The following is a letter from our new dear friend, Dave. He and his wife, Joy, took us under their wings while we stayed up in Seattle before Anna was born. Dave is the pastor at North Seattle Church of the Nazarene. He learned of our situation through Alissa's dad, as they both serve on the church district advisory board. Dave and Joy felt compelled to help us in our journey as they faced a similar situation 17 years ago when they lost their triplets when they were born.
Alissa and I are very thankful for Dave and Joy, and the North Seattle church that let us worship with them while we made our temporary home up there. Dave was faithful in visiting us, and we were honored that he was with us when Anna passed away.
Dave wrote a beuatiful letter to his church family the day after Anna died. We asked him to read it at Anna's service today, which he graciously did. He also is allowing us to post his letter on our blog. So here it is. Enjoy. He's almost as good a writer as me. Not quite, but close. :)
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Hi, NSCN Family,
It’s with a mixture of feelings that I write to you, this evening. At one end of the spectrum is joy in many answers to prayer, plus the realities of this Christmas season and all it means to us; at the other end is the heartache I share with the Peppley family, in the loss of Anna Joy, yesterday. I was there in the room as Pastor Bill Bowers (Olympia Mountain View Church of the Nazarene) dedicated her to God and anointed her with oil. I saw family members take turns holding Anna Joy for the first time, knowing it would also be their last, until heaven. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a support system quite like the one which has accompanied this family. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I believe more than a million prayers went up for Anna Joy Peppley. You were part of that support team. Thank you so much!
So,.... God couldn’t pull it off? He couldn’t manage a Christmas miracle to answer the prayers of thousands of people around the world all asking for the same thing, when all He had to do is enlarge some vessels in a baby’s lungs? It might feel that way to some, but our God can “manage” anything. He doesn’t even need our help. He already loves us, too, so it’s not like He’s fickle and just answers our prayers when He’s in the mood. He hears and answers every one. We just don’t automatically get the answer we like. God does not take orders from us; it’s the other way around.
So, what’s the deal with Anna Joy? I don’t possess the answers to questions like that, but here’s my best guess. You know how there’s a scripture in the Bible which talks about “all of our days were written in your Book before one of them came to be,” or something like that? (Psalm 139:16) What if the days for Anna Joy Peppley were “11 days” and that’s how long she was destined to live, before she was even conceived? Her life span was going to be “11 days on earth, eternity in heaven.” No matter who prayed, no matter how long anybody prayed, that’s just what it was predestined to be. (I’m not going to attempt to explain predestination, because it’s really unfamiliar territory for me).
Anyway, suppose you’re God, and for whatever reason there is a baby who is going to be an 11 day baby--and that’s if the humans apply every bit of prayer and medical knowledge they can muster, not to mention ignoring the advice of the medical people to “just start over”, seeing as she was given a 10% chance of survival, even with the surgeries and everything anyone could do. The only way she’ll even get her 11 days is if there is a family willing to go to the utmost, in order to give it to her. Who would know this little girl would launch a million prayers around the world, some of them coming from the lips of people who had long since given up on prayer, but couldn’t help crying out to God for this baby? I started a non-profit ministry to try to get people to “pray for America,” and never got past 25 people. Anna Joy never spoke a word, and got many thousands! Go figure.
So, if you were God, and you had an “11 day baby” you needed to give to a family who would love her and do everything possible to keep her alive, against all odds, then turn the pregnancy and her 11 days into a prayer-a-thon movement, to whom would you entrust her? Who would accept a deal like this? Not many. But Matt and Alissa Peppley did. God knew He could trust them with Anna Joy, a miracle baby with half a heart, significant problems beyond that, and a 10% chance of survival. Instead of giving up, they recruited thousands of prayer warriors across the globe, and the game was on!
Did God lose? What do you think?
Yes, Matt and Alissa and their whole family are hurting with grief beyond description. Many, many other people are bewildered and disappointed. But we will go on. We’ll keep our trust in a good God who can do anything, who has prepared a place in heaven for all who love Him. Anna Joy had a short life span of 11 days, yet touched many thousands of lives. I have a feeling she’s not done, either. She’s in heaven with Jesus for all of eternity---no suffering, no surgeries, no Ecmo machine---nothing but pure joy. God won. So did Anna Joy. So did her parents, although it hurts like nothing else could. Her life here was really short, but accomplished much, due to the faith of her family. I can’t think of a better plan for a baby who was going to live for 11 days than to give her to the Peppley’s. She was on the receiving end of more love and prayer than most people will receive in a long lifetime, all over the course of a few weeks. God knew He could trust Matt and Alissa with Anna Joy. He was right.
And God has entrusted each of us with resources, trials, scary situations—chances to use our faith. Did He choose well? Always. “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). “The testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2). If you are in a time of testing, hang on to Jesus. He will get you through. Like Pastor Benji Rodes (Church of the Undignified) says, “We are condemned to victory.” Our God is victorious, and so is everyone on His side!
This has gotten lengthy—sorry about that—but I wanted to speak to the confusion some may be feeling. Joy and I have experienced some of these exact feelings, particularly following the loss of premature triplets born to us, 17 years ago. It was a very hard time in our lives, yet we’ve never been more aware of God’s comfort than we were at that time. In the emotional turmoil which followed that loss, God unexpectedly gave me a promise which I believed: “You’re going to have a son.” The date of the promise was December 19. That’s also the date I finished Caleb’s dedication song, two years later. Now I’m wearing Caleb’s hand-me-down jeans he’s outgrown. God is good. He’ll get you through. Don’t be afraid. You can trust Him.