Baby Milk Update, January 2018

BABY MILK UPDATE as of January 2018

We thank the Lord for His provision each year for baby milk for our clinic ministry. In 2017 we purchased 420 cans of formula, serving dozens of infants and young children who are malnourished.

In some cases, the mother has died in childbirth, or shortly thereafter. In other cases, the parents have given the child away as they are unable to feed another mouth…and yet others of our “baby milk babies” have mothers who are unable to produce sufficient milk to feed them.

This little one was a recent case toward the end of 2017. The mother rejected the baby soon after birth due to a mental illness, and the family was struggling to provide proper nourishment.


After just a few short weeks on the SMA formula, she is doing much better, and thriving!

The baby milk program began in 2009, and it has served almost 300 children since then. Some of these children are school-aged now, and by God’s grace, they are doing quite well.

Thank you to everyone who joins with us in prayer and financial support of this vital program. We are grateful for those who give monthly, and we are also grateful for the special offering we received at the end of the year that really helped out with our annual expenses. And our children thank you too!

Income:      $4,180.41
Expenses:  $5,341.75
Total cans purchased: 420
Cost per 2 lb. can: $12.72 (price decrease due to exchange rate)
Babies served: 45

Income:      $5,715.00
Expenses:  $5,638.34
Total cans purchased: 400
Cost per 2 lb. can: $14.10 (price decrease due to exchange rate)
Babies served: 50

Income:      $6,875.00
Expenses:  $8,280.37
Total cans purchased: 558
Cost per 2 lb. can: $14.83 (price decrease due to exchange rate)
Babies served: 29

Income:      $1,320.00
Expenses:  $6,468.40
Total cans purchased: 400
Cost per 2 lb. can: $16.17
Babies served: 44

Income:       $6,414.16
Expenses:   $8,396.37
Total cans purchased: 471
Cost per 2 lb. can: $17.82
Babies served: 58

Income:       $627.51
Expenses:   $10,446.22
Total cans purchased: 547
Cost per 2 lb. can: $19.10
Babies served: 58

Income:       $1,415
Expenses:   $5,325
Total cans purchased: 300
Cost per 2 lb. can: $17.75
Babies served: 42


Providential Meetings

Home for the Holidays
Lena and I made it to the US just before Christmas. It was great to be with family and friends for the holidays before we hit the road during the first week of January. We do have to admit that leaving temperate PNG for the frigid Midwest was an adjustment!

Open Doors
The Lord opened a door for Lena and me to visit the Middle East on our way to the US for our furlough. I had the wonderful opportunity to teach for a couple of weeks in a seminary in Jordan. There were both Jordanians and Egyptians in the class, and it was a blessing and joy to work with them.

I’m grateful for Dr. Ghassan Haddad and the work of Biblical Theological Seminary as they train laborers for the Arab-speaking world. We passed through Dubai on the way to Jordan, and were also blessed to see the work being done there in the United Arab Emirates. The Word of God is not bound!

A couple from the jungle trying to blend into the desert.

Recruiting and Replenishing
The Lord has given us great meetings in January and  February. We have seen the Lord move in hearts as we’ve shared what God is doing in PNG. We’ve seen many long-time friends and met many new ones. God has been truly good to us!

One of our major goals this trip is to recruit nurses for Kunai Health Centre and to recruit teachers to start a school for our Kamea children at Kotidanga. We have met some fine people and have had appointments at Christian colleges to speak to prospects. Praise the Lord, He gave us two new workers for the clinic: Emma Stout, from Franklin Road Baptist Church; and Laura Lee Alford, from our home church. Amen! Pray with us that the Lord will raise up even more missionaries, nurses, and teachers!

Finally, we are looking to ship these specific medical-related supplies (and only these items):

  • ibuprofen (Advil or generic)
  • naproxen (Aleve or generic)
  • band-aids
  • ACE wraps (2”-6”)
  • muscle rub (i.e. Ben-Gay)

If you wish to help by donating these items, please send them before March 31, 2018 to:

John Allen c/o David Allen
1077 Weavers Run
West Point, KY 40177

We plan to pack and ship them in early April, just before we head back to PNG on April 19th. We are thankful for the donations received already. May God richly bless all of you who have given to this cause!

