November 19, 2015
Dear Friends and Family,
God paints a bigger picture than we can ever imagine. It is helpful to meditate on more than we see. The Lord is working His plan in light of eternity. Many events of our lives are difficult. There is suffering and sorrow. We experience joy and pain. Our emotions can go from joyous laughter to excessive weeping in minutes. Stepping back to get a bigger view of our lives, I realize the Lord is painting His masterpiece. I am part of His work. The suffering and sorrow has its place in the picture.
We are working through the thoughts and emotions that our son Chris’s death has brought to our family. I have read books on sorrow and grief in the past weeks. We are not alone in our grief. Many people have lost loved ones. Some even went through difficult circumstances as Chris experienced with melanoma. It is hard to watch your 37 year old son pass from mortality to life, leaving behind his parents, wife, children, brothers, and the rest of his family. We are happy for Chris but his death has left a huge hole in our hearts.
I have found great comfort in the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I do not agree with all his theology, but he sure nailed it about grief.
“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve even in pain, the authentic relationship. Further more, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Another author put it this way – “the greater the love, the greater the grief.” We are finding these things true. Many of you know how deeply I experience life. My love for my family is deep. My love for God’s family is deep. My care for the churches is deep. With such depth of love comes depth of sorrow and pain in loss. This is where we are in the grieving process. We are missing Chris.
THANK YOU – We want to give a huge thank you to all who have prayed for Chris as he dealt with the cancer. Also, thank you for the many cards, letters, emails, visits and phone calls. Several friends were able to be here for the funeral of Chris. Thank you for coming. There were some who sent monetary gifts for Michelle and the family. Your care and support has been an encouragement to us. Thank you for the expressions of love.
MINISTRY – I will be speaking at Faith Baptist Church in Nyssa OR on the 29th of November. We are looking forward to being there but will miss Pastor Sondergaard and his family as they will be away.
We are starting to schedule next year with meetings. We want to personally thank some of the churches who ministered to us through these past few months. It would also be nice to report to our supporting churches in this next year. Please pray for God to lead in the scheduling of this next year.
HOME CHURCH – While we are home, we minister in our home church. I am teaching and speaking as the Lord gives opportunity. We have started the construction of our building. Since the church began 13 years ago, we have been meeting in a rented facility. It will be nice to have our own building and to not be limited as to usage of it. We will be able to minister more effectively once we are in our building. We thank God for our home church, Fellowship Baptist Church.
CHRIS’S VIDEOS – I want to post the video addresses again for the last message Chris preached before his death. Also I am posting the video shared at the funeral. It has special meaning to those who are suffering but is meaningful to all anyway. Also, I will post the address for the Gofundme account for Michelle and family if some would still like to help them. They are doing ok financially for right now but how much is enough for a wife and three children? If God lays it upon your heart to help, please do. Here are the addresses:
Chris’s last message – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4erm3CXH5U
Chris’s video about joy when you have no strength – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUltuj2S_y0
Gofundme account – https://www.gofundme.com/q63cde9k
I know this is a longer letter than normal. Thank you for reading it through and letting me share my heart. God is good and we are comforted by Him. His hand is upholding us. Keep praying for us all. May God give you a good Thanksgiving with family and friends. Thanks again for your love and support.
Monte & Jeneen Leavell