Rejoice in hope, endure in suffering, persist in prayer (Romans 12:12).
For those of you who do not know me personally, Aimee and I moved to Dallas, Texas in June of 2007 so that I could continue my study of God and the Bible at Dallas Theological Seminary. We are originally from Ohio, and nearly all of our family lives there; so, for such a tragedy to strike with family so far away really had the potential to cripple us with loneliness and no support structure.
Enter the Body of Christ. The days in which we are now living are tragic, depressing, confusing, and an onslaught of other things; however, God’s grace and love for us has been clearly expressed through the kindness and actions of the Body of Christ. From the moment we entered the hospital until now, thousands of people in California, Oregon, North Dakota, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and elsewhere have been praying for us. We have received cards and even handwritten letters from folks we have never met. Gift cards, money, Gideon Bibles in memory of Hadlee and Jaxon, flowers, fruit baskets, food, and much more have arrived at our doorstep from hearts that have sought to minister to us and aid in our comfort and healing.
There are several communities for whom I must publicly praise God. The first is Scofield Memorial Church in Dallas, TX. Aimee and I have served in the Student Ministry at Scofield since September of 2007. We have always felt loved and supported by the people of Scofield, but the way in which they have loved us in these recent, tragic days has been the clearest expression of gospel living I have ever witnessed or experienced.During days when we did not want to be alone, they laid down their lives to mourn and be with us. They came and sat next to us in the hospital and wept with us. I never had to leave my wife’s side because someone always brought me a meal. We didn’t have to worry about picking up Aimee’s parents from the airport because someone in the church already had it covered. I didn’t have to go through the pain and agony of finishing the painting I had already started in the room we had designated for Hadlee and Jaxon’s nursery because a group of men decided to finish it for me. I didn’t have to worry about feeding our cat because a brother took care of it for me. We didn’t have to tirelessly and emotionally search all of Dallas for a funeral home and cemetery to rest Hadlee and Jaxon bodies because our head Pastor had taken care of the detail for us. We weren’t strapped with the financial burden of burying our little ones because the people of Scofield took care of that for us. We don’t have to worry about food for two months because the families of Scofield are providing food for us.
I could go on. Not only has Scofield ministered to us, but also they have ministered to our family because they have witnessed first hand their love for us. I give thanks to God for our church family and that he has given his Spirit to the Church to comfort and care for the weak and wounded. Jesus’ Body has wrapped us up in his embrace.
The Seminary community at DTS has also demonstrated kindness toward us. The campus continues to pray for us, and the faculty and staff have been kind, generous and actively involved in our story. Chaplain Bill visited us and comforted us by participating in Hadlee and Jaxon’s funeral service. Dr. Daniel B. Wallace visited with us, attended the funeral service, and has been a constant encouragement. Dr. Gordon Johnston has ministered to me through conversation, attending Hadlee and Jaxon’s memorial, and messages through email. Dr. James Allman and Dr. Mike Svigel has comforted us as well. The students have embraced me on campus. There are five special men on campus who responded to a late night request. I will never forget their kindness toward me and how they laid down their lives so that a friend would have someone to talk to. Rob, Mike, Matt, Sten, and Ryan – thank you.
Two other communities that have ministered to us are the NNICU unit at Parkland Memorial Hospital and Shawnee Hills Baptist Church in Jamestown, OH. Aimee’s friends in the NNICU at Parkland have poured out their sympathy and love toward us. Thank you all for your frequent visits, your love for my wife, and your many gifts. SHBC used their benevolence fund to fly Pastor Jim Riggle in to conduct Hadlee and Jaxon’s memorial service. Pastor Jim did our pre-marital counseling and joined us in marriage before God. He has been a faithful guide and counselor ever since. Pastor Jim sat and counseled with for more than two hours the night before the memorial service. The Spirit of God was able to use him to draw out many of our questions, fears, insecurities, and to encourage us to “think all of our thoughts, feel all of our feelings, and walk by faith.” Thank you Pastor.
Each post has (and will) begin with Romans 12:12. In the next post, I’ll talk more about these words and address my hope for Aimee and me and for Hadlee and Jaxon. Ryan, you gave me these words at a crucial time when I was falling and reaching frantically for something to hold on to. You have been the dearest of friends to me. I am so thankful for you and the work of the gospel in your life. May God continue to bless our partnership in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen.