Thursday, August 20, 2009

My Mother's Going Home to Be With Jesus

Well, I got the phone call today that my mother passed on into eternity to be with Jesus. Naturally, it's difficult, especially living overseas and having just lost my father seven months ago. Of course, we love her and will miss her. But her suffering is all over now, and that relieves us. She had been suffering so much in recent days.

I had visited with her in June for almost two weeks, and the Lord had temporarily restored her health in answer to prayer, which enabled me to enjoy the time together with her. We talked and prayed together and I read Scriptures to her, including Revelation 21, where heaven is described. This really encouraged her. Some of the verses we read included the following:

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.' And He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' And He said, 'Write, for these words are faithful and true.' " (Rev 21:1-5)

We talked about the fact that she had committed her life to Jesus and was trusting in Him alone for her salvation, and she was ready to meet Him. She was not trusting in her own good works or in her religion to save her, but in her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. She believed the Word of God where it is written, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." (Eph 2:8). I asked her, "Mom, what do you want the Lord to do for you." She said, "Whatever He wants. If He wants to keep me here longer, I'm ok with that. And if He wants to take me, that's fine, too. I'm ready."

About ten days ago, I spoke with her on the phone and read Psalm 23 and Revelation 21 to her once again. She was especially encouraged at the thought of her eternal home in heaven. It was during one such call with her this month that I told her I released her to the Lord. I wanted her to know that I was not holding her back from going to be with Him.

Last night we had the chance to do a video phone call with her. Unfortunately she had become unresponsive for the past couple days, and was languishing between life and death in her bed at home. She was unable to eat food or drink water any more and could not open her eyes or speak. But we encouraged her, prayed for her, and the children sang some worship songs during the call to lift her spirit.

Later on after the video call, I called a dear elderly friend of mine named Mel, who has been used mightily by God over the course of his life. He has traveled around the world, preaching the gospel, healing the sick, and setting captives free. He's got a great sense of humor and always tells me how many years he has left until he turns 114. When I told him about my mother, he remembered visiting her and my father a few years ago and praying with them both. So he agreed to pay her a visit.

At my mother's home last evening, Mel anointed her with oil and prayed. His prayer was that as the anointing oil ran down Aaron’s beard and over his shoulders, that the healing power of the Holy Spirit would run from the top of her head to the soles of her feet. He then asked for the Lord to bless her with a foretaste of heaven by letting her experience the Shekinah glory of the Lord in her body at that very moment. He said he felt the presence of the Lord so powerfully as he prayed for her.

This morning, she was in her home laying in bed with her family around her. The last time she had opened her eyes a few days ago, they were all jaundiced and could not focus on anyone, but would just roll back and look at the wall while people spoke to her. Her eye lids would only open partially and her eyes looked like they were just swimming in pools of water. My family members were all praying for her this morning, reading Scriptures to her, and releasing her to the Lord. Each one told her they loved her, assured her that she was free to go be with Jesus now, and that they would be all right.

At one point while they were encircled around her bed on their knees praying, Mom opened her eyes for the first time in days and looked right at my sister who was praying. But now she had crystal clear, blue eyes with no signs of sickness in them, and her gaze was focused right on my sister’s face. She was looking right at my sister with healthy, sparkling eyes that were wide open, and a beautiful, peaceful look on her face. The look on her face was one of immense thankfulness that she was ready to meet the Lord and was now going to be with him. This moment lasted about a minute or two. Then she released her grip on my sister’s hand and her eyes closed as she left her body and went to be with Jesus.

We know that at that moment, her spirit came up out of her body and was escorted by God's holy angels into His presence in heaven. What a glorious homecoming she is having now! "To be absent from the body" is to be "present with the Lord." (2 Cor 5:8)

I'm reminded of a dream my daughter had three months ago. In her dream she saw my mother and father in heaven. Their hair was brown and they did not look old. They were wearing white robes and silver belts. And we know that the beautiful, healthy blue eyes my family saw this morning were a glimpse of the complete health she is now enjoying in heaven. For her, there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain.

