Saturday, March 10, 2012

This is why...

Tragedy changes everything.  Time both slows and speeds up.  Senses are heightened.  Emotions raw.  There is a surreal quality to life.  Is this really happening?  What did happen?  And finally, after reality sets in, "What now?"

This past week has gone from one extreme to another.  It started last Wednesday evening while the Atlanta team was still here.  I was in the dining room talking to Bill Sleeper when a pale David suddenly arrived.   The toddler boys room had a fire at The Childen's Home. He and John McKinnon took off to buy lots of flashlights (they had turned all the electricity off at SBV) and race to SBV to help.  Was this really happening?

Less than a week later, Wheeler died. Despite his time in hospice I was not prepared.  He was back in rehab already starting physical therapy and suddenly, he died.  How did that happen?  Being here in Honduras, I still find myself puzzling over whether to call him for our morning devotionals.

I have spent a large part of the past week in tears beginning with the night of the fire.  At first there were tears of fear.  How bad was the fire?  And all the "what ifs" which truly terrify me.  When we arrived there the next morning, there were tears of horror as we were confronted with the reality of the fire.  Then less than a week later, of course, tears of grief.

Soon, however, the tears turned to those of relief and thanksgiving.  1 Peter 3:15 says:
"But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."  In the midst of tragedy, with Christ in our hearts, we have reason to hope and be thankful.

Let's start with Wheeler.  After several bouts with pneumonia, he decided it was time to stop fighting.  He checked himself into hospice.  For two weeks people from all over the Southeast and Honduras called and visited him to say goodbye.   He actually flunked hospice and was "expelled."  I figure Wheeler tried to "CEO" his own passing and God had other plans!  Then he spent a week at a long term care facility before insisting on returning to rehab.  3 days later he went home to the Lord.  So many of us are exceedingly thankful that we had the opportunity to chat, reminisce, and tell him how much we love him, how much he meant to us.  Of course, that was only when we could get a word in edgewise as he told us how much he loved us, how much we meant to him, how much he thought of us.

At the El Cordero school devotional the morning of his death, the school director, Jackie, asked the children how many of them remembered Wheeler.  All but the tiniest hands shot up! In the afternoon, at the Chapel, David led us all in prayers for Wheeler.  And we all celebrated his glorious life -- a gift of grace to countless people, especially me.
Remembering Wheeler
Praying at the school
David leading prayers for Wheeler

Back to the fire...From the very start it was clear that the Risen Lord was protecting the children and providing the help and succor for all.   Gracias Dios. He continued to provide through the First Scot's Presbyterian team who arrived as the Atlanta team left.  I think there was a handing off of paint rollers in the airport!  First Scot's got to work immediately, picking up where Atlanta left off.  Of course, it isn't just the US team...they worked seamlessly with the Honduran team.  It amazed everyone how much they got accomplished all the while playing, loving, and comforting the children.  Was that only one week?  It isn't that alot of work was done, it was the way the work was done -- tirelessly, selflessly, joyfully in the name of Jesus for the children.
Mario, Construction Supervisor, always calm, smiling and very talented
Taking time to play!
Installing smoke detectors
Cleaning tar from the roof off the wall
New fire extinguishers in every cottage
Installing additional emergency exit in each cottage
Jose Santos who rescued all the children from the burning room
Recognizing the staff for their help that night

Most important of all...
All better!
So this is why I have hope...the Lord can and does redeem any and everything.  We are better people because Wheeler was in our lives, we are stronger, safer and closer to one another after getting through the fire and our faith continues to burn fiercely in our hearts.  That's a fire I can live with!