Back Home in PNG
Kotidanga Baptist Church held its first Youth Camp in January. Our good friend Phil Parry was the main speaker, and he, along with Pastor Ben, Matt Allen, Sam Snyder, and a host of others put on a camp like our villages had never seen. 17 young people came to faith in Christ, and many more made life-changing decisions. We thank the Lord for all the work that everyone did to make this happen. So many stories to be told! (Click here to see the video of the camp.)

Crazy games!

Real crazy games!

Biblical preaching!

Thank you all for your faithful prayers and support. We are only able to do what we do because of your faithful prayers and support. May the Lord put credit on your account for your part in His work in PNG!

Serving Him in the Field,
John & Lena

PS: Enjoy some more camp photos!

Bird’s eye view of Kotidanga Youth Camp

Here are some of the people who made the camp happen:

Bro. Phil Parry lead the teaching.

Pastor Ben Samauyo lead the camp for Kotidanga Baptist Church.

Bro. Sam Snyder

Mrs. Ellie Polmek

Our nurse, Miss Chelsea Moorman, with her       friends

Bro. Yali Tapaqueo

Bro. Matt Allen

Remembering God’s Goodness in 2017

(click here for printable copy)
(click here to see our 2017 ministry video)

REJOICING IN WHAT GOD HAS DONE                             

Manandi Dagoino checks a young patient.

Since we last wrote, Manandi and Chelsea have joined the Kunai Health Centre team. They have oriented well in the work, and along with the rest of our national staff (Jon Mark, Ellie, Jasper, Linda, and Jessica) they are ministering to our people in a Gospel-centered way.

Chelsea Moorman teaches a mother
how to administer medicine to her child.

Jon Mark teaches Atenapi how to
take her TB medicine.



·   This year Kotidanga Baptist Church voted Ben Samauyo as their pastor, and he was ordained in June. Many were saved this year, and we have seen many others grow in their walk with the Lord!

Gideon and Amon listening intently during a recent
message at Kotidanga Baptist Church

·   Our radio station, Gutnius (Good News) Radio, went on the air in October with the help of Michael Wakefield from Christian Radio Missionary Fellowship. This has been a long-time project with many man-hours of back-breaking labor by our people to put the tower up on top of the mountain, and a lot of “brain work” to figure out the logistical and transmitter issues.

This is a picture from 2014 of our people at the Gutinius Radio tower
on the top of the mountain above Kotidanga Baptist Church

·   The Kamea Bible Project made good advances this year. We now have several books of the New Testament completed and ready for checking. I so appreciate my coworkers on the project, Pastor Ben and Yali.

Pastor Ben is recording the Gospel of Mark in Kamea, while
Yali works on the back translation of the Gospel of Matthew.

·   God has given us a great team of fellow workers. Sam & Marybeth Snyder and their children joined us earlier this year, and along with Sarah Glover and our nurses who were with us in 2017 (Tiffany, Erika, and Chelsea), they have served our people well and made a real difference in the lives of many.

Sam & Marybeth Snyder, with Leland, Tommy, & Bethany

Erika, Tiffany, Sarah, & Lena, with friends Kelesa & Caleb

Ricky Beyaba worked with Matt Allen and Andrew Schellenberger
for three years on our airstrip. Ricky was able to come back to visit us for a week
along with Daniel Jezowski from SIL Aviation (click here to read
Daniel’s newsletter to get a visitor’s perspective of the ministries at Kotidanga).



I made a quick trip back to the US in October to be in the Pensacola Christian College Missions Conference. It was great to be among so many servants of our great God and to be able to talk to so many young people about serving the Lord in missions.

It was great to spend time with our former co-workers,
Andrew & Rachel Schellenberger. We are so thankful
for the four years of service they gave to our people in Kotidanga!