"For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." (2Co 5:1)

You're invited to read her online obituary, where you will have the opportunity to sign the guest book. Your comments here on this blog post are also welcome.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Letting Go of Someone You Love

I went to the funeral for a dear man named Janos (pronounced YA-nosh) today. This was the usher at our church who was so full of joy and who died of a terrible cancer a couple weeks ago.

When we first came to this church, Janos was the usher who greeted us at the entrance with his great big smile and hugged us. He made us feel welcome there, even though we knew nobody. He escorted us to the seats in front that were reserved for English-speaking people who need translators. And he made sure we each got a headset to hear the translator during the service, so we could understand everything that was going on. Whenever there was a technical problem with the headsets, he would come right over without delay to help correct it, so we would not miss anything that was being said. Even though he didn’t speak English, Jennifer and I felt his love and joy, and it seemed like we got to know him in spite of our inability to communicate with him very well.

I had talked with one of the pastors about Janos right after he died a couple weeks ago. He told me that when Janos first discovered he was ill, he did not yet know how serious it was. He went to the weekly prayer meeting and he told the people there that he was ill. But he said that even if he were to die that very day, he felt like he had served the purposes of God for his life on earth and had fulfilled his mission. I recall that he also got up in church one Sunday, which was the last Sunday he was able to attend church. He went up front and with joy he testified for the Lord. He said that he had been given the opportunity to be a witness for Jesus during his lifetime. At work, he would smile and say hello to people, asking how they were doing. He said they would stop and tell him about the things that were bothering them. He would do this each time he saw them. After this happened two or three times, people would inevitably ask him why it was that they felt they could talk to him so freely when they were unable to do this with anyone else. He would explain to them that he is no different from them. They too could have this joy and peace in their hearts if they would give their life to Jesus as he had done. He said that through him the Lord had brought many members of his family to the saving knowledge of Jesus.

At the funeral, I talked with Ibolya (pronounced EE-bo-ya) about him at length. She told me the story from her perspective. In March when Janos became ill, he did not yet know how serious it was. He did not know what was wrong with him. He was only 45 years old and there was no reason to believe this illness was terminal. But Ibolya, who is a cardiologist, said she has been trained in the university to spot signs on a person’s face when they are close to dying. One day soon after he first became ill, she was standing by him while he was doing something and she noticed these signs on his face. She said she was thinking to herself that Janos was close to dying, but she didn’t say a word. Yet he turned to her and said, “Why do you think that I will die soon?” She was amazed that he knew exactly what she was pondering in her heart and they discussed it. She said, I am not saying that you will die right away, and she tried to encourage him.

He went to the doctor in March and a lump was discovered inside his abdomen. She said the doctor was negligent and scheduled the next appointment for Janos two months out in May! She had to get involved herself and helped to get him into chemotherapy, but it was too late. The disease was too far progressed and the medical professionals sent him home with no treatment plan or hope of living.

The church prayed earnestly for him over the past five months. There were many different prayer meetings at the church and in the homes, as well as people visiting Janos at his home to pray for him.

One Sunday evening very recently, Ibolya and her husband Laci (pronounced LOT-see) had been away on holiday about 200 km from Budapest, when Janos' mother called them on their mobile. The mother who is an old Christian said that she finally came to the point where she had released her son to the Lord and that he was very close to death. She was very concerned that Laci as his pastor and his wife, Ibolya should go to see him right away to pray and release him to the Lord.

So she and Laci made the trip into Budapest and visited Janos two days later on Tuesday evening in his home and talked with him. One of the questions they asked him was whether he was ready to go. He said he had been battling with terrible nightmares at night that he would go to hell. So they encouraged him that he knows Jesus and when he dies he will go to Jesus in heaven, not to the devil in hell.

After this they told him out loud from their hearts that they release him to the Lord. This is not something they did lightly, as they have known and loved Janos for many years and he was very dear to their hearts. After they released him, he said with complete peace and assurance, “I go. Hallelujiah!” And he smiled. Then they took communion together with Janos. The next morning he died and went to be with the Lord.

