Anniversaries are upon us. Today marks the fifteenth year since Anna was born into this world. April 11 will mark the day that she and Samuel were baptized in Salatiga ten years ago. May 7, of course, marks the day six years ago that she died. Tucked in the middle of all this is the day that we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and that annual reminder that this world is not our home. Anna’s death is not final in any way since she was baptized into death with Christ and was raised with him in his resurrection. She, along with the rest of us here and the rest of the dead saints, awaits the coming of our Lord, at which time the final resurrection will occur and her body–now lifeless ash–will be raised again. What a wonderful day that will be!
These anniversaries that we have every year accompany another related anniversary this year. It was ten years ago that four missionaries were killed by terrorist gunfire in Iraq. One of the four was a young woman named Karen Watson. We had the joy of knowing Karen at our missionary orientation before leaving for Indonesia. She was training for her time in Iraq. That was in Janueary 2003. One evening at orientation, Timberley and I had an opportunity to go out together, and Karen watched Sam and Anna for us while we were out. The kids, almost four and six at the time, probably did not remember much about it. But they did remember a little more than one year later when we heard the news that Karen had been killed in Iraq. The news was a shock and a rude awakening for us that the world around us is a dangerous place. But alongside that thought was the realization that Karen would not have wanted it any other way. You don’t go to Iraq in 2003–we invaded March of that year–without saying goodbye to this world first.
It was a few years after that that we went through the long ordeal of waiting for news about another woman in similar circumstances. Cyd Mizell was a close friend of Timberley and sang in our wedding. But while we were in Indonesia we heard news that she had been kidnapped while working in Afghanistan. Months went by without news until finally the authorities announced that they had enough credible evidence to say that Cyd had been murdered. Her body was never recovered as far as I know. When Cyd died, Anna was definitely aware of the situation and prayed through it with her mother. Again, Cyd would not have wanted things differently. You didn’t go to Afghanistan in 2007 without saying goodbye to your world first.
I say these things not to drudge up bad memories, but to remind myself that Anna understood tragedy. She knew about life and death. She had matured far beyond her nine years. I believe that she could in some sense identify with Karen and Cyd and was able to say with Paul that “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” That was a bargain that she knew she could live or die with and be content.
I pray that as we pass through this season and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, that you come to know the same peace and contentment that Anna had with Jesus.