy could drive over and hang out with us on January 6th.  Jason was going golfing that day, and I had hoped Daddy could go. He texted me back and said that he went to pay the bills and only had $10 left over. I texted back:

"Lol! Better save the $10. Love u! So thankful for you! Praying for u, that God would kindle a great passion for Him, His Word, His house, His people, & His work."

That was the last text I sent to him the morning of January 5th.

We travelled down to Greenville and enjoyed the first evening of the conference. One of the missionaries said something that stuck out to me. "What are you willing to give for the sake of the Gospel?" I couldn't get past that statement. I kept examining my heart to see if there was anything I was holding back.  I didn’t realize until later that this question was not meant for conviction, but for preparation of my heart.

The next morning, I continued my devotion study in Nahum 1:7. I was so blessed by that devotion! This was my Facebook post that morning:

Nahum 1:7 "... a strong hold in the day of trouble..."

January 6... the anniversary of our miscarriage, the untimely birth of a child we never got to hold. January 6... the anniversary of the death of a former Sunday school kid, he died in Afghanistan. January 6... the day of trouble. May I say that I understand how precious the Strong Hold is. I have run to the Strong Hold and found Him to be everything He said He was. Do not pity me... January 6 is the date that marks the beginning of my comprehension of His tenderness and His strength in my weakness. It is a milestone of faith for me. It is also the date that reminds me to give every task my absolute best for the Lord... because it may be my last opportunity. January 6 would be a bitter date, but my Strong Hold has made it sweet.

That day, Jason went golfing with a friend, and the kids and I enjoyed a lovely day together. The weather was perfect. When Jason got back to the place where we were staying, we all played a game and had some great family time. Then we all took naps. When we woke up, we felt so refreshed! I had a lovely, long, warm bath. Jason and I agreed that it was one of the most relaxing and enjoyable days we have ever had. We began getting ready for the conference service that evening.

When Jason finished getting ready, he sat down to read the Bible while he waited on us.  He read:

2 Timothy 2:3  “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”

When we were all ready and just about to head out the door, my phone rang. It was Daddy's ring tone. When I answered, it wasn't the voice I expected. Instead, it was Ana, Daddy's wife. She was crying and hard to understand, but the second time she said it... I knew. Daddy was gone.

I was about to break down in panic and tears, but I didn't want to scare the children. I got off the phone quickly and went to the bedroom. Jason saw the look on my face and followed. He held me as I melted into his arms, tears streaming.

Then I remembered Nahum 1:7 "The LORD is good: a strong hold in the day of trouble, and he knoweth them that trust in him." A sudden calm came over me, enough of a calm that I could guide the children in packing everything quickly. We had everything packed in a matter of 15 minutes. We then sat the kids down and explained the situation to them. Gabriel is still too innocent-minded to comprehend. Michaela began crying. Benjamin immediately began comforting his sister. We gathered in the van and began the 2 hour journey to Lancaster, SC.  Facebook post as we left:

January 6 is again our "day of trouble." (Nahum 1:7)

My Daddy just went to Heaven. Please pray that we will continue to run to our Strong Hold.

As we drove to Lancaster, I heard Michaela sobbing in the back seat.  Then I heard Benjamin flip through the pages of his Bible.  When I glanced back at the two of them, I saw Ben’s arm wrapped around Michaela.  He was reading Bible verses to her to comfort her.  My heart became filled with thankfulness.  The thankfulness toward God overtook my grief, and before I knew it, I was praising the Lord out loud.  I do not understand how thankfulness gripped me, but I know the Comforter met with us in the van that evening.  At 2 AM the next morning, I posted a portion of my praise:

I am so thankful I did not skip my devotion time yesterday morning.  That verse is now my life verse.  Without it I would be overwhelmed right now.  For those who read my devotion post… yes, I can still say He is my Strong Hold.  He is faithful.

I am so thankful we got to see him a few weeks ago… we played, and talked, and laughed and hugged.  God knew I would need that memory.  He is so compassionate.

I am so thankful that one day not too long ago I took the time to share the Gospel with him and that he was confident that he was saved.  What comfort it brings to KNOW he knew the Gospel and that he was sure of his eternity.  God is so merciful.

I cannot be bitter about Daddy being gone.  I am too busy being thankful for the time we had with him.  I had 35 years of great memories with him… thank you, Lord.

The next day, people began visiting.  As they came, each person began telling stories of how Daddy had touched his or her life.  It seems that Daddy had helped build, repair, prepare, or move something for every neighbor, co-worker, or church member.  The morning before he died, he had crawled up under a neighbor’s house to help them repair a water problem.  Each person told their story of him, and several had tears in their eyes.  He was the best neighbor a person could have.  He had touched many lives.

Other family members began arriving from Florida and California.  They were still in disbelief that Daddy was gone.

That evening, Daddy’s church family began bringing food to help the family.  The people poured the love of Christ upon our family.  Every dish of food spoke volumes of their love.  Every hug carried an intense compassion.  They even committed to bringing food the next day, and as often as we needed.  One family member told me they had never seen anything like that before.  They had never experienced the love-in-action of a church family.

When they brought food the next day, the Lord laid it on my heart to pray with them before they left.  Everyone in the house held hands and bowed their heads.  God met with us, and He once again renewed my thankfulness and my strength. 

That evening, Jason told me that he had talked to our Pastor back home.  Jason was holding back the tears as he told me that our home church family had been meeting every day at 5:30 PM, and they were praying for our family.  I didn’t know whether to shout, run around the house a few times, or just cry like a baby.  Knowing that my church family was praying for us lit a fire in my soul… a fire that is still burning.

There was one burden that the whole family felt the weight of.  None of us had any money to pay for a funeral.  Daddy died without any insurance.  A few years before, he was laid off at his workplace.  He lost his health insurance as well as his life insurance.  He was out of work for two years before he finally found a job at Walmart working part time.  He did not like being without insurance, but he didn’t have any choice.

Daddy’s brother and I searched diligently for any kind of insurance that he may have purchased.  There was nothing.  Jason and I talked about it outside.  We both just prayed that God would have his will and be glorified.  What else could we do?  That evening, we got word that the Lord had touched the heart of an anonymous donor.  The entire cost of the funeral was taken care of.  God supplied.  There was no doubt in any of our minds that God was at work.  Facebook post:


2000 years ago, He paid a debt I owed and could not pay.  In 1995 I fully trusted and accepted what He did for me.

Tonight we got the news that He paid another debt we had no way to pay… His faithfulness is breath-taking.  His provision is unmerited, yet He provides.  We are in His favour, and I am humbled.  He makes serving Him such a pleasure!

Psa 5:12 “For thou, O LORD, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.”

Jason confided in me that the Lord had laid on his heart to preach the Gospel at the funeral.  He was convinced that the Lord was working in hearts already.  We just prayed for God to have His will and use us however he saw fit.

As we made final plans for the funeral, I decided that I would sing at the funeral.  Daddy loved to hear the children and me sing.  I knew it would be hard, but I knew I needed to do it.

We chose to have a private family visitation and a closed-casket funeral.  We really are a private family in many ways.  Jason and I share ourselves so openly, but there are certain things we are very private about.  I am very thankful Daddy’s wife felt the same way about it.  This visitation was an intimate time that we all desperately needed.

The funeral was an intimate time as well.  Daddy’s workplace shut down the Tire and Lube Express so that they could all attend the funeral.  They even gave my baby brother Daddy’s jacket from work.

When it came Michaela and my time to sing, I began walking toward the piano.  Tears flowed uncontrollably.  I prayed for God to help me get through the song for Daddy.  When I got to the piano, I accidently knocked the microphone over.  I was so distracted by trying to set up the microphone that I stopped crying.  I took a deep breath and began playing.  And God got us all the way through the song.

After I sang, Jason preached.  A family member, Javier Ramero, volunteered to translate into Spanish for our Spanish-speaking family and friends.  The Gospel was preached in two languages.  There were some who raised their hands during the invitation that they knew they were lost and needed to be saved.  Jason gave one last instruction when the invitation was ended.  He said that if anyone needed to talk to us after the service, we would be available to help them.

At the dinner in the church fellowship hall, my cousin’s wife, Maria, approached me.  She said that she had been thinking about this for a few weeks, and she knew she needed to be saved.  Maria and I went in a back room with my Bible.  My Facebook post that afternoon:

Daddy had 2 major desires:
1) To see unity in his family
2) To see his family get saved
Today, on the day of his funeral, there was such unity... such genuine love. We were a team. And, I am so thankful to say, there were some salvations... at least one was a family member. I cannot imagine how big his smile must be right now... as all the angels were rejoicing he must have been beaming saying. "That's one of mine!" I know of one... I am praying for others. I love my family. I love my Daddy...

It is amazing to me how God can take such a sad situation and bring about something so beautiful! Sometimes what we face is very painful, but if we trust the Lord, we will see how He can use it for His glory and our good.

The next evening, we attended a memorial service in Asheville at our home church.  Pastor preached a message about hearing God’s voice… that still, small voice.  That message helped me so much.  As he was preaching, I looked back at the previous week.  He had spoken to my heart several times.  He guided me to Nahum 1:7 and prepared my heart.  He comforted me and gave me a heart of thankfulness on the way to Lancaster.  There were so many times through the week when He stilled my heart, when He strengthened me, and when He led me.  His voice got me through the battle.  I treasure His voice… I pray He always has my ear.

by Charity, Southern Asia
In Memory of my Dad and brother
In Honor of my Saviour who loves me regardless of my failures


Jen Bauer said...

I read this with tears. Thank you for sharing your heart. What an amazing God we serve!

Joyful said...

I too read with tears. Such a beautiful testimony of God's loving hand.

Shelly said...

God spoke to my heart through this, Charity. Thank you for being His vessel.

Amy Meyers said...

Praise the Lord for how He uses His Word to comfort us in times of trouble. Thanks for sharing.

Lou Ann Keiser said...

Thank you for sharing this. The Lord is amazing! I am so thankful for how He shows us that He is sufficient and that He came to save. Bless you and all the family.

Nancy McAllister said...

Thank you, Charity