Breaking Free

College Church member Dan Haase writes about death and resurrction this Good Friday. (Dan first posted this on his blog, Gathering Wonder.)

Twenty-five years ago today my mother died.  "36 years young," as my father wrote in her obituary. It happened on Easter Sunday that year, or better stated: Resurrection Sunday.  

through broken soil

what was not there yesterday 


Earlier this week, I came across the following simple and yet profound illustration provided by Henri Nouwen in his book, Our Greatest Gift: A Meditation on Dying and Caring.

Recently, a friend told me a story about twins talking to each other in the womb. The sister said to the brother, "I believe there is life after birth." Her brother protested vehemently, "No, no, this is all there is. This is a dark and cozy place, and we have nothing else to do but to cling to the cord that feeds us." The little girl insisted, "There must be something more than this dark place. There must be something else, a place with light where there is freedom to move." Still she could not convince her twin brother. After some silence, the sister said hesitantly, "I have something else to say, and I am afraid you won't believe that, either, but I think there is a mother." Her brother became furious. "A mother!" he shouted. "What are you talking about? I have never seen a mother, and neither have you. What put that idea in your head? As I told you, this place is all we have. Why do you always want more? This is not such a bad place, after all. We have all we need, so let's be content." The sister was quite overwhelmed by her brother's response and for a while didn't dare to say anything more. But she couldn't let go of her thoughts, and since she had only her twin brother to speak to, she finally said, "Don't you feel these squeezes every once in a while? They're quite unpleasant and sometimes even painful." "Yes," he answered. "What's special about that?" "Well," the sister said, "I think that these squeezes are there to get us ready for another place, much more beautiful than this, where we will see our mother face-to-face. Don't you think that is exciting?" The brother didn't answer. He was fed up with the foolish talk of his sister and felt that the best thing would be simply to ignore her and hope that she would leave him alone.

open palms ⎯ 

in the dark before dawn 


I have found a difference between being grateful for something and being grateful in something. My mother's death was a great pain in my life and even these many years later it looms large as a backdrop to my play. There is no gratitude for her loss. However, I have learned to be grateful in the loss and that has made all the difference. My mother gave me two of my greatest gifts: first, she gave me life; second, she gave me her death. Both of these together have caused the last quarter century to be full with meaning.  

sunrise ⎯ 

in the garden 

on my knees 

Psalm 116


The Gospel Takes Off at Midway

Have you ever wondered what exactly an airport chaplain does? If he's a Christian, can he preach the gospel? What kind of ministry does an airport chaplain have beyond the scheduled services.

Meet Midway Airport's chaplain--and College Church evangelist--Tom Johnston to find out the answers.

This video was brought to you by the Evangelism Committee of College Church.

Providential Arrangement

Twenty years ago this month, Barbara Hughes, wife of our former Senior Pastor Kent Hughes, nearly died after a common surgical procedure went awry. Here is their story of God’s providence. Kent first told this story in a Sunday morning sermon in the Book of Luke, “Providential Arrangement.”

One Tuesday morning I checked my wife, Barbara, into a hospital for a common surgical procedure, then sat in the lobby to wait. As I was reading a Chicago Tribune, I was cheerfully greeted by Susie Luchs, who became a friend of my wife’s niece when they had worked together several years earlier in the hospital’s lab. We chatted for a few minutes, and Susie said she would drop by Barbara’s room the next day for a visit.

I did not know then that Susie had gotten up that morning feeling angry and abandoned by God because of constant pain associated with an infertility problem. I also did not know that she normally did not come to the area where I was sitting in the hospital that morning, but had done so to use a nearby ATM.

At 10:00 a.m., the surgeon met with my oldest daughter, Holly, and me and cheerfully told us that everything was fine. Barbara would be in recovery for an hour and a half, and then we could see her. I decided to go home and do a few chores, and we agreed to see Barbara together later. But when I returned, I was met by my worried daughter who informed me they had taken my wife back to surgery, which would take about “fifteen minutes.” Those “fifteen minutes” became another five anxious hours. (All told, I did not see my wife for ten and a half hours.) When the surgeons finally met with us, they told us an artery had been nicked during the original surgery and my wife had lost a liter and a half of blood. In fact she had almost died during surgery.

Thus began a very long, dark night. As the nurses repeatedly changed the dressings it became increasingly apparent that her bleeding was not stopping, and consequently she kept getting weaker. At 1:30 a.m. the next morning I called Susan Fullerton, my associate pastor’s wife, for prayer. I got more than I asked for when the entire church staff arrived within the hour along with several of our friends. They stayed and prayed with us for several hours.

Nevertheless, Barbara continued to decline. Her hemoglobin, which was 14 when she began surgery, hit 4.9. She was without almost two-thirds of her body’s blood. Her heart was racing at about 140 beats per minute in an attempt to keep what little blood she had circulating. And she kept bleeding.

A hematologist was called in and also a kidney specialist. As Barbara, surrounded by busy attendants, was being moved to ICU, Susie Luchs came in with some magazines for Barbara. Realizing she had walked in on a family crisis, she felt like she should not be there. But before leaving she heard Pastor Larry Fullerton tell Barbara’s brother and his wife, “You need to encourage her. She thinks she’s going to die—something about her blood not clotting.”

Susie suddenly remembered doing a blood test years ago on Barbara’s niece and showing the results to a hematologist who then warned the niece that if she ever suffered trauma such as a car accident, she could bleed to death due to a rare blood disorder she had. So Susie now ran to the lab, switched on her computer, called up Barbara’s niece’s records, compared them with Barbara’s workup, and found the same pathology that her niece had had. Susie contacted the doctor, who called the hematologist with the remedy—cryoprecipitate. As soon as the cure began to be administered, the hemorrhage began to slow down.

