воскресенье, 3 марта 2013 г.

My First Ebenezer

By Amanda Arbia

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far the LORD has helped us."
~1 Samuel 7:12

There are moments in my life that I remember with perfect clarity: the moment my boyfriend proposed, holding the ring out in the front seat of his Trans Am; the snowy afternoon I pulled a letter out of the mailbox and viewed my acceptance into my first-choice college; and that snowless, dreary February day when I reached the first real turning point in my faith.

February 12, 2000 was an unseasonably warm Saturday in the suburbs of Chicago. I sat on the couch, probably doodling as I was wont to do. The phone rang. I looked out the window to the sleepy neighborhood. The grass was brown, with the snow long melted but spring still far off. I suspected I knew who was calling. Then Dad came in and told me in a mercifully direct way that Tim had died. I let him wrap me in a hug while I cried, my tears dampening his shoulder.

Later, upstairs in my bedroom, I turned on my late-nineties Christian music and leaned against my tall dresser, allowing myself to mourn. I opened up my journal — a spiral-bound notebook that still bore the colorful traces of girlhood — and wrote what had happened. My mascara-tinted tears stained the page.

In May 1998, I was about to graduate from the eighth grade, leaving the friends with whom I'd spent nine years of my life. I was to enroll in a new high school, full of beautiful, tall, blond, images of near-perfection — and I didn't know a soul. As if that weren't frightening enough for a fourteen-year-old, my parents had dropped a bomb on me: We were leaving the church in which I'd grown up. This was the church where I'd met my closest friends, been involved in a children's group for years, and created countless memories. We were leaving, and I didn't understand. My whole world capsized, and to a fourteen-year-old, this was unbearable.

We started church hunting one Sunday, beginning at a local church... and we never left. Immediately, I was welcomed into the youth group. Smiles, laughter, warmth — they showed me the love of Christ. This youth group and its leader ignited something in me that would change the rest of my life. Tim Yetter was a young grad from the Moody Bible Institute with a wacky sense of humor and a deep love for the Lord. I'd never seen someone so young be so on fire for the Lord. He inspired the whole youth group to be "fully devoted followers of Christ." The lessons I learned as I entered high school were the building blocks of my true faith, and little did I expect that I would soon need to rest on those blocks when the storm came.

One day, we sat on sweltering, peeling vinyl seats in a bus that was falling apart. We were at a youth retreat in Minnesota, and Tim mentioned some fleeting health concerns. We made fun of him, put Anbesol in his fake Billy Bob buckteeth to make his mouth go numb, and forgot about it on the eight-hour ride home in an un-air-conditioned bus. But just a couple of months later, he was yellow — jaundiced because of a rare liver disease. By winter, we knew he had liver cancer. He was twenty-seven. His ministry was thriving. How could this be happening?

His name went on the transplant list. One night around Christmas, youth group was canceled because Tim was on his way to potentially get a transplant. We gathered anyway in the sanctuary that was lit with twinkling Christmas candles. We prayed and we sang. We made the choice to trust God rather than blame Him.

The transplant didn't pan out. A month or so later, we had an all-night church lock-in. Tim fed us words we'd heard him say before: "'He must become greater; I must become less'" (John 3:30). He was weak, yellow, dying. But words of praise, not words of pain were coming from his mouth. Two weeks later came the day that Tim's faith became sight, and he went to be with Jesus.

And that's where you meet that girl, crying in her room on a dreary February day. I say "that girl" because I am no longer "that girl." Through my tears, I knew I had a decision to make: I could choose to not trust this God who had allowed something so terrible to happen to such a wonderful leader and teacher... or I could choose to trust that this God was sovereign and good, with a purpose so beyond me that I could not understand. And here I raise my Ebenezer: I trusted Him. And that test of my faith grew me more than I could ever have imagined because I (and the rest of the youth group) was forced to depend on the Lord, and trust and hope that good would come from this painful situation.

It wasn't easy. I remember going to bed each night, fighting tears and praying that God would make me not miss Tim as much the next day, that it would hurt a little less. I thought I'd never heal. But I did. Years passed, and the series of events that have played out in my life are sovereignly connected to Tim's impact on my life. I attended Moody Bible Institute, which forever changed my relationship with the Lord. That education led me to move to Florida where I now have my own ministry to young girls whom I teach to be fully devoted followers of Christ.

I pray that as you read this, you will think about your spiritual legacy. I pray that you will remember that God is sovereign and good. And I pray that you will strive to be a fully devoted follower of Christ, as Tim so wanted us to be.

And God, the next time you see him, please tell Tim "thanks" for me, and let him know that "I'm keeping the main thing the main thing."

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