On March 26 I was asked to share a testimony during the chapel service at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I took the invitation to share about Anna for the student body and whover else might be attending or watching on television. The theme for chapel during the 2008-2009 school year is “The Year of Living Dangerously.” I described Anna as a little girl who did live life fully, passionately, and even dangerously. Here is what I shared:
In this year of living dangerously at Southern Seminary allow me to tell you about a young lady who took seriously the challenge to live life in bold colors and large letters, who was passionate about all things and lukewarm about none.
Our daughter, Anna Borger, moved to Indonesia with us when she was four years old. She quickly adapted to life in her new country. She learned to love the creatures around her, including every neighborhood cat that needed rescuing and every ant or cockroach that her father tried to get out of the house.
As she grew older she acquired a great love and skill with music. She had a beautiful voice and took naturally to the piano. Her favorite composer was Mozart, and one day she brought to me a book of Mozart Sonatinas that we had in the house. She asked me if she could work on them for her piano practice. I told her that no, she would not be allowed to play from that book. Her little face was crestfallen and a bit surprised. I then added, “You must practice your 30 minutes from your lesson, and then on your own time you may play Mozart.” Her face lit up again and off she trotted to the piano to work on her scales so that she could begin learning the music of her beloved Mozart.
Anna also loved to read. Everyone who knew Anna knew that she went everywhere with three or four books under her arm, “just in case.” When she was young we had to give her a five-book limit at bedtime so that she wouldn’t stay up all night. Her mother homeschooled both our children and she guided Anna in the selection of good books. Anna loved to read about Greek mythology and was our household expert on all things Greek and Roman when we needed help with a crossword puzzle. She loved C. S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles and had read the entire series several times over by the time she was seven or eight. She loved reading adaptations of Shakespeare plays and near the end of her life had begun the task of finding and memorizing “all the important speeches of Shakespeare.” She had already memorized speeches from Othello and Romeo and Juliet and had begun reading the full play of “The Merchant of Venice. As much as I hate to admit it, I discovered after a little test with her that at nine years old she read faster than I could.
But more than music, reading, or animals, Anna loved Jesus. After her brother, Samuel, shared the plan of salvation with her, she accepted Christ as her Savior. She was five years old. So she began a short but full journey as a follower of Jesus Christ. Anna began to grow right away as a believer. In our nightly devotions we read through the Bible one chapter a day. She grew dissatisfied with this rate and she decided to go back and read through the OT on her own. Since we had not gotten to the NT yet in our reading she went ahead without us and read the NT on her own. Her mother taught her to make notes in her Bible as she read. She dated each book and chapter with the date that she read it. At the front of her NT she wrote the date she began. But instead of having a finishing date, as she did with each individual book, she simply added a note at the bottom of the page, “I couldn’t finish the Book of Revelation. It was too heavenly for me.”
On one occasion her mother walked into her bedroom to tuck her into bed. Anna was lying on her bed, and instead of reading, as was her custom, she was lying still and staring up at the ceiling. Thinking there might be something wrong, her mother went over and sat down beside her. “Anna, what are doing?” “Oh, Mommy,” she answered, “I just love Jesus so much.” Timberley did not know how to answer her, but was instead convicted by the simple, deep, and passionate faith of this little girl.
During our first term in Indonesia, Anna had trouble engaging the culture and learning the language. We attributed this to shyness, but at times it seemed as if she was very resistant to meeting people and even trying to learn to greet people. When we returned to America for our stateside assignment in 2006 a change came over her. She and her brother attended public school for one semester. She was in the second grade. I think that in that school and on the bus she encountered lostness that she could understand for the first time. There was one boy in particular that seemed to grab her attention. His name was Calvin. He was in the third grade. They rode on the bus together. He was not a Christian. “How do you know he is not a Christian?” we asked her. “Because I asked him, and he said he does not believe in God.” She went on to explain that Calvin lived with his father and that he was angry about things in his life. He especially did not believe in God. But Anna began to share the truth about God with this young boy every day on the bus. She prayed for him at night. But Calvin would not believe.
Anna’s schoolteacher that year was a believer and they quickly formed a deep friendship. After we returned to Indonesia they continued to correspond by email. Also, when we returned to Indonesia Anna seemed to have a new awareness of the lostness of the people around her and for the first time she began to want to learn the language and to seek out friendships with the girls around her. A breakthrough came one day when a group of young girls came to our house and dropped off a note for Anna. It was from Sahabat Pelangi Diva, which could be translated “Diva’s Rainbow Friends.” The four of them wanted Anna to come out the next day and play with them after school. Anna was so excited, but she was also scared and nervous. What would she talk about? She didn’t know the language well enough. What would they do? She didn’t know what kind of games they would play. But she got herself ready and went out early to meet them. Taking a book in hand she went and sat at the curb in front of our house. She told her mother not to come, but Timberley watched from a distance as the girls came along and picked up Anna. This began a daily habit of the girls coming by to visit with her.
On May 5 last year Anna sent this email to her teacher back in America:
On Wednesday that week Anna and her mother were on a bicycle ride together when Anna inexplicably missed a turn onto a bridge and plunged into a 30-foot ravine. The doctor told us later that she died instantly.
When I heard the news I was an hour away taking someone to the airport. Timberley called me with the news. In my disbelief and shock I know that among my initial thoughts were, “Lord, this was your will for Anna.” With all of the confusion; deep, deep sadness; anger; and a whole host of other emotions, this knowledge that God is in control of all these things and is working a good plan, not only for us, but also for Anna, has been for me a rock on which I can sit. I would say stand, but I found in the aftermath of these events that I could not often stand. But I found that in the darkness of the storm around me, when I did not know where to turn or where to go, that I could at least sit and find a secure place beneath me. Then I could rest.
How has all this affected us? Better yet, how has all of this not affected us? I have met men who lost children 25, even 38 years ago, and as they tell me the stories of their children, their eyes begin to well up. So this is what I have to look forward to.
But I also get to listen to my son process these things. As we sat down for our devotion the other night, Samuel had just read the cover story of the Towers this week. I asked him if he had read all three stories. Yes, he had. I mentioned to him and to Timberley that it was interesting that all three of deaths came under very different circumstances. In one case, there was obvious human evil. In another case, by human negligence, and in Anna’s case by no human involvement, other than perhaps Anna’s carelessness. Thus began a very involved, and very mature discussion about the meaning of God’s sovereign will. It was a pleasure to hear this young man process and clearly state his thoughts about these very deep and, for him, very personal matters.
I would like to report to you that great things have happened as a result of Anna’s death. But I can’t. Yes, her new friends did get to hear the gospel at her memorial service. Yes, one of the leaders of the Indonesian Baptist Convention, at another memorial service, challenged his fellow Baptists, saying that they should be ashamed of not carrying the gospel to their own people, when this little nine-year old girl, that did not know the language was praying that she might somehow communicate the love of God to her friends. But I can’t tell you there has been a revival break out. I can’t tell you that the little girls responded to the gospel by repenting and believing the good news.
And the sad thing is that, even if I could report all these things to you, I would still have to conclude that I would trade it all to have my daughter back.
In the end, we must persist in our life here, apart from Anna, but sharing with her the hope of resurrection that awaits us both at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, both she and we share in the anticipation of his coming again. In the meantime we take the words of Paul when speaking about Abraham and attempt to apply them to ourselves, “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God. But he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.”