It is essential that we release our loved ones when it is their time to go and they are ready to meet the Lord, in order to help them die. Often times when one or more family members cannot seem to let go of their terminally ill or dying loved one, they prolong the person’s death needlessly. By not letting go of them, they can keep the person around languishing in a state of suffering, and it is so much harder on everyone. Ibolya has seen this time and again and she says it is necessary for the loved ones to say out loud from their heart to the dying person, “I release you (to the Lord Jesus).”

I told Ibolya about a lady named Merle at the nursing home across the hall from my mother, who was laying unconscious in her bed, languishing near death. I knew of her situation, but had not had the opportunity to visit her. My mother had also told me that the family of this woman had given orders to the nursing facility that nobody was allowed to visit with this lady except for family members. They did not want anyone seeing her in this terrible condition.

One day when I went to see my mother, she was not there, as they had taken her down for x-rays. So seeing that Merle across the hall was alone in her room, I asked the nurse at the nurse’s station if I could pay her a visit. They told me to go ahead right in. I went in and saw that she was laying there unresponsive, unable to communicate, her lungs making a terrible gurgling sound that showed they were filled with fluid. But knowing that she could still hear me, I spoke to her like I would speak to any person who is able to communicate.

I greeted her by name and introduced myself. Then I went on to share Jesus with her in a very loving way. Afterward, I led her in a prayer of repentance to ask forgiveness for her sins and invite Jesus into her heart. Although she couldn’t pray out loud, I encouraged her to simply repeat the prayer after me to God sincerely in her heart. As I shared and as we prayed together, I felt the sweet presence of the Lord in such a powerful and tangible way. It was awesome! Once we finished praying, I congratulated her and told her she was now ready to meet the Lord. I said, “You don’t need to be afraid anymore. You are ready to meet your Maker. When you die, you will go straight to heaven to be with Jesus forever.” I then told her she could release herself and let go, because it was going to be truly wonderful in heaven.

The next day, when I returned to the nursing home to visit my mother, the nurse on duty stopped me and thanked me sincerely for visiting Merle the previous day. She said, “Less than ten minutes after you left yesterday, she expired.” Once again, I felt the sweet presence of the Lord upon me at that moment. I knew in my heart that God had been keeping this woman alive on earth for that very short visit which I had with her. In His mercy, He wanted to give her the opportunity to get her heart right with him and establish a personal relationship with Jesus Christ His Son. God allowed circumstances to be such that my mother was not there and this woman was available with no family members visiting. It was a divine appointment, and once she released herself to the Lord, she passed from this life into eternity.

After Janos' funeral today, I went to the luncheon reception at the church. I spent time talking with David, the son of the deceased man. David, who is about 18 years old, told me about the days just before Janos died. His father’s disease had progressed rapidly, and his belly swelled to a great size, making it very difficult for him to breath or to speak.

David said he has some bad memories from this period. I don’t know why. Perhaps because of the terrible pain and suffering Janos was in and because of the nightmares of hell his father had. But David said he had many good memories as well. He spent time digging out old pictures of his Dad when he was younger and still healthy.

On the night before Janos died, David heard him praying in different languages, which Janos had never learned, such as Japanese, Italian, etc. He was praying in other different languages, as well, which David couldn't understand. Sometimes Janos would stop praying. Then he would wait, and answer in his native Hungarian "Yes, Lord. You're right. I'm sorry. Hallelujiah." David said this was the first time he had ever heard anyone do this, and it was one of the greatest things he had ever witnessed in his life.

On that same night, as David lay on his own bed, he had a dream, which was not a dream at all. It was so real that it was actually a vision. In the vision, his father lay on David’s bed and said, “Tomorrow I go to be with Jesus.” In the vision, his father Janos was perfectly healthy. His body was whole, not all swollen with cancer in his belly like he really was in the next room. And the next day his father died.

He said he loves his father very much. And when his father died, the first thing David did was get his guitar and worship the Lord. He sobbed and wept of course, but he worshiped the Lord, and the presence of the Lord was very real. He said he loves to worship with his guitar and whenever he does, the Lord always meets with him. He leads worship for the church youth group.

What a wonderful disciple of Jesus Janos was during his earthly life, and now he is with Jesus in heaven! He has left so much good fruit behind him here on earth. His son David is evidence of that. I'm sure he will hear the Lord say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.