Thursday, April 27, 2006

Revelation at the Gates of Splendor

Reclining in my Lazy-Boy last night about 11 something, my late night reading was interrupted by a phone call from my 19 year old daughter that started off with the words "First, I'm OK." Now, if that doesn't get your adrenaline pumping, then you are either demised or not the parent of a 19 year old female.

Over the next few minutes her mother and I discovered that she was on her way to the Chapel at Taylor University in Indiana where she is a student. Her anguished voice told us that the students and staff were mustering there because word had just reached the campus of an horrific collision involving a semi-trailer and a Taylor University van. Students and staff returning from activities in Fort Wayne had been struck by a semi that crossed the median. Things weren't OK.

Four students and one staff member dead. Four others "life-flighted" to area hospitals.

Silence.

She was off to pray and comfort with others and would call us with more information when it came her way.

So we sat and waited. Then we thought to call our friends and family members who would likely worry if they saw this on the morning news. Then we sat, lost in our own thoughts. We thought of the parents of the four other students from our neighborhood that were at Taylor. We thought of the parents of four students who would be getting unexpected visits from the State Police that evening. We prayed. We anguished over the common pain of parents who suffer their children's passing, grateful that we were spared. And in quiet communion with God, I thought.

How horrible for those involved. What pain for the survivors. I prayed for those families as my heart ached for them. I examined what we could do to help. I prayed some more.

I thought, what of the truck driver? He survived - 27 years old, in serious condition physically, and who knows what condition he will be in emotionally when he has to come to terms with his involvement in a collision that killed five and injured others. Something else struck me - what condition is he in spiritually? I realized that this was a question that I would not normally ask, and that alerted me. God holds my thoughts, too. Pay attention, I thought, to the whisperings of God.

Alone and injured, in a hospital far from his home in Michigan. I thought about how he would feel, accused, blamed, guilty at having survived, and probably receiving the anger of others. Could he find comfort and healing in his knowledge of a just and loving God? And something else struck me.

I thought of Nate Saint and Jim Elliot, two of the five missionaries murdered by Auca Indians in Ecuador, as they worked to share the Gospel fifty years ago. We knew nothing of the story that started as "Through Gates of Splendor", but we know now something of how it turned out. The horrible murder of those five on a sandbar in the jungles of Ecuador was the key that unlocked the hearts of many of those isolated indians, including the hearts of the murderers themselves. The story continues, quite unlike it began, as Auca indians, having been touched by God through those five, reach out to others around them. Their world is changed, because five missionaries died on the sandbar in the jungle.

I thought about those students and staff member that died last night. This morning I was told that they all professed a relationship with God that made their lives different, and made an impact on those around them. Who could imagine a God that would use the deaths of those that love Him to change the life of someone, maybe an injured truck driver, that didn't know Him?

Fifty years ago, nobody could have imagined a savage, war-fighting tribe of Ecuadorian indians would be taking the love of an all-powerful God to other isolated tribes. Fifty years from now, I pray we look back on yesterday in the same amazement and wonder, as we realize what the deaths of these five saints have changed.

I know they have changed me.

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