After my trip to PCC, I returned to PNG where Lena and I wrapped things up to head back to the US for our furlough. We arrive in the US just before Christmas, and we hit the road the first week of January. We covet your prayers as we travel, and even more, we long to have many wonderful Gospel conversations with believers and non-believers. Pray that we can be a blessing and that the Lord will be magnified. We will be in Kentucky, Indiana, North Carolina, Georgia, Maryland, Florida, Texas, Michigan, and Virginia…probably not in that order. 🙂  We plan to be back in PNG in April 2018.

Also, we just celebrated another milestone: Lena and I have been married 40 years! Woohoo! Glory!

We thank the Lord for your faithful love and prayers. The Lord continues to supply our needs, and we thank Him for using you all to do it. May you have a blessed Christmas, and may the Lord put His touch on your labors for Him in the coming year!

Serving Him in the Field,
John & Lena Allen
2 Thessalonians 3:1

PS: Enjoy the photos!  And click here to watch our latest video from the field! Or click here to see the latest video with info about the clinic!

Lena & Anjuta teach the Saturday Ladies’ Meeting.

Sela recently had her baby at the clinic, and she came back
to say “thank you” with two fresh pineapples!

It’s a busy clinic day as Pastor Ben shares the Gospel.

No matter how busy the day is, Manandi always finds time to enjoy her patients.

Sometimes the children come to the clinic just to hang out.

Happy baby!

Pastor Tau Abary and his wife, Suzanne…long-time friends of ours in PNG!

We got to spend time with wonderful our family in Port Moresby, PNG:
Matt, Becky, Ariel, & Hannah

Here’s the rest of our wonderful family in the USA:
Sarah, Dave, Nate, & Amber
Abe, Abi, Emerson, Graham, Beth, baby Autumn, Cece, & Ben

God is still God!

GOD IS STILL GOD!                                                          click here for printable copy

Hello from Kotidanga Baptist Church in Gulf Province, Papua New Guinea!


We had a packed house at Kotidanga Baptist for Pastor Ben’s ordination.

In January 2017, Kotidanga Baptist Church voted to make Ben Samauyo their pastor. During our recent Pastors’ Workshop, we held Ben’s ordination.

Ben presents his doctrinal statement before his ordination.

It was a great to have Pastor Philip Sorulen from Calvary Baptist in Lae,  Matt Allen from Port Moresby, and my co-worker Sam Snyder  take part in the ordination service. Pastor Philip preached several times while he was with us, and he was a great blessing to our people and to Pastor Ben.

TTMK director and founder of Capital City Baptist in Port Moresby, Matt Allen, and his Kamea translator, Pastor Kevin Samawe



At the end of the special meetings, Ben baptized 11 who had been saved in recent months. Thank the Lord for these young converts! 

Jon Mark, one of our most faithful church members, is blind. He works at Kunai Health Centre and he doesn’t let much slow him down! He was one of those who followed the Lord in believer’s baptism in June.



We also had ten visitors from Pensacola Christian College who came to observe the clinic ministry. Nine were nurses or nursing students, and they got to experience a lot while they were here.

PCC visitors pose with the staff of Kunai Health Centre.

During their visit we had a school health check day, with over 600 students coming from villages as far as three hours’ walk away. It certainly was busy! While they proceeded through various stations (vision, hearing, etc.) they also heard the Gospel in groups and in personal witness.

Youth who came for health check day

In addition, June was a record month at the clinic with 2,100 regular patients PLUS the 600 who came for health checks. That’s a lot of patients, and a lot of patience 🙂 Thank the Lord for all the opportunities we had to share the Gospel during those busy clinic days.



Bethel Baptist Choir

Lena and I recently returned from Lae where I had the privilege to speak for a few days at Bethel Baptist Church. Many responded openly to the preaching of the Word of God, including some who put their faith in Christ.

Singing men from Liberty Baptist in Lae

Visitors came from several different churches around the city, including some students from Lae University of Technology. Special thanks to Pastor Timothy Sogori, his wife Ruth,  and his people for putting the meeting together!



