“There’s a peace I’ve come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail.
There’s an anchor for my soul
I can say ‘It is well.'”
Yesterday we had the memorial service of a wonderful man of faith in our church. He was a cornerstone and a rock in the church history, serving as assistant pastor as one point and in leadership. But more than that, he was a faithful example of the goodness of Jesus.
Shafkat was born into a Muslim family, got into an accident while driving recklessly as a 19 year old, and woke up in the hospital with portions of his leg bones sticking through his skin and paralyzed from the waist down. This would be a huge tragedy anywhere, but in Africa it is extremely hard to be disabled. There is stigma and hardship that comes with the territory in ways that are not so pronounced in the States. Shafkat (from my understanding) spent a good portion of the next decade in the hospital. He was never able to walk again, but doctors thought it was a miracle that he even lived. While in the hospital someone gave him a Bible, and with nothing else to do he started reading it from the beginning. By the time he reached the gospels, he knew he needed to surrender his life to Isa al-Masih. He married a wonderful Christian woman, and the two of them spent the next 17 years in ministry. He founded a mission called Overcomers By Grace (OBG) where the motto was “Disability is not Inability” and the focus was on Jesus Messiah.
“Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead”
But more than founding ministries for disabled people, more than being Assistant Pastor at New City Fellowship, Shafkat and Sabia lived out their faith in every day. Testimony after testimony – even from his Muslim family who attended the memorial – was that they loved people. There was nothing they would not do for people. They were sacrificial.
I didn’t know Shafkat well. We haven’t been around long enough yet to know everyone. Yet I learned about the man he was at his funeral. And more importantly, Muslim, Christian, and Hindu alike came together in one building where we sang songs to glorify “The God of Shafkat” and to talk about the reason for him being the person he had become.
That morning the worship team lead the church in singing “I will Rise” by Chris Tomlin. I knew before the words even started that I would lose it. It was sung at my mom’s funeral. Most days when I expect it I steel my heart towards it. But yesterday I knew, with all the death and chaos and tragedies we had seen recently in our church – I knew I had to release it and hear those words. So I cried. And I prayed. And I opened my eyes to look at the singers on the worship team in front of me – two of whom had lost their sister recently – and I cried some more. For them, For me, for Sabia…for those left behind. But not for those who have gone ahead – they are in a place that we can only dream about right now.
“There’s a day that’s drawing near
When this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes “
My dad had wanted my mom’s funeral to be small and for family. It wasn’t even really announced, and we didn’t have calling hours except for my sisters and I. But people came from all over to the graveside! I was humbled and amazed as my sisters and I sat (while everyone else stood in the hot August sun) for a long time and heard testimony after testimony of her love for people because of her love for Jesus. I prayed that hearts would be opened and softened and seeds planted. Just like I prayed yesterday for people to come out of the darkness.
“And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles’ wings
Before my God fall on my knees
I will rise”
I am grateful that I know death is the last victory for the enemy here on earth, but there is more to the story. I sat with tears in my eyes as I pictured Shafkat whole and dancing and jumping and running around again. I pictured my mom – beautiful and whole and pain free in a body no longer racked with cancer. My uncle singing and playing his guitar. My young friend who died all too soon in car accident making jokes and flashing his smile. My husband’s grandmother up there interceding for us even now.
Thank you, Jesus.
“And I hear the voice of many angels sing,
‘Worthy is the Lamb’
And I hear the cry of every longing heart,
‘Worthy is the Lamb, Worthy is the Lamb.'”