Many friends have expressed an interest in our children, where they are, what they’re doing and how they’re coping with having lost their father. Today I opened 56 envelopes in a three week stack of mail accumulated while I was gone. I left the hand written envelopes till last, knowing they’d be best. Among them was one from our firstborn, Nelson.
It was a letter he’d written in February, just before leaving the country for six months. I knew the gist of it, but as I read it in my quiet cottage with twilight settling outside the sunroom windows, my heart nearly burst to realize anew what God had done in this son’s heart and life.
Nelson is a strong believer in Christ, spiritually mature, passionate about the Bible and full of wisdom, but he wasn’t always that way. As a teen he rebelled wildly, yanking Nate and I into police stations and court rooms with his antics and eventually running away from home. He made one bad choice after another over years of time, accumulating the related natural consequences. But somewhere along the way, Nelson heard God calling his name and made the decision to surrender his life and follow him, no matter what.
It hasn’t been easy, but he’s stuck like glue to that commitment, craving time with, and knowledge of God over everything else. As I wept with joy over this son in whose life God holds preeminence, I was encouraged to keep praying for those who are still resisting. Following Christ can be difficult for young men, because they are taught to lead. But as I’ve seen in Nelson, God rewards the surrendered. Please allow me to quote from Nelson’s letter, which will answer questions about how he’s doing:
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“On September 22, my Dad told me his back surgery would be delayed because the doctor found cancer in his pancreas. I raced to Michigan to be with him and Mom. For the next 42 days I watched my amazing family gather together and rally around my Dad as he clung to life on earth, and as he eventually let go to be with Jesus.
For November and December, I stayed in Michigan with Mom. We had dinner and a fire almost every night and spent lots of time talking about Papa while the rest of the ‘kids’ came and went on the weekends. During this time, I spent time praying about the next thing.
On my birthday I got an email from a Youth With A Mission (YWAM) friend who asked if I would consider working on staff with a Discipleship Training School (DTS) out of Oxford, New Zealand. Actually, she’d been asking for at least a year, but I always turned down the opportunity. This time she persisted. She told me they were short on male leaders and reminded me I had previous experience (1996-1998, leading teams to Japan, Korea, the Philippines and India). I had always hoped God would call me back at some point.
So I prayed and decided to get a second opinion from my ‘home’ church in Brentwood, TN. After gaining their support and that of my family, I agreed to go to New Zealand. My job on staff is a combination of being a facilitator, leading discussion groups, being the worship leader, planning outreach mission projects, supervising student work duties and accompanying the group as they travel across the world from New Zealand to Jerusalem where graduation will occur 8/20/10. This is the opportunity of a lifetime for these young people as they get to serve under several long-term missionaries and see the world in the process. Only God knows what vision and ministries might be birthed as we go.”
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When Nelson was praying into his decision in January and February, God regularly sent concrete nudges toward a “yes”. Nelson followed that leading and decided to go. Immediately afterwards, a most powerful confirmation message came from the grave, from his own father, in an unusual way.
Nate’s close friend Wayne visited four days before Nate died, flying up from Florida to do so. As they brought each other up to date on their children, Wayne took note of Nate’s words about each of ours. On February 11, just after Nelson had decided on missions, an email from Wayne popped into my inbox: ”The thing I remember most [in the details about the kids] was Nate’s prediction that Nelson would return to mission work, and how proud he was that he would do so.”
I forwarded this gratifying confirmation to Nelson (who was then helping a friend in Honolulu) and marveled at God’s amazing creativity. For Nelson to be cheered on by his father at this important life road-fork was a gift-wrapped package from the heavenly Father. (And thank you, Wayne!)
Who says life as a Christian is boring? Today it was so thrilling, I couldn’t even hold it in. It spilled out in tears of joy.