The last time we were together was on October 30 last year, the day before I left England to come home to Canada. He took me out for lunch at the Coach and Horses and when we said goodbye, we were hoping to see each other again, "next time." He always looked forward eagerly to seeing us, either in Canada or England.
"Next time" will be in heaven. On April 13 he died.
The Daily Light for that evening had these verses from the book of Revelation chapter 21.
There will be no night there.Tomorrow in England there will be a celebration of his life; this is my way of joining in.
But the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.
And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.—They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light.
Uncle John was Paul's uncle really, the brother of his father Ron. Both of them were ministers of the gospel with a passion for God above all else.
Paul's father died in 1986 when only 62, and by that time we had lost touch with Uncle John, the quieter of the two brothers.
It was on one of our trips to England in the 1990's that someone mentioned him to us and said that he was working at a Christian book store in St. Stephen's church in Redditch on certain days of the week. We found him there and I was overwhelmed with emotion when I saw how much he looked like Paul's father just before he died. We met his wife, Aunt Dorothy, who sadly died suddenly shortly afterwards. She had been in ill health for some time and Uncle John had never travelled away from England because she was not able to.
After Aunt Dorothy's death though, he began to make up for lost time and began a long series of missions trips. He went to Kazakhstan several times as well as to several trips to Turkey and then India and Africa. He was already in his 70's and he amazed us with his ability to rough it on these trips.
In between he would come to us and be spoiled. He travelled with us to Tofino on Vancouver Island, driving with us through the Rockies from Alberta to British Columbia. Paul took him to Inuvik and Mishkeegogamang, Ottawa and Quebec City. His energy was amazing.
But we worried about him as he entered his eighties and showed no signs of slowing down, booking preaching/teaching tours overseas with gruelling schedules. Last year he came back from India unwell and was hospitalized. Eventually, after many tests were run, the tentative diagnosis was dengue fever.
We noticed when he came to visit us in August last year, that he was slower and more frail. It was during this visit that I wrote a blog post titled Faithful Followers about a pastor in India who was believing God to provide for his needs after having two consecutive visits from a crow holding coins in its beak. At our friend Dave's suggestion we gave an opportunity to readers of Whatever He Says to donate$10 to this cause if they felt moved to. When I went to England in October, I took 200 British pounds as a gift from our readers, for Uncle John to send to the pastor.
Early this year he was off again for three weeks of preaching in Africa. He came back very tired and unwell and ended up in hospital again. Eventually he was diagnosed with cancer, and rapidly declined.
Uncle John was never so happy as when he was preaching or teaching, so we know that he spent himself completely doing what he was called to do. If there were ears to listen he loved to share his knowledge of God's Word. In countries such as Africa and India he found people who were hungry to hear and fellow pastors who welcomed the wisdom he had to share as an elder man of God.
His views on some things we found stern and different to our own, but somehow we managed to navigate our way around those things and focused instead on the lots we agreed on, sharing our family with him (he had no grandchildren) and creating a place of relaxation and refreshing for him. Especially after Aunt Dorothy's death, when he had to take on tasks such as cooking, shopping and laundry, he appreciated being "looked after" a little.
We are going to miss him very much.