God’s Love in Its Various Forms

16 05 2013

Two days before Anna died, she sent an email to her second grade teacher, Mrs. Buckner, back in Louisville. In the email she let Mrs. Buckner know about some of the things that were going on in her life in Indonesia. She told her about some new friends she had made. Then she asked for prayer that, because they couldn’t speak English, and she couldn’t speak Indonesian very well, she would receive help “to share God’s love in its various forms” when they played together.

I am at the Nigeria Bible Translation Trust in Jos, Nigeria helping to lead an Old Testament workshop. I was thinking about Anna’s email yesterday morning during our devotion time before breakfast. One of the Nigerian translators was sharing some thoughts from the book of Esther. He talked about Mordecai and how his act of bravery in saving the king from an assassination plot went largely unnoticed at the time. Later in the story, however, his act is remembered and leads to the downfall of Haman, who had been plotting to destroy the Jews. His point was that many of our acts will go unnoticed in history. But we continute to do our work, not to be heralded by men, but because God has called us to the work.

About that time, I remembered Anna’s words. I remembered her desire to share God’s love with the Indonesians. She didn’t have the ability to use her words, so she simply prayed that God would give her other means. Her acts will go unheralded in history, but she was trying to do what God had called her to do.

Yesterday afternoon I met with two Nigerian translators and a translation consultant. They are working on a translation of the Old Testament in the Gokana language. I was able to join in on their work as they pored over their translation of these verses:

“And Yahweh spoke all these words to Moses,

‘I am Yahweh, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

Do not have any other gods before me.

Do make an idol or any image of a thing in the air above, or on the earth below, or in the water below the earth.'”

I am here doing this because I understand, in some sense, that God has called me here to do it. But as I sat in our meeting hall yesterday morning during devotion I began to silently weep, thinking about how much Anna would love to be a part of this translation meeting. The reason she would want to be here is that she knew her Lord Jesus. And she knew what it meant to be saved. And she knew that, even if we “shared God’s love in its various forms”, people are only saved through hearing the word proclaimed to them.

When I met with the Gokana translators the first time, I sat in a room with the consultant and one of the Nigerians. The other was late getting there. I asked the Nigerian man, “How many Gokana are there?” He thought for a moment and said, “I would say there are about 75,000 or 78,000 of us.” The consultant sitting next to him seemed surprised and said, “Oh really! I thought there were more like 150,000 Gokana.” They both shrugged and we went on with the conversation. A few minutes later, the other Gokana translator came in and sat down. I turned to him and posed the same question,”How many Gokana are there?” He furrowed his brow and tried to remember. After a moment he said, “According to the last census, there are,  I think, about 250,000 or 300,000.” The rest of us let out a laugh. 75,000? 150,000? 300,000? What is it?

But whether it is 75,000 or 300,000 Gokana, the same thing is true for them all. They are in need of a Savior. That Savior is Jesus Christ. If they call on his name for salvation, they will be saved. But they cannont call on a name if they do not believe in that name. And they cannot believe in a name if they have not heard the name. And they cannot hear the name unless someone proclaims the name. Faith comes through hearing the word of God. May God bless the work that these translators are doing.


Five Years Gone By

7 05 2013

It is hard to believe that five years have gone by since Anna left us and went to be with the Lord. In her memory I am posting three videos for you. They have all been here before, but many of you may be seeing them for the first time.

The first video is of Anna at three, when she learned her first tongue twister. At the time we were in Richmond, VA preparing to leave for Indonesia. Anna was three. It was a very cold January and Anna decided, for whatever reason, to go into hyperdrive in her aversion to certain irritating pieces of clothing. This included socks and shoes. That would not have been a problem had we already arrived in Indonesia, but we were still in a very freezing Virginia. In between the screaming and tears, however, we caught her here in a particularly pleasant mood.

The second video is from Salatiga, where we did out language study. Anna was a much calmer four years old. In this video she is reading a book to me at bedtime. Two things are funny watching the video now. First, while Anna missed the word “her” at one point, she had no problem with the phrase “beautiful arabesque.” Second, at the 1:18 point, you will hear Anna’s older brother, Sam, going into a very excited and high-pitched scream of “Scat, Cat!” I’m guessing that Sam had taken charge of the kitchen and was trying to keep our new cat outside.

The last video is from her memorial service. It is a montage of pictures set to two songs: Michael W. Smith’s “Anna” and Switchfoot’s “This is Home.” We used to listen to the cassette containing “Anna” in our car in Indonesia. Anna used to ask me to turn up the volume on “her” song.  Another song that we would listen to together, and that would cause her to lean up to me, was Phil Keaggy’s “Child (in Everyone’s Heart)”. Switchfoot became our favorite band while we were in Indonesia. We had most of their albums and for a long time, our car had a Switchfoot only music policy. Many of their songs would have been appropriate to remember Anna because it seems that Jon Foreman, the songwriter, has experienced significant loss of his own. “Amy’s Song” and “Yesterdays” deal specifically with losing a friend. Anna never heard the song “This is Home.” It was released in the days immediately after her death. But as soon as I heard it the first time, I knew that this was the right song to remember Anna with. Since then, Switchfoot has released two more albums and each one of them has its own “Anna” song. “Needle and Haystack Life” reminds me that Anna was unique, like finding a needle in a haystack, and that we need to hold on to such things while we can. And then “Souvenirs” on their most recent album speaks for itself.

I’m not sure about the truth of the saying, “Time heals all wounds.” Yes, in some ways. But some wounds leave behind scars that never go away, even with the best plastic surgery. Some wounds heal for a while, but the new skin is such that the wound keeps getting reopened from time to time. But while we may wish things were different, we must continue with what we have. Memories are sweet. They are painful as well. But these things only serve to remind us of the fellowship in the sufferings we share with Christ. Sin entered the world through Adam, and with it came death. But death was not the final statement to be made. With the curse of sin, God also pronounced his victory over death. So in time, God sent his son in form of man to die the death we deserved. God showed his great love for us in that he did this while we were still sinners. The righteous died for the unrighteous. His resurrection from the dead proved God’s final victory over death, and was a foreshadowing of the resurrection that we will all one day experience. But resurrection does not come without a prior death. So God’s victory over death on our behalf, does not eliminate the battle. It merely guarantees victory in that battle.

Anna knew these things. She loved Jesus more than life itself. She spoke often of her desire to be with her Lord. In the midst of the sad memories, it is a great comfort to know that Anna has, in part, what she wants. The part that is still incomplete we await along with her. We can still stand alongside Anna and cry out to the Lord, “How long, O Lord!” We await his return and final resurrection from the dead, when the dead in Christ will arise first and then we will be caught up together with her and the Lord. What a day that will be!