18, No Time to Waste

Chapter Nineteen

   JIM AND ANN WALLIS and their two boys arrived from Salinas bringing Dave home by air ambulance. He was to go into UCLA Medical Hospital for extensive plastic surgery the following week.

   We welcomed them into our home, along with Joe and Veda, Pastor Smith, and Roy McKuen, president of World Opportunities, Inc., long-time friend of the Wallis family. Though full of grief, our hearts were completely surrendered to the fact that this was God's will for us. We talked of our children; the Quatros told of Sue and Alissa, friends of Mike, who had received Christ in their home that day; Jim and Ann told of John's friends who were expressing faith in Jesus Christ.

   All of us wanted the funeral service the following day to be one of victory — tragedy turned into triumph. We formed a circle and held hands, each of us praying and asking the Lord to bring glory to His name through our children's Homegoing.

   We cried together; we prayed again!

   What strength God gave us that day — what perfect peace.

   When I went to bed that night, I asked God to give me grace and strength for the next day. I wanted the whole world to know that His grace was sufficient to meet every need, even the burying of a daughter.

   The long, black limousine came for our family, and we drove to Van Nuys Baptist Church where the service was to be held. It was mid-morning and already warm for an early September day. The vast parking lot was filling with cars.

   Inside the beautiful sanctuary, the pipe organ filled the church with glorious sounds. Our family sat in the pew behind the Wallis family, and the Quatros were behind us.

   Flowers filled the front where the three closed coffins lay. Over them was a huge cross of flowers sent by the Conservative Baptist Missions Camp where our children had spent the last week of their lives.

   And everywhere — teen-agers! I had asked Kathi's friends from school to be her pallbearers — Tom, Jim, Glen, and Jon. I remembered last Easter Sunday when she had brought them all to church.

   "I wanted them to hear the Gospel," her words echoed, "about the death of Christ and especially the Resurrection."

   Jim was weeping openly. Kathi had been his pal; they had confided their secret wishes and dreams to each other. Glen, who had recently lost his sister in an automobile accident and who had make those midnight telephone calls so that Kathi could "comfort him." Tom — how he and Kathi had laughed and teased each other, often ending in verbal hassles over church doctrine. And Jon, the one to whom Kathi had recently said, "One of us in this crowd is going to be killed in an auto accident."

   When I saw Felicia enter, my heart warmed remembering her decision to follow Christ. And just yesterday Felicia's mother had told Pastor Smith, "I've been away from the Lord for many years, but I'm coming back today."

   And then I thought of the little card that had accompanied a lovely floral piece that had arrived that morning. "Thank you, Kathi — Bev," was all it had said. Who was Bev?

   The sound of a familiar strain from the piano brought me back to reality. It was the Young People's Choir singing a song Kathi had loved to play and sing — "The Father Loves You." It brought Kathi sharply into focus and I remembered the many times she had called her friends to the piano to listen to "this cool song . . ."

   Roy McKuen read the twenty-third Psalm and the words of Jesus in John 14:

   Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions . . . I go to prepare a place for you . . . that where I am, there ye may be also.

Words I had read and heard all my life now took on new meaning.

   Pastor Smith, visibly shaken, began speaking to the crowd of nearly two thousand people.

   "I wondered what Scripture I should use at a time like this, and the verse that Mike's dad showed me underlined in his Bible characterizes the lives of these three young people.

   According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

   "These are the same words quoted by Mike at Camp Hammer the closing night of camp, when he stood to his feet and gave his testimony that Christ should be glorified in his body, whether by life or by death. Christ chose to be glorified by Mike's death . . . .

   "I asked the Wallis family what John wanted to do with his life. They told me that just before they returned to the mission field, John had said that he 'wanted to preach like Billy Graham and win people to Christ' . . ."

   Pastor Smith then read Kathi's letter to Felicia.

   "Kathi must have had a premonition that she was going to be ushered into the presence of the Lord," he continued. "I believe she wrote this letter as though it was the last thing she might ever do . . .

   "It was the desire of these young people that Christ be glorified in their lives. Already a number of their friends have come to know Christ as Savior. I mean in a personal way, the way Kathi was talking about, not just becoming a member of the church, but knowing the living Christ in a real way.

   "If we were to ask Kathi, Mike, and John to say something here today, I know what they'd say. 'We want you to know our Jesus.' And they would tell you heaven is the 'greatest.' That's exactly how they'd express it. For them it was gain to die. You may ask what possible gain could come from their deaths, but I'll tell you — to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. We weep and sorrow, but not as others who have no hope, because we know that Kathi, Mike, and John are with Christ. . . . .

   "If these three were to speak today, they would say, 'I had the most, the greatest — life in Christ. Christ is the greatest. Serve Him now. You can only count on today. There's no time to waste."

   When he had finished, Roy McKuen asked the audience to stand and sing "When We All Get to Heaven." It was a hymn of glorious anticipation. And as the hundreds and hundreds of people filed past the three closed caskets, the organist played Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus."

   There were many poignant moments . . . little Bobby Wallis tugging at the coat of the undertaker and whispering, "Sir, which one is my brother?"

   Kathi's grave was between John's and Mike's — as in life, so in death, surrounded by her friends.

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