We had two new nurses join us this week. Chelsea Moorman (from the US) and Manandi Dagoino (from our neighboring village) are now part of the Kunai Health Centre staff. Pray that they orient well and that the Lord will bless their labors for Him.

Thank you for your continued prayers for our people. Several responded to our last post, and we covet your continued fervent prayers for our country, Papua New Guinea. God is still God, and as a friend wrote recently, “our enemy has an expiration date.” Amen!

Serving Him in the Field,

John & Lena Allen
2 Thessalonians 3:1

Enjoy the extra photos!

Ben & Anjuta flew out with us to attend a pastors’ conference.

Many patients are still captivated watching the “Jesus Film” whether in Pidgin or in Kamea.

Ben came to the clinic and shared the Gospel with this young church member whose life was ending. The young man affirmed his faith in Christ alone, and in a short time he passed into eternity. Are you ready if your time were to come today?


Effectual Door, Multiple Adversaries

(1 Corinthians 16:9)

 We seldom mention in our prayer letters about the kinds of opposition we encounter here in PNG. All those who serve the Lord Jesus soon enough find opposition to the advance of the Gospel, and here it is no different.

What is different for us is the type of opposition. Papua New Guinea is one of the last frontiers in the world. In the scope of world history, and even though PNG has its own rich history through its over 800 different tribes, there has been little influence from the outside world until the last 150 years, and even today, there are many PNG people who have no clear idea what the western world is like.

 Many areas of PNG have been strongholds of Satan for millennia. Unhindered by the Gospel, the adversary has had free reign among these precious people groups. With the arrival of the Gospel in the last century, varied forms of opposition have arisen and continue to this day. I wanted to share just one of them, in order that you could join us in praying against the hindrances to Gospel advance here in PNG.

Traditional Culture and God’s Word

 Any people group’s individual culture is their identity. In a biblical context, anything in a culture that is not unbiblical, immoral, or unethical is not a problem. However, those things that are contrary to Scripture, or that severely misinterpret Scripture, are things that must change. (I know that sounds dogmatic in our present age of relative truth, but the Word of God is not relative truth. Either the Word is our standard of life as believers in Jesus Christ, or it isn’t.)

 Our Kamea people have their own cultural practices and beliefs, yet many of these are related to evil spirits; either appeasing the spirits, or controlling the spirits. This is a hidden practice, and it took years to learn how wide spread it is even among professing Christians.

Further, at the present time there is a group here who are calling for a reviving of their culture and a forsaking of Christian ideals in order to return to the “old ways.” (Interestingly, they still want to use modern clothes, solar power, transportation, etc., so I guess the “old ways” weren’t all that good…) Some are taking portions of Scripture and re-interpreting them as being directly about our people. Places and events in the Bible are being “discovered” here in our region, and thus they say that the stories of the Bible are really about the Kamea people. Promises of blessing to Israel in the Old Testament are being claimed for our people. Another group took a King James Bible (a give-away copy) and built a sacred house for it, saying, “now that the Bible has come back to where it started from, the blessings of God will be poured out on us.” Such things are not unique to our place; these things are believed all over PNG, with each group putting its own twist on the stories.

 Naturally, our preaching is not popular, because we insist that the Word does not teach that this place where we live is Israel, nor does it teach a mixture of ancestor worship and worship of the Lord.

 The god of this world, Satan, has “blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” (2 Cor. 4:4) Would you pray with us:

  • That our believers would walk humbly with God, trusting Him rather than the spirits?
  • That they would believe God in spite of incredible pressures from their unbelieving family and friends?
  • That Jesus Christ would be exalted among our dear Kamea people?
  • That the power of the Gospel would break the chains of sin and Satan here?

We covet such prayer!

May God strengthen you as you join with us in prayer on behalf of our people!

