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Soldier4Christ
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« Reply #15 on: September 26, 2006, 10:55:09 PM »

Chapter Thirteen

   THE MORNING SUN WAS ALREADY hot when I awoke that following Saturday with a headache. We would be packing and making last-minute preparations for our early Sunday morning start to Shasta. Cindy was in town for the weekend, and I had promised her we would shop later in the day. I had to run to my office to finish a few things before my vacation, planning to be home by noon.

   The quiet of a Saturday morning office gave me time to reflect on all that had happened in the past months. The change in Kathi had been so lightning quick. I could scarcely believe that all the years of misunderstanding were over. In letting go of her, I had found her; in letting her grow up to make her own decisions, I had gained a daughter worthy of my trust. Though I had so dreaded her moving away from home and in with Felicia, this had actually drawn her closer to her family.

   My heart was light and grateful as I put away my typewriter and cleaned off my desk. It would seem so good to be away for a full week -- to fully relax. I locked the door and drove home.

   When I got there, Cindy was waiting.

   "Kathi stopped by earlier and wanted to take me to breakfast, but I told her we'd wait for you. She is coming back, and we'll go to lunch together."

   Cindy paused a moment, "Mother, have you noticed the change in Kathi?"

   I smiled, "Yes, Cindy, I've noticed."

   Cindy seemed puzzled. "She's been so sweet to me, and seems to be --" she groped for the right word, "at such peace."

   I smiled, happy that Cindy had noticed too. Now, finally, finally, the three of us could have a good relationship.

   "Thank You, Lord," my heart whispered.

   Kathi walked in a few minutes later, sunburned from her days at the beach.

   "You bad girl, we get you a car and don't see you for two days," I teased her.

   She smiled. "I've been busy getting ready for camp. I have to be at work at four o'clock. Maybe we should take two cars."

   I assured her we'd have her back in plenty of time.

   For lunch, we found a small chicken place. Kathi, who usually was so bouncy and talkative, was quiet and thoughtful.

   We chatted about Camp Hammer. "Do you have a warm coat for cool evenings?" I asked. "Now don't you drive, Kathi. Let the boys drive."

   She promised she would take along warm clothes and that she would let the boys drive, but her thoughts still seemed far away.

   We finished eating and drove on to the department store where the girls would shop while I bought groceries for our trip.

   "Good, I'll get to say good-by to Sharon." Kathi clapped her hands. Sharon had been her friend since junior high school days; they were such look-alikes that I always had to look twice when Sharon walked in the door.

   When I had finished my shopping I walked next door to meet the girls. I couldn't find them, so I asked the doorman to page Kathi Johnson.

   Finally I found her talking to Sharon, who worked at the soda fountain, and when the doorman called her name, she grimaced.

   "Oh, mother," she groaned in embarrassment.

   I hugged her. "Just think, now everyone in the store knows that Kathi Johnson is here."

   "You'll stop by after work tonight, Kathi?" I asked when we got back to the house. "About midnight?"

   "Yes, mom, I want to drop off my tip money so you can put it in the bank for me. I'll say good-by then."

   "Now take care of yourself, honey," I called as she got into her car.

   "Have fun," Cindy waved.

   We stood there, waving and smiling, watching her drive off; we stood on the driveway until the red car turned the corner and was out of sight.

   My head still ached. It was so hot, and there was still some packing to do. Suddenly I was depressed and very tired.

   When Vern came home, we decided that we would leave earlier than previously planned, so Vern called Kathi at work.

   "Yeah, dad?" her voice was bright.

   "Kathi, when you come tonight, just leave the money on the table. We've decided to leave at four in the morning and are going to bed early."

   He told her to drive carefully and gave her the number where we could be reached at Shasta -- "just in case." I was standing beside him, but I didn't reach for the telephone to say good-by. After all, in only a week we would all be home -- together again.
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« Reply #16 on: September 26, 2006, 10:56:05 PM »

Chapter Fourteen

   LAKE SHASTA LAY BEFORE US, blue and sparkling, like a diamond in the sun. We drove along the lake in excited anticipation of our week-long stay at a cabin on the waterfront.

   "It's so big," the boys exclaimed. We weren't prepared for the expansiveness nor the beauty that surrounded the mountain lake. It was the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, and we were looking forward to the peace and quiet on Monday night after the holiday crowd would leave.

   It was hot, but the air, after the heavy smog in the Los Angeles area, felt fresh and clear. Our three boys were already picturing themselves out on the lake in a boat, fishing reels in hand; Vern was dreaming of a day of waterskiing. I was silent!

   Without telling the family, I was experiencing a deep depression. I was so happy about Kathi going to Missions Camp. Cindy and Don were on their vacation. All was well! Then why, on the long twelve-hour trip, did I feel a continual deepening dread?

   Lying there in the boat, the sun shining so warmly, the water so cool and inviting, I felt that all should be well with my world. We swam in our own private cove, ate our lunch on the shore, and lay on our backs on the floating rafts looking up into the cloudless, blue skies. What could be more beautiful than a Northern California lake, surrounded by majestic mountains, and star-filled nights when we walked to the beach and sat hand in hand looking out across the water.

