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Monday, August 25, 2008

Hope Winchoba with Ester
Hope Winchoba with Ester in Fair Haven, MA
This photo was taken in 2005, one of the last times we saw Hope.
John's saltbox tool shed is in the background with his buoy collection.

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"A Tribute To Hope"

"Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints" (Psalm 116:15).  "Therefore comfort one another with these words" (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

Today's texts are great verses to memorize and hide deep in our hearts when we face the death of a loved one or our own eventual death.  Today I want to share a tribute to a dear friend who passed away last week. Although few of you will know Hope I pray that this tribute might remind you of someone like her in your own life. If you would rather skip this portion, the exposition is at the bottom of today's message.  

Hope Winchoba had been a part of the church we served in Taunton Massachusetts since she was a small child when the church was started in 1928.  In fact she was in the very first service conducted. She and her late husband John (with whom she had been married nearly 65 years) lived on a small island in the Atlantic Ocean.

We visited with Hope several times since we moved from that area and once she came to Lancaster County to visit us. We spoke to her periodically on the phone through the years. 

Quahog clamsBut most of our memories are from when we pastored in Taunton and regularly saw her and John.  We had such a great time visiting with them as they were both very colorful people.  John once insisted that I eat a live quahog clam we had dug up together in the bay. I did it, but decided right there and then that I prefer to eat my clams in chowder!  We returned to their home and Hope made up a delicious clam chowder we enjoyed together.

I recall my last visit in their home before John died and the tender moment of kneeling with them and thanking God for their lives.  We knew at this time that the time of his departure was near and spoke frankly with one another.  A great peace enveloped that home and I left grateful for the privilege of pastoring such fine people.  They had been unable to attend church for some time, due to John's weakness, but before I left he asked me to take his monthly financial contribution to the church.  I was humbled by his faithful stewardship but he quickly reminded me, "It's the Lord's money."  Pastors are to be examples of faithfulness to their congregation, but it's often members of the congregation who teach us by their faithful commitment to God's teachings.   Hope went on to live another 9 years but she has now joined John and all the others who have gone before her.

The first daily verse shares the view of death from God's perspective. "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints."  What a joy and assurance that all who know Jesus will be in His very presence at the time of death and that He reckons our death as precious.

Perhaps man's perspective is best expressed by the Apostle Paul who wrote, "to live is Christ and to die is gain."  We'll miss Hope but we know she's in a far better place and that one day we will see her again.  And so will all who have loved Jesus Christ and received His salvation.

In our second daily verse the Apostle Paul instructed the Thessalonian believers regarding the death of their loved ones. He gives Spirit-inspired teaching concerning the coming of the Lord and its relation to those who died prior to the Lord's return. He assures them (and us) that when we meet the Lord the dead in fact will rise first.

He ends this section with this phrase,
"Therefore comfort one another with these words."  What comfort and encouragement this teaching surely gave these early followers of Christ and all of us through the church age.  And likewise today we can comfort and encourage one another with these same words of Holy Scripture.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer:  Father, the comfort You provide us through the Scriptures is sort of like a safety net catching us as we tumble through life's ups and downs.  You have not immunized us from the same experiences of those who have not placed their trust in You, but Your strength is perfected in our weakness.  You not only provide grace and overcoming for our present needs, but You have prepared a place for us where the best is yet to come; where we no longer face separation, pain, or sin.  Keep us faithful in our walk until that appointed day when You call us to our heavenly dwelling place.  Amen.

Brooksyne's Note:  My fondest memories of John and Hope Winchoba were the Sunday afternoons they spent in the church library awaiting the 6 P.M. Sunday evening service.  They lived 25 miles away so it was more efficient for them to simply spend their afternoons relaxing and reading rather than returning home and coming back the same day.  Most Sunday afternoons Ester, only 4 years old when we took the pastorate, would pay her respects to them and sit for a chat.  We lived next door in the parsonage and after she had visited with them for a while I'd hear the door bell ring.  John would be on the other side of the door holding Ester's little hand in his very big one. He always had a heartwarming smile as he delivered her to our care.  This was their routine for at least five years before John became ill. He and Hope had a very special relationship with Ester that warms my heart to this day.

Today we are preparing this out of a hotel along I-95 in southwestern Connecticut as we are on our way up to New Bedford, Pennsylvania where I will speak at Hope's funeral service tomorrow morning. 
West Island, where John and Hope lived is here. (Google map)

Some photos from our weekend

Twin tractors
Friday afternoon Ester and I went to the Elizabethtown Fair (Brooksyne was "faired out".)  I visited for a while with Rich Guy, a friend who serves as a chaplain with Transport For Christ. The ministry had a mobile chapel on the fairgrounds for display.

Twin tractors
It's no secret I like old tractors and this twin really caught my attention! It was on display but I assume it operates.

Twin tractors
Saturday afternoon I took my friend Jesse and three of his children to  a missions airshow here in Lancaster County.  At his place I saw this pickup his hired hand came to work in!  

At the show I also visited with John, another Amish friend who receives these messages through email at his workplace. Periodically he'll call me and ask me to place the song of the day on his voice mail. I call his cell number, place my cell phone aginst the speaker and play the song.  I call it my Amish music ministry!  Some readers may wonder with all my people photos why I don't show photos of my Amish friends.  They request that facial photos not be taken though some distant shots are acceptable.

Airplane used in
We sure enjoyed the airshow and appreciate the dedication of mission pilots.  This is a replica of the plane used by the five missionaries who were slain in Ecuador in the fifties. Steve Saint, the son of Nate Saint, who was among the martyred missionaries is in the plane ready to take off. This very plane was used in the movie, "End of the Spear".

Yesterday I preached the morning message at a church in Spring Grove Pennsylvania. We had served this church several years ago in an interim pastoral role. It was nice to see these friends again and see that the church is doing well as Pastor Jeff Higgins leads them!

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

(Click on the link to play)

"Great Is Thy Faithfulness" podcast  Audio  This includes the hymn background and the hymn.  I spoke to Hope's daughter Ellen in making arrangements for Hope's service and not surprisingly she especially preferred the hymns and I am quite sure this would have been among her favorites!  Steve Webb does an outstanding job of preparing these messages. Here's the website.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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