Serving Him in the Field,
John & Lena Allen
2 Thessalonians 3:1

Fruit from the Word


Ladies’ Meeting
For over a year, Lena and Anjuta have been meeting with our church ladies on Saturday afternoons. They bring lost friends for the three consecutive teaching sessions (What is the Gospel, How to Mature Spiritually, and Principles of a Christian Family). The number of ladies continues to grow, and the ladies themselves are growing in grace. God is using the preaching at church, personal discipleship, and this ladies’ meeting to mature them to His glory. They have tea, sweet baked goods, and honest fellowship around the Word.

Women are neglected in this society in the jungle, and this is a special time just for them. Husbands have commented to me about the good changes they have seen in their wives since they have been attending the ladies’ meeting. Amen!

The ladies singing for a church service

Youth Men’s Meeting
I get the opportunity to meet with our single young men on Fridays to share in their struggles, pray, and to seek biblical answers for the issues they face. They too are maturing and growing. God is doing a work in their midst!

Kotidanga Votes for Their Pastor

Kotidanga Baptist Church voted unanimously for my co-worker, Benjamin Samauyo, to become their pastor. Ben has done the work of a pastor in their midst for over two years, and the church was quite vocal that they wanted Ben because he and his family exemplify the qualifications of a pastor in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. We plan to ordain Ben the first week of June. These are exciting days!

Ben & Anjuta, with their children Selestin, Nhosa, Becky, and Ishmael

Thank you for the part you have in enabling us to minister here. May God bless you abundantly for your sacrifice!

Serving Him in the Field,
John & Lena Allen
2 Thessalonians 3:1

Enjoy some photos from the last couple of months…


Our home church’s Christian school ministry put together children’s vitamins for us, and they finally arrived!

First time we ever had medicine and supplies delivered to our front door. We could get used to this!


Tiffany Heafner’s mom Linda and brother Niko came to visit. Her mom is a nurse too, and we put her right to work!

We had two emergencies one night while Tiffany’s family was there. We sure were glad for the extra hands!

We had to shorten up a chain on the sawmill. The factory said we couldn’t do it with just a file. Haha! The factory has never seen a determined Kamea man before. He did it!

Road repairs are a fact of life here. If we don’t fix it, no one will. (Of course, we’re the only ones driving on it…)

Need to repair a broken bridge? First, get permission and cut down the trees, and then pull them through the mountainous jungle to the “road.”

Then tie the 25 ft log to your little truck, and drag it 3 miles to the bridge.

Tear up the bad parts of the bridge, put in the new logs, and you’re done!


Flights around our place certainly reveal the majesty and handiwork of our great God.

Baby Milk Update, January 2017

BABY MILK UPDATE as of January 2017

We thank the Lord for His provision each year for baby milk for our clinic ministry. 2016 was the first year that income exceeded expenses…amen! The dedicated staff of Kunai Health Centre continues to provide service to infants and small children in need of nutritional supplements.

In some cases, the mother has died in childbirth, or shortly thereafter. In other cases, the parents have given the child away as they are unable to feed another mouth…and yet others of our “baby milk babies” have mothers who are unable to produce sufficient milk to feed them.

The program began in 2009, and it has served over 250 children since then. Some of these children are school age now, and seem to be doing quite well.

Thank you to everyone who joins with us in prayer and financial support of this vital program. Our children thank you too!

Income:      $5,715.00
Expenses:  $5,638.34
Total cans purchased: 400
Cost per 2 lb. can: $14.10 (price decrease due to exchange rate)
Babies served: 50

Income:      $6,875.00
Expenses:  $8,280.37
Total cans purchased: 558
Cost per 2 lb. can: $14.83 (price decrease due to exchange rate)
Babies served: 29

Income:      $1,320.00
Expenses:  $6,468.40
Total cans purchased: 400
Cost per 2 lb. can: $16.17
Babies served: 44

Income:       $6,414.16
Expenses:   $8,396.37
Total cans purchased: 471
Cost per 2 lb. can: $17.82
Babies served: 58

Income:       $627.51
Expenses:   $10,446.22
Total cans purchased: 547
Cost per 2 lb. can: $19.10
Babies served: 58

Income:       $1,415
Expenses:   $5,325
Total cans purchased: 300
Cost per 2 lb. can: $17.75
Babies served: 42


By God’s Grace


Pastors’ School
Since our last newsletter, we held our semi-annual Pastors’ School. This time we opened it up to many in our local church who are growing in the Lord, and it was a huge success. Missionary Sam Snyder and his wife Mary Beth helped Lena and me with the teaching, and our people were blessed from the time in the Word.