   For Vern and the boys, each day was better than the day before. We ate delicious fresh fish; we visited our friends, Roy and Betty Ramsey, and had lunch with them, talking over old times; we spent one whole day on water skis with a high-powered boat. We lived in our bathing suits and shorts, and when the sun became too hot, we took refuge in our air-conditioned cabin and played games with the boys.

   But each day I fought the panic I was feeling. There is no reason for it, I told myself, everything is all right. The girls were certainly having a good time. Although it was our first vacation without them, they were grown-up now and had their own lives to live. Now the feeling began to take the shape of some forthcoming dread. I tried to lose myself in reading the current best sellers I had brought along.

   Once I passed a telephone booth and wondered if I should call Kathi at Camp Hammer. She would be so busy and having so much fun -- and besides, I had nothing on which to base my fears. But I found myself counting the days and then the hours until we would leave for Southern California and home.

   At last it was Friday. Tomorrow we would take one last swim, pack the car, and head for home. I could hardly wait, and I didn't know why.

   I sat on the bench at the water's edge Friday evening watching Vern and the boys fishing. It was nearly dusk. What was so breathtakingly  beautiful during the daytime became eerie at night. Shadows were lengthening around the neighboring benches. It was turning cool.

   I had loved having two girls, and now my house would be full of boys. Football, baseball, fishing, and camping would be the topics in our home.

   Maybe that's what was wrong! I was just sad to be so far from Cindy and Kathi, even for a week.

   After the fish were cleaned and eaten and we had put the boys to bed, Vern and I walked the short block to the coffee shop for dessert. We chatted with the waitress, talking about our children. I spoke of Kathi and said, "It looks as though we'll have a missionary daughter." It sounded incredulous, even to me.

   My depression did not lift. I looked at the clock on the restaurant wall; it was 10:30 P.M. I will remember this night as long as I live, I thought, and then I wondered why.

   We walked back to the cabin slowly; suddenly all the pent-up emotion broke loose. I began to sob convulsively, but I had no reason and could not explain why I was crying. Vern held me gently, but the more he tried to comfort me, the harder I cried. Some nameless fear was gripping me. Again I lifted my prayers to my Heavenly Father, always a comfort in time of need, but the prayers seemed to bounce off the wall.

   Vern finally fell asleep, and I begged God to be near, to comfort me, for what I did not know. I held the pillow to me, rocking and crying. Finally, as I walked around the tiny cabin, I stopped as though a sudden pain hit me. I looked at my watch; it was exactly 12:30 P.M.

   "Oh, Lord," I cried out, "why aren't you near me?" The only answer I had was the sudden pounding of my heart. Something deep within me was hurting; I felt as though part of me was being snuffed out.

   I lay back on the bed, and as the tears ran down my cheeks, I turned my thoughts towards Kathi. Tomorrow they would be starting home. I smiled in the dark. I wondered if Jim and Ann Wallis in Brazil knew that Kathi had gone to camp with their boys. I began to write them a letter mentally:

   Dear Ann and Jim . . . Isn't it wonderful that God has brought Kathi and John together. I hope you are as happy as I am . . . . I drifted off finally to the blessed relief of sleep.

   Four o'clock! A knock at the door in the middle of the night. Something each parent has thought of an perhaps dreaded. For most it never comes. For us it did!

   I heard through the grogginess of a deep sleep the voice of Roy Ramsey calling Vern. "Vern, could you come to the office? There's a telephone call for you."

   I jumped from bed and the words came tumbling from my lips, "It's Kathi."

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« Reply #17 on: September 26, 2006, 10:56:24 PM »

   Vern left to answer the phone; suddenly, I knew why I had been depressed all week. I was being prepared for this moment. I sat on the edge of the bed, knowing I must get dressed and join Vern in the office, but I had something to do first. I had to talk to the Lord. And then so suddenly and so sweetly His presence was there. His peace came to me so quickly, I can only describe it as overwhelmingly real.

   When I walked into the office, I saw the stricken faces of Roy and Betty and Vern in tears.

   "Tell me, honey," I begged. "What happened? Who is it?" But, of course, I knew when I heard him saying, "A head-on collision."

   "Tell me, tell me," I insisted.

   When he hung up the phone and turned to me, he said quietly, "Kathi, Mike, and John have been killed. Dave is in the hospital in Salinas and is not expected to live. It happened about 12:30. Apparently the kids decided to head for home."

   Midnight! I saw myself standing in the middle of the cabin looking at my watch and feeling the sudden pounding of my heart. A tiny part of me had been snuffed out at that moment when Kathi lay dying in faraway King City.

   Immediately my thoughts were in Brazil with Ann and Jim Wallis. I remembered Jim standing in the pulpit and asking that the people of our church care for their precious children. Now their handsome son John was gone and Dave was critically injured.

   "Oh, God," I prayed, "let Dave live."

   My thoughts went racing to Canoga Park and to Joe and Veda Quatro. Their second son, Mike, was such an appealing, dedicated boy. The pain seemed tripled!

   And just like that, a well-known, underlined verse in my Bible popped out at me. "Absent from the body, present with the Lord."

   "How close they must have been to the Lord," I said aloud. "Just leaving Missions Camp, they were probably bubbling over with happiness."

   "I must call Cindy." Vern dialed her apartment in Garden Grove. He said only a few words before they both broke down.

