11 December 2013

When tragic world news hits very close to home...

I’m sure by now you’ve heard or read about this...

And you may have even seen this amazing "History of Redemption...

As many are preparing to pay respects to his memory this coming weekend, my hope for this blog post is to add to the voices speaking out about him and to give additional honor to this ordinary yet remarkable man who exhibited the greatest love: “to lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13.

It is with great sadness...and still a distant sense of disbelief...that I share my account.

One of my first memories of Ronnie is lodged somewhere in my mind around Spring/Summer of 1997. (That was the darkest, most rebellious, undredeemed time of my life.) I arrived home from a long morning of classes at Wayne State University to find my brother Jason and Ronnie sitting at the kitchen table in the middle of an enormous pile of miscellaneous food items from Taco Bell.

“Can I have one of these?” I asked, famished from a long morning of studies, as I grabbed a burrito and began to unwrap it.

“No!” my brother snapped. “This stuff is ours!”

“You’re kidding, right?” I said in disbelief. “You have a mountain of food here and it’s just you two idiots. You’re not going to eat it all!”

“Yes we are! You can’t have it! Now give it back!!”

In a fit of sisterly rage, I hurled the burrito at my brother. It landed with a loud splat on the half-eaten Mexican pizza on the table in front of him.

From that point on, any time I started to lose my cool – and Ronnie was in the vicinity – he’d say, “What’re you gonna do? Throw a burrito?”

That was the Ronnie I knew. He was sarcastic and quick-witted. And treated me with just as much ungrateful snottiness as my own kid brother did.

But my story with Ronnie doesn’t end with one burrito flung in a fit of anger.

As that year began to wind down and the autumn leaves began to fall, I was involved in a car accident. That wreck got my attention and I began to evaluate where my life was headed, the poor decisions I had spent the past three years making – was continuing to make – and what I wanted my future to look like.

I was part of a group that travelled out of state that weekend in my friend’s Honda Civic to visit another friend away at school. Her car was totaled in the early morning hours of one of those days. None of us were injured. But for me, some deep soul searching began.  That following Wednesday – November 12th, 1997 – I decided to set foot into church again for the first time in who-knows-how-long.

Jason had left early to attend worship practice. My parents weren’t home. It was just me and my “trusty” 1994 Dodge Neon. Of course, the car wouldn’t start. So much for my plans of going to church that night!

Then the phone rang. 

It was Ronnie.

“Jason already left for church,” I told him.

“I know,” he replied. “I’m calling for you. Do you need a ride to church? I feel like God wants me to drive you tonight.”

He picked me up. We drove to church.

I made the best decision of my life that night. I dedicated my life to serving Christ. And I’ve never looked back.

Ronnie continued to be a part my life on a regular basis for the years to come – integrally entwined in the fabric of my family – my brother’s best friend, my brother-in-law’s best friend, lifelong friend of my sister-in-law. We watched him grow up and develop into leadership roles in our church. We watched him graduate from college and get married to the lovely Anita.

In the mid-2000s he and Anita moved to Texas. He kept in touch with the family regarding the incredible things he was involved in.

A couple of years ago, he moved to Egypt – and eventually Libya --  to answer the clear direction of the Lord – to reach those who don’t know Christ. Just as he had done so obediently for me a decade earlier.

About a month ago, I shared the details of that Wednesday in 1997 with my husband for the very first time for no reason other than it came to my mind. It seemed like an insignificant detail of my “salvation story.”

And then Thursday, December 5, 2013 brought devastating news of “an American teacher murdered in Benghazi.” Just another news story to so many people.  The reports said he was a “chemistry teacher at an international school.” But we knew he was so much more. He was a missionary. And now a martyr.

His life has touched and changed so many others. And while his death hurts and grieves each and every one of those who loved him, we know that he heard the words “Well done, good and faithful servant”  (Matthew 25:21) from the One he loved, obeyed and followed.

Until we meet again...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So powerful Jaime, thank you for sharing. His life touched so many!