Kamea New Testament
Ben, Yali, and I were pleasantly surprised when we totaled up the chapters completed thus far on the Kamea New Testament. We have finished a rough draft of one-third of the project! Then, just a few days ago, we finished the back translation of the book of Acts. There remains some checking to do on what we have done, but we rejoice that God has blessed this work in the way that He has. We have big plans for 2017, so pray with us for God’s wisdom, direction, and strength as we move forward in the months ahead.

Clinic Visitors

Kunai Health Centre was blessed by the recent visits of two medical professionals. Becky Pope, RN, works with Medical Missions Outreach, and she was an encouragement and blessing to our staff.

Dr. Beth Lewis and Lena enjoy a laugh as we transit through Aiyura airstrip

We also enjoyed a visit from Dr. Beth Lewis, a fellow missionary who works full-time at Kikori Hospital here in our own Gulf Province. Dr. Beth’s enthusiasm and experience in PNG medical issues taught our staff much about doing medical work out here in the bush. Thank the Lord for those gifted in medicine who give their lives to serve the Lord!

Late afternoon is quiet after Kunai Health Centre closes for the day.

Youth Saved

In our last letter we mentioned about our young people being blessed at a conference they visited in September. One of those same youth was saved here the last Sunday of 2016, and then another trusted Christ the first Sunday of 2017. God is still working in their hearts!
Speaking of youth camp, in December the Lord allowed Lena and me to fly out to Port Moresby to be with Matt, Becky and their girls during their first youth camp at Capital City Baptist Church. Our son Nate was the guest speaker, and we all had an awesome time! 16 youth were saved, and all of us were blessed by the sound biblical preaching and teaching.

Even the youngest boys at Kotidanga Baptist Church take part in Scripture memorization!

Thank You!

Your faithful prayers and support have enabled us to continue as your co-laborers here in PNG. Please accept our heartfelt “thank you” to those of you who stand with us!

Serving Him in the Field,
John & Lena Allen
2 Thessalonians 3:1

Photos from the month…

Some days you wonder if there is a more beautiful place here on earth!

Christmas dinner with the team! Lena, visitors Brent & Brian Doss, plus our own Sarah Glover, Erika Sharpeta, and Tiffany Hefner.

Brian & Brent Doss found out the bush missions means a lot of maintenance. Here they help our church crew (in the background) repair a landslide that bit out a large chunk of the “road” to the airstrip.

Ben built a new kitchen for his house. Here are the roofers tying on the bamboo leaf roof.

The next photo is not for the faint of heart



Dr. Beth was here for such a time as this! This young boy fell out of a tree and broke his arm in several places, plus dislocating his elbow.

After using the ultrasound to ascertain the break points, Dr. Beth worked with the nurses to reset the arm.

Amazingly they got it straightened out, casted him, and sent him on to the regional hospital in Kerema for follow-up.

God is at Work!


Recently fourteen of our youth attended a conference at Wau Baptist Church, a four-day hike from here. Even with the hardships they encountered in travel, they returned full of joy, and it is evident that the Lord did a work among them. Our youth here have the same struggles as youth do anywhere; please pray for these first-generation believers that God will use their lives to impact their people with lives lived for His glory and the gospel!



Each Saturday, Lena has had the privilege of working with Ben’s wife, Anjuta, in teaching the ladies of Kotidanga Baptist Church about godly Christian living. Here is a picture of them singing as a group in our worship service. From ages 14 to 60, these ladies are trophies of grace!



Among the benefits of working here are the opportunities we get to speak publicly. Preaching in the open air market is done every week, and dozens of people listen attentively. Recently our member of parliament came for a visit to our electorate, and I was tasked with speaking on the current healthcare situation in our area. We have lived here almost nine years and are well known among our people; and God’s testimony among the Kamea continues to grow.