   "You know the camp Kathi was going to?" he said. . . . I took the phone and sobbed, "Go home, sweetheart. Be home when we get there."

   We called our parents, and then I thought of Felicia -- alone in their new apartment -- expecting Kathi to arrive that day.

   "I must tell Felicia."

   "Who's Felicia?" Betty wanted to know.

   What could I say? Who is Felicia? Felicia's my best friend, mom, I could hear Kathi saying. I love Felicia.

   Her best friend whom I resented so bitterly. Now I wanted to see her, to ask her forgiveness, to hold her as though it were Kathi herself.

   Roy called Pastor Royal Blue and asked him to drive down from Redding before we left. Pastor Blue had been a camp counselor at many junior high camps Kathi had attended. She loved him and so did we. He arrived in a short time and opened the Bible to the Psalms.

   Rich, Dave, and Danny stood numbly by us, hardly believing their so alive sister was gone. We held hands and prayed for the grace of God to be our portion; we prayed for His peace, and how sweetly He provided it. We prayed for Dave Wallis, fighting for his life; and we prayed for Ann and Jim they they might be able to come home; we prayed for Joe and Veda.

   Dawn was filtering through the windows when we said our good-bys to the Ramseys and Pastor Blue. Lake Shasta lay behind us, cold and uninviting.

   Vern drove in silence, heading for Salinas to identify our daughter. The boys sat quietly in the back, while I leaned my head on the seat and thought of the past few weeks.

   I remembered a day not long ago when Kathi had stood in our den and looked at her brothers.

   "Yes," she said, nodding, "you have raised good boys. You have a nice family."

   A cold chill had passed over me. "Why, Kathi," I said, "what a thing to say. You are part of this family."

   She had turned away. What kind of premonitions had Kathi been having the past months. Now I remembered what she had told a friend, "I dreamt I was on my way to a wedding, on the freeway, and I fell asleep and woke up in heaven."

   As we rode along in silence, I thought of my baby, my little girl, who had at last grown into a young woman -- my daughter whom I had never really understood. I would never see her laughing face again, never hear her bright, "Hi, mom."

   "Now I really understand what the finished work of Jesus Christ means." I broke the silence and looked at Vern. "It means the door to heaven is open to all who believe."

   The sustaining grace of God was our anchor; we felt His hand every mile of that long, hot journey.

   Finally we had to stop and get the boys some breakfast. When the small, dark-haired waitress poured our coffee, I remembered that night at Norm's Coffee Shop when we had celebrated Vern's birthday. Kathi had been walking on air, smiling, chatting, and laughing. I pushed my cup aside and sobbed openly and unashamedly.

   But in spite of all the pain, never once did I have to ask "Why?" I was to know the answer before the week was over.
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« Reply #18 on: September 26, 2006, 10:56:55 PM »

Chapter Fifteen

   WE DROVE UP THE LONG winding road to the hospital in Salinas and stepped into the coolness of the reception room.

   The girl at the switchboard turned to greet us.

   "Dave Wallis," Vern's voice was husky. "How is Dave Wallis?"

   The girl at the switchboard turned to a nurse standing nearby. The nurse shook her head.

   "Very bad. You won't be allowed to see him, but there is a number here for you to call. His sister Ethel has arrived."

   With shaking fingers I called the number on the telephone pad.

   "This is Pastor Wilson's residence," a strange voice said. I asked for Ethel Wallis.

   "Oh, Ethel," I began to cry, "I'm so sorry."

   Her voice was steady, "You know, the Lord is with us." Ethel, the same age as my Cindy, had already settle the matter in her heart. She had committed Dave to Christ. Her courage undergirded my own. I told her we would be there right away.

   Pastor Ralph Wilson opened his heart and home to our families so graciously that day after the camp director had phoned him about the accident.

   We drove to the Wilson residence and straight into the concern and love of fellow believers. Joe Quatro stood there -- grief-stricken; Ethel was waiting to put in a shortwave call to her parents in Brazil. Jim Montgomery, chairman of our deacon board and a long-time friend, stood there with Joe.

   Already the Saturday morning paper had headlined: "Three die in Greenfield crash."

   I read the news report and could hardly believe that was my Kathi they were writing about.

   We stood there together in the dining room of the Wilson home, each giving strength to the other, and each receiving strength from the Lord.

   When we called the hospital again, Dave had been taken in for emergency surgery.

   "Dave must live," I said to Ethel.

   "He will," Ethel smiled. "I know he will."

   At last it was three o'clock and the shortwave call could go through. Ethel had promised her father she would be calling him that day to wish him a happy birthday. Instead, she must tell him of John's death and Dave's injuries.

   The radio message was blurred. Ethel had to shout to be heard. Each word was like a fresh stab of pain to me. "John killed," she said loudly and clearly, "Dave injured. Make arrangements to come home."

   When she finished, she seemed drained of all strength.

   "They will try to get permission to leave the country immediately," she said.

   Heavy, heavy hangs over my heart . . . . I looked at Joe who was deep in his own thoughts. But all the time I was thinking of the child of my own heart, Kathi. I kept hearing her voice the day I handed her my car keys.

   "Thanks, mom," it was ringing over and over in my ears.

