Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Christ Killer to Christ Follower

This past Sunday, I listened to a remarkable story. One I have heard before, but never grows old. Its the story of the journey of one man's life, of great love and great loss, and of redemption.

My friend Frank was asked to share his "testimony", as we church folk call it, at a meeting of our congregation. We should have all gone home as soon as he was done; nothing else we said or did or voted on afterward seemed to matter after we hear Frank's story.

Frank was born more than 80 years ago, and grew up in a Jewish family. The first time he ever heard of Christ was in Kindergarten, when one of the other kids called him a "Christ killer" on the playground.

Like my own father, Frank enlisted to serve in World War II, and right as the war ended, he married his bride of more than 60 years, Jane. They moved to Southern California and started their life together. Kids came along, and it was time to find a church. Jane came from a Christian family, and they ended up at our church. There, Frank heard the preaching of Ray Lindquist, and heard about Christ in a way he never had before. Soon, Frank found himself at a church retreat, listening to Major Ian Thomas. His life had become changed, permanently.

Frank went on to tell how, after the raising of his family, and being rewarded with success in business and life, along with many grandchildren, "everything seemed to fall apart" in the last couple of years. In the past several years, Frank and Jane have witnessed the death of their oldest daughter Jan, a wonderful wife and mother of a beautiful family of her own. She was too young to die, too full of life and hope and joy. It was brain cancer, and it was not pretty.

And then, at about the same time, Frank found out that he had ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease. There was nothing he could do about it. His body would continue to deteriorate, but his mind would remain completely alert. Just like Stehphen Hawking. Since then, Frank has spend a week in a coma, and in various hospitals for nearly six months. He is back at home now, enjoying mornings by his pool in his wheelchair. Thankful.

Frank spoke to us from his wheelchair, with his breathing controlled by a ventilator. He cannot move at all, and requires nearly constant assistance. And yet, he spoke to us of hope, and love, and God's care for he and his family.

I have always said, I want to be like Frank when I grow up. Thank you Frank, for your story, for your life, and for the joy you still radiate to everyone around you.

From great pain, great faith.
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