Asleep in Christ Jesus
Some of you may remember Amparo. She was a faithful member of La Zona House of Prayer and one of the first baptized members. She would often share her testimony. Twelve years ago, she asked Elsa why she went to church on Saturday. Elsa turned the pages in her Bible to Exodus 20 and read the Ten Commandments to her. She would never forget that, because God had spoken to her heart and told her she needed to obey those commandments in order to be His true follower.
Amparo was a servant in her community, always loving and helpful. We would often see her going up and down the road visiting her children and family members. About a year ago, Amparo was diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB). She began taking the doctor recommended medications which caused terrible side effects. She asked if we had something natural to give her that would heal her of the TB. I started her on a mineral solution, which she took for about two weeks before returning to get retested. Amazingly, her lab tests were negative, and she was told that she was free of tuberculosis. Feeling healthy again, Amparo stopped taking the natural mineral solution. Not long after, we all began to notice that she was losing more and more weight. Being the cheerful person that she was, she never complained. We were all concerned for her, but she insisted that she felt good. Months went by and Amparo became weaker and weaker, until she could no longer care for herself. Initially, family members took her in and took care of her. Soon after, Amparo lost her appetite, and began losing even more weight. She developed a productive cough again, which sent off signals in my mind. I advised the family to have her retested for TB. The tests came back negative, but she did have a lung infection. The hospital gave her a heavy dosage of antibiotics which was something she hated.
Once out of the hospital, she stayed with one of her daughters for a while, but then requested that she be brought to the clinic. She said, “If I’m to be healed it will be at the clinic, and if not, may God’s will be done.”
It was a joy having Amparo there with us. When she came to us, her skin was pale and grey, and she was too weak to walk by herself. After only a few days, Amparo was her happy cheerful self. She was taking daily walks, and her appetite was improving. I just knew she was on the road to recovery. She was doing so well, but suddenly, in just one day, she took an unexpected turn for the worse. She became very lethargic, and her speech was slow and slurred. She began asking to go home. This type of request is never a good sign when coming from an elderly person who has a serious illness. It’s natural for one to want to be in his or her own familiar surroundings, but in circumstances like this it usually means that the person has grown tired of fighting for life and is ready to die. They simply want to be in their own comfortable home when they do. We granted her request, of course, and took her home.
I was away in a nearby city when I got a call from Elsa, telling me that Amparo was unresponsive. Her last audible words were, “I will wait for the doctor.” I immediately caught a bus and began the two-hour bus ride back to Santa Barbara.
Arriving at Amparo’s small home, I noticed all of the family gathered there. Instinctively, I feared that she had passed away already, but then I remembered that it is customary for friends and family to gather at the home of the person who is expected to die. I do not particularly care for this custom, as it instills in the mind of the sick person all the more that they truly are going to die. As I maneuvered my way through the crowd, I saw Amparo, resting quietly in her bed. Her breaths were slow and labored. I knew her time was near. I knelt down beside her bed, took her hand in mine, and told her that I was there with her. I felt a slight squeeze of my hand, and Amparo took one last deep breath, and fell asleep in Christ Jesus.
It is always a sad and mournful time when one loses a loved one. But God says to rejoice. Rejoice! Because the person no longer has to fight the battle against evil. They no longer have to experience pain and suffering. Those who are righteous will sleep peacefully, until they hear the melodious voice of Jesus saying, “Awake, awake, awake, ye that sleep in the dust, arise.” Until that glorious day, God tells us that, “every sleeping saint will be kept in safety and will be guarded as a precious jewel, who is known to God by name.” Maranatha, 299, 300. God has promised never to leave us nor forsake us, even when we’ve fallen asleep in Him.
The funeral service for Amparo was beautiful. Family members from all over Honduras came to pay tribute to the head of the family. This was the first time many had ever been inside of a Seventh-day Adventist church. All were amazed at the solemnity and reverence inside of God’s house of prayer. They said they had never witnessed such a meaningful service. Afterwards, the entire family was invited up to the Outpost for Sabbath lunch. This, too, was something they all needed. It allowed them to have quiet fellowship with one another, in a quiet Christian environment.
Since this time, many of the family have continued to faithfully come to church every Sabbath. There is one family who is earnestly studying God’s word and hopes to take part in our next baptism! Praise God!
I believe this should be the goal at every funeral service: to minister and witness to the living, and to remind them that we will all come face to face with Jesus one day soon. The only question is: will we be ready to meet Him in the clouds? Oh, how God loves you and me.
“The plan of redemption will not be fully understood, even when the ransomed see as they are seen and know as they are known; but through the eternal ages new truth will continually unfold to the wondering and delighted mind. Though the griefs and pains and temptations of earth are ended and the cause removed, the people of God will ever have a distinct, intelligent knowledge of what their salvation has cost.” The Great Controversy, 651.
By Joe Willis of Maranatha Medical Ministries. Maranatha Medical Ministries, PO Box 390, Keysville, VA, 23947. www.maranathamedical.org.