   "Honey," Vern told me, "I'll drive home with the boys. I want you to fly home with Joe and Jim."

   I readily agreed.

   "Do you realize," I leaned over to talk to Joe in the plane, "that we all had five children?"

   Joe nodded, "I thought of that. And it was our second sons and your second daughter who were taken."

   We were silent the rest of the short flight.

   My thoughts began to center on one plea. If only there were a letter from Kathi at home, just a short note telling us about camp. If only . . . if only . . . . It repeated itself like a broken record in my head. If only a short note -- if only a letter . . . a letter . . . a letter . . . .

   At last we landed at the Los Angeles International Airport, and I phoned my mother. She had been waiting for my call.

   "I'll meet you at your house." I knew she had been crying.

   Jim drove me home, and standing on the driveway -- just waiting -- was Cindy. We walked into a wordless embrace. There were no words that could express our grief. We had lost kathi just when we had found her. Cindy understood that only too well.

   I walked into the house and sat heavily on the sofa. Cindy turned on a light. Our eyes were swollen; sorrow lay out in the open to be shared. We had both loved kathi and neither of us had understood her.

   I voiced my thoughts then. "If only . . . if only there had been a short note -- a letter -- from Kathi." I looked around the house as though I expected to find one.

   "Well, mom," Cindy sat forward, "I went to see Felicia this afternoon to tell her, and she did get a letter from Kathi. I thought you might not want to see it just yet." She opened her purse.

   I reached for the two pages Cindy was holding.

   "Oh, yes, yes, I do."

   I closed my eyes a second before I began to read the familiar handwriting. Felicia had received the letter Friday. Kathi must have written it Wednesday, just three days before the accident.

   It was written on the back of some notes, half-written, half-printed, as though she had so much to say and had to say it all right then -- no time to waste.

   I opened the letter and began to read, and the tears sprang to my eyes and rolled down my cheeks.

Felicia,

   This is the first chance I've gotten to write. I've been so busy studying God's Word. This place is the greatest. I have really great times with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I'm learning so much, and yet I know nothing. Felicia, I wish you were here right now. Christ is the only answer and no matter how much Jon, Sharon, Brad, or you think this makes no sense, man, it is the greatest. I've really missed out on a lot because I'm living as the world lives. Oh, if only everyone had my Jesus. I just can't believe how much there is to know and learn. The Christian life is the only life. I don't mean the hypocritical life such as I was living, but being close to the Holy Spirit, trusting him.

   Felicia, I'm not gonna fool around with you anymore. You need Jesus. I don't mean as you have him now. You need to walk and talk with him everyday. As your best friend it's my responsibility to see you are not lost. Believe me I know this world has nothing to offer. You may think Jim is the only answer, but he didn't die for your sins. I can't stress enough your need for God. Do you realize what we could achieve together. When you really have Christ in your life as your Master, I guarantee you change. I have failed as a Christian, but believe me, for every person I've failed, three more will learn to trust in Jesus. I know the first thing you'll say is "There she goes again with her religion." I'll tell you something. I don't care what anyone thinks, because everyone needs Jesus. Take time to pray, talk to God, ask him his perfect plan for your life. He has one for everyone, but it's up to you to find out what it is.

   Read the Bible. You'll never believe how great it is. Even I can't comprehend its greatness. I can't ever wait until I can read it more. There's no time to waste because God is going to judge us and we have to give an account. What have we done for Christ. There are a lot of things we have to discuss when I get home. I'm so excited to tell you. Please don't ignore this. Felicia, pray to God. Ask him to come into your life. Don't be selfish like me, and don't say I won't give in because materialistic things of the world will all be past, but what you do for Christ will last. And you know why you never grew in Christ after you walked up the aisle. Because everyday you must read God's Word and pray. Christ is the answer, and I thank God every time I pray up here for giving me his Son and eternal life.

   Felicia, I'm praying for you along with my brothers and sisters up here. I hope that soon you will be my sister too. It's going to be hard for me to go back to the apartment because the Bible says we need Christian fellowship and it's hard for me there. We need to have a heart to heart talk, and I really want to listen to what you have to say. Felicia, I'm out for the world, and if I can't even make my best friend see this way, then I see how difficult the job is. Be good and when I get home we've got a lot of talking to do, I hope.

In Christ's love I write this,

Kathi 
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« Reply #19 on: September 26, 2006, 10:57:22 PM »

Chapter Sixteen

   "WHERE'S FELICIA?" I asked Cindy.

   "She's coming over later, mom." Cindy then told me how she had gone to the apartment to break the news to Felicia.

   "I decided," Cindy said, "I would tell her very calmly, but I didn't. I cried all the time I was telling her.

   "Felicia sat as still as stone. Finally she reached for this letter which was lying on the coffee table.

   " 'At least we know she is with God,' were her words. The moment she said that she began sobbing. I read Kathi's letter and asked her if I could show it to you. She said yes.

   " 'I guess your mom won't want to see me,' she said softly, but I said, 'Yes, she will.' I knew you would, mom."

   And I did. For now I could love Felicia completely and truly, just as Kathi had wanted me to. She had been the closest friend to my daughter and I wanted to see her.

   My mother and my brother and his family arrived . . . the phone was ringing . . . the doorbell was ringing . . . friends called to assure us of their love and prayers. And I was anxious for Vern and the boys to arrive from Salinas.