Later that afternoon Susie visited ICU, and when Barbara saw her, Barbara mumbled to the nurse, “Do you know who this is? This is the girl who saved my life! Do you know what happened?”

“Didn’t somebody accidentally stumble across something?”

“Accidentally?” my wife protested and fell back asleep.

Not only had God done something marvelous for my wife and our family but for Susie, reminding her that he is in charge of life’s complexities. If God could help Barbara, he could also take care of her fertility problems. She could trust him to do the right thing.

But this story is not about Barbara Hughes or Susie Luchs—it is a story about God. What happened to my wife and to Susie Luchs is an empirically verifiable miracle of divine providence. Thank about it:

  • Years ago two bored young lab technicians ran tests on each other, and one learned that the other had a rare clotting disorder. The one with the disorder is my wife’s niece, who now lives on the East Coast.
  • On the day of Barbara’s surgery, the other technician, Susie Luchs, decided to go to a part of the hospital she does not normally go to, saw me, and we discussed Barbara.
  • Susie wanted to see Barbara the next day, but was too to go to her room until her lunch break. Thus Susie arrived at just the right time to hear a revealing conversation about Barbara’s blood not clotting properly.
  • Susie remembered those tests from years before, thus coming up with the missing key for my wife’s recovery.

Susie saved my wife’s life, and she may have saved some of my family’s life in the future, because later tests revealed that Barbara’s brother and our daughter Heather have the same genetic disorder.

But was it Susie who saved Barbara? No. God did! (And if he had chosen not to do so, he would have been just as loving and just as good.)

How awesome God is. He is to be praised above all else. He is adequate in life and death. We can trust God and his glorious providence.

Reprinted with permission from the author, R. Kent Hughes, Luke Volume One: That You May Know the Truth, ©1998 by R. Kent Hughes. Published by Crossway Books.

Alive in Him, Our Living Head

Tucked away in our church's history is a College Church pastor's personal story of grief and a sermon preached seventy-five years ago on  Romans 8:28--Pastor Moody's text for this weekend. (The following is from A History of College Church by Edith L. Blumhofer.)

Between Christmas and New Year's Eve, 1941, [Pastor] Evan and Evangeline Welsh drove to Indiana for a brief family visit. As they traveld home in the early morning hours of December 31, their car hit a patch of ice, Evan Welsh lost control of the vehicle, and they skidded in the path of an oncoming pickup truck. His wife died instantly, and her mother had to be cut from the vehicle by emergency responders. Evan Welsh and those in the truck were injured less severely. That morning, the headline in the Wheaton Daily Journal read, "Wheaton Pastor's Wife Dies." The city's population hovered around 8,500, and the community shared the congregation's shocked sense of loss.

College Church members gathered as usual for the Watch Night service but cancelled the annual New Year's dinner. Evan Welsh returned to Wheaton on January 2, and on Saturday, January 3, Moody Church pastor Harry Ironside conducted Evangeline Welsh's funeral. The Welshes had two daughters, Joan and Mary, nine and five years old. The next day was Sunday, and the morning sermon at College Church by the Rev. ThomasLindsay addressed the topic "All things work together for good." The next week, Evan Welsh returned to his pulpit to preach "This Is the Victory." He called his evening sermon "New Lives for Old." (In April 1966, another College Church pastor's wife, Jane McClenny, died in an automobile accident. Jane and Dexter McClenny were en route from Wheaton to Kentucky to visit a high school missions team when he lost control of the vehicle on a wet road.)



Full of Life and Hope and Heart

Evgeniy with two of his children.

Evgeniy with two of his children.

The Isaev family enjoys a rather unusual notoriety in their home country of Ukraine: they are the first family to ever adopt an HIV positive child. The family is now asking prayer for the father—Evgeniy, who was admitted to hospital with heart failure and is awaiting coronary bypass surgery (scheduled for Tuesday, March 8).

Evgeniy and his wife, Svetlana, are now part of the movement of Christians to adopt children within their own country, but at one time, Soviet Ukraine was almost totally closed to adoption, even of healthy children, who were left in State-run institutions. For children with special needs, hospitals took the place of homes, leaving these children with little or no hope for homes of their own.

Evgeniy and Svetlana opened their homes and hearts to as many children as they could house. They are parents to 11 children—two biological children and nine children adopted or in foster care.

Sasha, happy at home.

Sasha, happy at home.

Sasha, their most recently adopted child, spent eight years in an orphanage for special needs children. Sasha’s mother left him at the hospital after he was born premature and weighed just two pounds at birth. Sasha’s mother suffered from HIV (after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine had one of the highest rates of HIV infections) and passed the virus on to him. Little Sasha spent the next eight years in the orphanage until the Isaevs adopted him this past Christmas.

The Ukraine Without Orphans movement has spread to more than 30 other countries through the World Without Orphans (WWO) movement.  Anita Deyneka, one of College Church’s missionaries, is a part of the expanding WWO Movement, which recently hosted a forum in Thailand. In which participants from 70 countries attended.

College Church missionary Anita Deyneka and some of her young Ukrainian friends.

College Church missionary Anita Deyneka and some of her young Ukrainian friends.

“Evgeniy and Svetlana’s example is helping to inspire Christians and churches all over the world to care for the fatherless,” says Anita. “Our prayers for this family will help sustain them as Evgeniy undergoes surgery in just a few days. Globally, not only the orphans, but many watching are seeing the hands of Jesus as Christians embrace orphaned or abandoned children in their own countries through sacrificial people like Evgeniy and Svetlana.”

Let’s pray for Evgeniy during his heart surgery on March 8 as well as for the many Christians around the world who are reaching out to these millions of forgotten children.