Where else could you speak in such a venue that one-third of your speech addresses the peoples’ need to repent and turn to Christ? Try that in your next political rally back home 🙂


Thank you for your prayers and assistance in continuing here in PNG serving the Lord. As we celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary this month, I am joyfully amazed at how much the Lord keeps growing the two of us. Do remember us and our people in prayer, that we will labor to know Him better and to make Him better known!


Serving Him in the Field,
John & Lena Allen
2 Thessalonians 3:1

Our last supply buy took us down a flooded highway. Next time we'll use a canoe...

Our last supply buy took us down a flooded highway. Next time we’ll use a canoe…

Kanabea airstrip clings to the side of Sawe Mountain. Thank the Lord for skilled (and brave) pilots who take us in and out.

Kanabea airstrip clings to the side of Sawe Mountain (the green patch just left of center). Thank the Lord for skilled (and brave) pilots who take us in and out.

PNG Tribal Foundation & GE donated a V-Scan ultrasound for Kunai Health Centre to use. Works for ante-natal moms and broken bones too!

PNG Tribal Foundation & GE donated a V-Scan ultrasound for Kunai Health Centre to use. Works for ante-natal moms and broken bones too!

A Mother’s Love

We first posted this three years ago. It’s now been 14 years…


photo-411 years ago today, my life changed drastically.

In the morning, I had a conversation with my son Ben, a junior in college, about the chance to do an internship in Washington, DC. He wanted to be a lawyer. He’d turn 20 the next day. His birthday present was wrapped, ready to be delivered when I would go to see him in a couple of days.

In the afternoon, I received a call telling me that he was lost, gone, pulled out to sea in the undertow. No hope, the paramedic said. He’s gone.

In the days, weeks, months, and years that have followed, my family has received such an outpouring of love and mercy and care that I still find it hard to realize how God’s people can truly care so much. We have seen lives reclaimed by Jesus, both those who never had known Him before, and those who had wandered astray. We have met servants, dear servants of God, who have  yielded their lives in obedient service to the King of Kings because  this trying event forced them to face their own eternity with a renewed soberness. And we have known precious saints of God, dear loving friends and amazing family, who have given themselves to being compassionate to those who hurt and to those who suffer and to those who have lost, all because they felt with us an incredible burning loss.

God took a young man’s life and multiplied it. And He’s still multiplying it, eleven years later.

It’s said that there’s no love like a mother’s love. I witness it every year at this time. With tears. With weeping. With strength that only comes from God and His word. With rejoicing that the grave is not the end; no, not at all. And I hold her and weep with her. And I witness our sons and their families as they lavish love on their mom, even as they feel their own pain and loss.

Today my wife wrote this email to our boys. We’ve found comfort in different things over the years, but mostly in the memories of Benny and how he was such a cut-up. Yellow roses became a symbol when he passed from death to life, and each year dear friends and family remember him with these yellow roses. Maybe those two things will help you understand what she wrote below:

This afternoon I could not find any yellow roses in Valley Station. Realizing how silly it would be to drive around to other places to find them, I compromised and got yellow daisies. But I was still feeling guilty.

I was walking across the cemetery wishing I had pretty yellow roses to waste again on Ben’s grave, when a hilarious thought hit me. ‘There are tons of yellow roses right here in this park. It wouldn’t be stealing, just moving them around.’  That’s when it got me. That was probably what Ben would have thought, and I busted up laughing. No, John and Dave, I did not move them. 🙂

And then I saw why there are no yellow roses in Valley. I am not the only one that loves Benny.

photo-2 copyWhen we were in Israel, we learned and saw first-hand that when someone visits a loved one’s grave, they leave a stone.  So for my “Jewish” son, I left four stones for the last visits I have made. Thanks Dave for the stones from your back yard. Not that I stole them, just moved them around.”

I love you, Lena. And we all love you, Benny. It won’t be long now, and we’ll all be together again.