   My mother told me how Kathi had come to see her recently. She had been surprised, for it was the first time Kathi had ever visited her grandmother alone.

   "I had the day off, grandma," she had said, "and I just thought I'd come and visit you."

   They talked together of Kathi's decision to go to Missions Camp the following week.

   "I'm so excited," she had said. "I can hardly wait."

   When she kissed Kathi good-by at the door, that was the last time my mother ever saw her "sweet Kathi." What had made her take the long detour from Westwood to Pacific Palisades, just to "visit" her grandma?

   We learned also that Kathi had made a special trip to Hope's home the day before she left for camp.

   "Hope," Kathi had said, "we haven't been as good friends lately, and I'm sorry. I've been praying and praying for God's will to be done in my life, and He has answered. I didn't even ask to go to camp, they asked me."

   That was Kathi's good-by to her friend Hope.

   And the urgency of the letter that she wrote to Felicia was found in a similar letter to her friend Brad in the Navy.

   Kathi's letter to Felicia was a balm in an open wound. I carried it with me and showed it to my family and friends as they arrived.

   "It's almost as though she knew," some would say. Or, "It's inspired of the Lord."

   I went to the door to answer a persistent ring at nine o'clock and there was Kathi's old friend Tom.

   "Hi," he was smiling. "Kathi doesn't live here any more, does she?"

   I opened the door and asked him to come in the house.

   "Tom," I said as gently as I could, "haven't you heard? Kathi was in an accident. She was killed."

   I thought Tom was going to faint; he turned white and sat down.

   "Read this letter she wrote to Felicia three days ago, Tom", and I handed him the cherished paper. He sat down and read it; when he handed it back to me, his eyes were wet.

   "What a girl! Telling what she believed loud and clear, right to the end."

   I had to smile a moment remembering Kathi and Tom's heated discussions over religious doctrine.

   "She's with the Lord, Tom," I assured him, and he nodded.

   Around midnight when things had subsided, Vern arrived home with the boys. He enfolded me in his arms to comfort me and was surprised at the peace that had come to me.

   "Look, honey." I showed him Kathi's letter.

   "I'm out for the world," he repeated. "Only Kathi would say a thing like that." His voice was choked with emotion. "And you know what? She will reach the world with this testimony of her faith. Who could resist such an appeal?"

   We prayed! We thanked our Heavenly Father for taking our daughter straight home to be with Himself.

   "That where I am there ye may be also," Jesus said.

   What a comfort!

   "Honey," Vern reached for my hand, "she's home free."
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« Reply #20 on: September 26, 2006, 10:57:44 PM »

Chapter Seventeen

   SUNDAY MORNING THE DOORBELL RANG; it was Felicia and her mother. When Felicia had phoned her mother in Texas, all she could say was, "Mother, Kathi's dead." Her mother had flown immediately to be with her and here, for the first time, I met her.

   "Felicia, forgive me," I said as I embraced her and began to cry. "I was envious, I suppose, because you and Kathi were so close." I sobbed out all the emotions I had carried inside so long.

   The three of us spent most of that day getting to know each other. I could feel Kathi's presence, warm and real, so happy that at last I had accepted and loved her best friend. Perhaps many misunderstandings could have been avoided if we had all met and talked together two years ago.

   "Kathi never let me down, not once," Felicia told me. "She promised me if I made it back to California, she'd live with me, at least through the summer. And she kept her word, even though she knew it was hurting you."

   Our house was filled with family and friends -- Kathi's friends flocked to the door . . . food . . . flowers . . .telephone calls from distant states . . . and always, those words of blessed comfort, "We sorrow not as others who have no hope."

   How can one have peace at a time like this, but peace it was -- spreading through me, perfect and pure, the peace that passes all understanding -- the peace of God.

   In faraway Brazil, Jim and Ann Wallis were frantically trying to get permission to leave the country. It couldn't have been at a worse time. All permission had been temporarily postponed due to political upheavals in the government. It looked as though it would be impossible.

   Friends all over the United States formed a chain of prayer that God would work miracles to let them come home.

   On Tuesday the suspense was great. Dave was still on the critical list, and we had heard no word from Brazil. A few men from our church got together and theorized, "If you wanted to talk to someone in Brazil, what would you do?"

   "You would pick up the phone and ask the operator if you could place a call to Brazil," one man said.

  "That's what we'll do."

   The call went through immediately, and they learned that the Wallises were already in flight on their way home to the States and would arrive in Salinas on Wednesday to see Dave.

   We learned later that it had been a miracle from the hand of the Lord to open the heart of a high official of the Brazilian government to allow them to leave at such an inopportune time.

   Vern and I knew that, along with Joe and Veda Quatro, we would have to make arrangements for the funeral to be held Thursday.

   As we started out the door to meet Joe at the funeral home, I turned to look at Kathi's graduation picture. A casket for her? My vibrant, dancing "that girl"? I held tightly to Vern's hand, gathering strength for the task ahead of me.

   When we met Joe at the funeral home, he told us all the details of the accident. The car had somehow gone over the median and into the path of oncoming traffic. How it happened no one knew.

   I was picturing the little red Mustang traveling along the curved highway, four laughing teen-agers, talking, munching on candy bars, so happy from their week at camp. Did they see it coming? Was it too sudden for them to realize they were going to have a head-on collision?

   However it happened, why it happened was not for us to know. And now we had to choose a final resting place for our three children. Our hearts were deeply touched when dear friends graciously offered three graves next to each other in beautiful Oakwood Memorial Park in Chatsworth.

   That night when we were home, Vern handed me the tiny blue birthstone Kathi had been wearing at the time of the accident. I held it tenderly. Kathi had loved it so much and had worn it always. I thought lovingly of John, who was in the service now, and remembered the night he had so proudly given Kathi this little ring.

   God had again done abundantly above all I could ask or think. I had Kathi's letter, her final testimony to her love for Jesus Christ, and I had this little ring, a tribute to her abiding friendships. I didn't know it then, but I was to have more, so much more.
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« Reply #21 on: September 26, 2006, 10:58:09 PM »

Chapter Eighteen

   "HONEY," VERN TOLD ME, " I think you ought to remember Kathi as she was. I don't think you want to see her as she is now."

   He had gone in ahead of me at the funeral home and was quite shaken when he came out. But I knew deep in my heart that I had to see the body Kathi left behind. I knew it would be final for me then.

   I walked into the room slowly and looked down at my second daughter. Her dark hair had been brushed and lay loosely about her face. Her bangs had been cut into a wisp on her forehead. The laughing dark eyes were closed. Kathi was gone.

   While I stood there, Vern gently put his arm around me, and we both sensed the presence of God. His glory filled the room. It was so real in an unexplainable way. Instead of breaking down as I thought I might, my heart felt lighter, for I knew that this wasn't our Kathi. She was alive right now, more alive than ever, and in a way we could never realize this side of heaven.

   Cindy came up beside me, and then Felicia, my mother, my brother, and our boys. Felicia tenderly laid a lovely bouquet of flowers in Kathi's hands. As I watched Felicia's face, the tears did come to my eyes. She had love and known Kathi so well, perhaps better than any of us. Kathi's last thoughts and prayers had been for Felicia. "It's my responsibility to see that you're not lost," she had written.

   When the others turned to leave, I touched Kathi's hand and whispered, "Good-night honey, I'll see you in the morning." That had always been a part of our good-nights when the children were small. At the door I would turn to say, "Good-night, honey, I'll see you in the morning."

   This night would be a little longer, perhaps, but the morning would come when I would see my beloved child once more.

   Felicia walked to the car with us, deep in thought.

   "Do you think I could talk to Pastor Smith tonight?" she asked.

   Ivan Smith, our former pastor, had just arrived from the East because we had asked him to officiate at the funeral. We drove Felicia to the home where he was staying, and he took her aside.

   "I want to be a Christian," she told him, "just like Kathi."

   When Felicia walked back into the room where we were waiting, her face was aglow.

   I hugged her; my heart was too full to speak.

   Kathi's prayers were answered. Felicia had made a commitment to Jesus Christ and opened her heart and life to Him.

   I remembered that day in August when we were having lunch and Kathi had said, "Now I know what I want to do with my life. I want to be a missionary."

   Had she lived to an old age, Kathi might never have been able to reach Felicia as she had in death. And had she gone to the mission field as she planned, Kathi might never have reached the thousands who would soon hear the truth of the Gospel because of her death.

   How true are the words of the Apostle Paul: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God."
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« Reply #22 on: September 26, 2006, 10:58:34 PM »

Chapter Nineteen

   JIM AND ANN WALLIS and their two boys arrived from Salinas bringing Dave home by air ambulance. He was to go into UCLA Medical Hospital for extensive plastic surgery the following week.

   We welcomed them into our home, along with Joe and Veda, Pastor Smith, and Roy McKuen, president of World Opportunities, Inc., long-time friend of the Wallis family. Though full of grief, our hearts were completely surrendered to the fact that this was God's will for us. We talked of our children; the Quatros told of Sue and Alissa, friends of Mike, who had received Christ in their home that day; Jim and Ann told of John's friends who were expressing faith in Jesus Christ.

   All of us wanted the funeral service the following day to be one of victory -- tragedy turned into triumph. We formed a circle and held hands, each of us praying and asking the Lord to bring glory to His name through our children's Homegoing.

   We cried together; we prayed again!

   What strength God gave us that day -- what perfect peace.

   When I went to bed that night, I asked God to give me grace and strength for the next day. I wanted the whole world to know that His grace was sufficient to meet every need, even the burying of a daughter.

   The long, black limousine came for our family, and we drove to Van Nuys Baptist Church where the service was to be held. It was mid-morning and already warm for an early September day. The vast parking lot was filling with cars.

   Inside the beautiful sanctuary, the pipe organ filled the church with glorious sounds. Our family sat in the pew behind the Wallis family, and the Quatros were behind us.

   Flowers filled the front where the three closed coffins lay. Over them was a huge cross of flowers sent by the Conservative Baptist Missions Camp where our children had spent the last week of their lives.

   And everywhere -- teen-agers! I had asked Kathi's friends from school to be her pallbearers -- Tom, Jim, Glen, and Jon. I remembered last Easter Sunday when she had brought them all to church.

   "I wanted them to hear the Gospel," her words echoed, "about the death of Christ and especially the Resurrection."

   Jim was weeping openly. Kathi had been his pal; they had confided their secret wishes and dreams to each other. Glen, who had recently lost his sister in an automobile accident and who had make those midnight telephone calls so that Kathi could "comfort him." Tom -- how he and Kathi had laughed and teased each other, often ending in verbal hassles over church doctrine. And Jon, the one to whom Kathi had recently said, "One of us in this crowd is going to be killed in an auto accident."

   When I saw Felicia enter, my heart warmed remembering her decision to follow Christ. And just yesterday Felicia's mother had told Pastor Smith, "I've been away from the Lord for many years, but I'm coming back today."

   And then I thought of the little card that had accompanied a lovely floral piece that had arrived that morning. "Thank you, Kathi -- Bev," was all it had said. Who was Bev?

   The sound of a familiar strain from the piano brought me back to reality. It was the Young People's Choir singing a song Kathi had loved to play and sing -- "The Father Loves You." It brought Kathi sharply into focus and I remembered the many times she had called her friends to the piano to listen to "this cool song . . ."

   Roy McKuen read the twenty-third Psalm and the words of Jesus in John 14:

       Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions . . . I go to prepare a place for you . . . that where I am, there ye may be also.

Words I had read and heard all my life now took on new meaning.

   Pastor Smith, visibly shaken, began speaking to the crowd of nearly two thousand people.

   "I wondered what Scripture I should use at a time like this, and the verse that Mike's dad showed me underlined in his Bible characterizes the lives of these three young people.

       According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

   "These are the same words quoted by Mike at Camp Hammer the closing night of camp, when he stood to his feet and gave his testimony that Christ should be glorified in his body, whether by life or by death. Christ chose to be glorified by Mike's death . . . .

   "I asked the Wallis family what John wanted to do with his life. They told me that just before they returned to the mission field, John had said that he 'wanted to preach like Billy Graham and win people to Christ' . . ."

   Pastor Smith then read Kathi's letter to Felicia.

   "Kathi must have had a premonition that she was going to be ushered into the presence of the Lord," he continued. "I believe she wrote this letter as though it was the last thing she might ever do . . .

   "It was the desire of these young people that Christ be glorified in their lives. Already a number of their friends have come to know Christ as Savior. I mean in a personal way, the way Kathi was talking about, not just becoming a member of the church, but knowing the living Christ in a real way.

   "If we were to ask Kathi, Mike, and John to say something here today, I know what they'd say. 'We want you to know our Jesus.' And they would tell you heaven is the 'greatest.' That's exactly how they'd express it. For them it was gain to die. You may ask what possible gain could come from their deaths, but I'll tell you -- to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. We weep and sorrow, but not as others who have no hope, because we know that Kathi, Mike, and John are with Christ. . . . .

   "If these three were to speak today, they would say, 'I had the most, the greatest -- life in Christ. Christ is the greatest. Serve Him now. You can only count on today. There's no time to waste."

   When he had finished, Roy McKuen asked the audience to stand and sing "When We All Get to Heaven." It was a hymn of glorious anticipation. And as the hundreds and hundreds of people filed past the three closed caskets, the organist played Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus."

   There were many poignant moments . . . little Bobby Wallis tugging at the coat of the undertaker and whispering, "Sir, which one is my brother?"

   Kathi's grave was between John's and Mike's -- as in life, so in death, surrounded by her friends.

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« Reply #23 on: September 26, 2006, 10:59:04 PM »

Chapter Twenty

    DEAR MRS. JOHNSON,

       I know that you have heard from many of us at Missions Camp. I, too, want to express my sympathy for your loss. How wonderful, though, that we can rejoice in the ways the Lord uses and magnifies the death of His children.

       I mainly wanted to write to let you know how highly Kathi spoke of you and Mr. Johnson, and how deep her love was for you. On the first night of camp, Kathi told me that she was living in an apartment with Felicia. Knowing that my parents would put up a bit of a fuss if I moved out, I asked her how you, her parents, had reacted. With obvious pride, she spoke of your concern for her in leaving, but said that you had respected her decision and allowed her to move. She also spoke of how wonderful you were in other ways.

       Once, when we spoke of raising our own families, Kathi said how glad she was of the way she had been raised. She felt that she had been guided, instructed, and raised with the greatest love and Christian commitment on your part. She also spoke of her love for her brothers and how she had enjoyed taking them camping the week before.

       Kathi spoke of her parents often, and it was always with the deepest respect and love. She was a beautiful girl, and I'm sure you are proud to be her parents.

       I pray that this letter will be of comfort to you.

   I have never met the writer of that beautiful letter, but it was a balm to me in those days after the funeral -- along with many other cards and letters telling of Kathi's faith in Christ, of her beauty in helping others, and always everyone spoke of her genuine love for the Lord and of her constant smile.

   We were having dinner one night with friends, only a week after the funeral, when a long-distance telephone call came through for me from Seattle, Washington.

   It was Kathi's roommate, Valerie, from Camp Hammer. She wanted to tell me of Kathi's last days, of her joy in surrendering her life to God.

   "We went to a service together on Thursday night," she told me, "and the missionary spoke on death. Walking back to our cabin, I said to Kathi, 'You know, Kathi, I would be willing to die if my father would come to know Christ.' Kathi stopped suddenly, as though a new idea had hit her. I could see the thoughts whirling around in her head. Then she said, so softly, 'Yes, I, too, would be willing to die if Felicia and my friends would come to know my Savior.'

   "That night Kathi had a nightmare and awoke screaming. 'It was so dark, and I couldn't find the door. I'm so afraid something is going to happen.'

   "In the morning Kathi told Dave, Mike, and John about her dream. They sat under a tree, and Dave opened the Bible to Psalm 27: 'The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid/' Then they prayed, each of them praying that God would use their lives, all of their lives, for His glory, whether by life or death.

   "When Kathi walked back into our cabin, her face was radiant. 'Now I've given my whole life to Jesus,' she said."

   When I finished talking to Valerie, I could only breathe another prayer of thanks to our wonderful Lord.

   "It was no accident," I said as I took my place at the table. "God took those kids. He just reached down and took them."

   Vern and I drove to the UCLA hospital the following day to see Dave. He was scheduled for plastic surgery soon. When we walked into the room, I was unprepared for what I saw. His face was swollen beyond recognition, his arm in a cast.

   He started to rise from his bed. "Mrs. Johnson," he spoke through clenched jaws, "I want to kiss you." I bent down to brush my lips across Dave's face and my tears fell on his cheek.

   Dave would have many weeks of wired jaws, more plastic surgery, and much pain, but he grew ten feet tall in the following months. The peace of God was his portion; Dave had committed himself to the Lord.

   "I'll have to take up where they left off. We just don't realize how sovereign God really is. It's not, why has God taken them, but why has He left me."

   The circle began to widen, ever so slowly, but surely. One Saturday I heard a knock on the door and there stood lovely, blonde Debby, one of Kathi's friends whom I knew only slightly.

   "You know what I just did?" she sobbed. "I went to the cemetery, sat down on Kathi's grave, and gave my heart to Jesus."

   Between her sobs, I learned that Kathi had been especially kind to Debby in high school. I grew to know and love this girl in the following weeks as she came to our church and our home often. But my heart was deeply touched when some months later she sent me her graduation picture with this note:

   "I want to thank you for everything you've done for me. . . .Please help me discover things which I have long neglected. And Christ seems for now."

   Then there were Sharon and Hope, both expressing faith in Christ.

   But I was soon to hear a story that settled any doubts that God had chosen Kathi, Mike, and John to fulfill a special mission in life. For I was to meet Bev and hear her remarkable story!
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« Reply #24 on: September 26, 2006, 10:59:44 PM »

Chapter Twenty-one

   ON MONDAY NIGHT, two weeks after the accident, Bev finally came to our door. I greeted the glowing girl with a hug.

   "Kathi was so great," she began after we sat down together over tea and cookies. "I guess you want to know why I signed my card, "Thank you, Kathi.' "

   "I do, I do."

   Bev flipped her long hair back in typical teen-age fashion.

   "I was at the beach with some kids from my club when we heard about the accident. Most of the girls were in swimming, but a few of us were just sitting around talking, when all of a sudden we heard a scream and one of the girls came running down the hill crying, 'Kathi Johnson has been killed.'

   "We were all stunned. Not Kathi, I thought. Kathi had been so alive and always so excited about everything. My friend Mary and I had just been talking about God and how we just couldn't believe there could be a God, you know, with all the bad stuff going on in the world. And now this news about Kathi. I just couldn't believe God would let her die."

   We both wiped the tears from our eyes as Bev continued.

   "After awhile the other girls went away, and Mary and I were sitting there crying and talking about Kathi when all of a sudden two girls walked up to us. They said, 'Could we share something with you?' We nodded.

   "Then they told us about the four spiritual laws and how God loves us and has a plan for our lives.

   "We listened to everything they said, especially because of the news we had just heard about Kathi. When they asked us if there was any reason why we couldn't let Christ into our hearts, we knew there wasn't. Mary and I both bowed our heads and put God on the throne of our hearts instead of ourselves.

   "Now there seemed a reason to be living. Everything that had puzzled me before fell into place.

   "If it hadn't been for Kathi's death and the faith I knew she had placed in Christ, I might never have known the Lord. That's why I said, 'Thank you, Kathi.' "

   Bev's radiance was real, her joy unmistakable. I thought of that gem of a verse in Corinthians, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."

   In the months to come I saw the "new" things in Bev's life: her new faith, her new goals, her new desires. I couldn't help but look at Kathi's smiling picture and repeat, "Thank you, Kathi."

   One Sunday in church Bev handed me a small folded piece of paper. On it she had written these words:

I had a friend,
And I didn't know it,
So caught up was I in my own world.
I ignored an outstretched hand full of warmth.
My friend is gone, but I feel the warmth.
My friend left me LIFE.

   As we shared the decisions of Kathi's friends with the Wallises and the Quatros, they had much to share about friends of Mike and John. They, too, had left a tremendous impact on their friends. It was John's aunt, Ethel Emily Wallis, author and missionary, who conceived the idea of printing a small booklet in memory of our three children. Under her capable hands, we watched the booklet grow into a highly polished, eight-page brochure called "The Winning Team."

   On the cover was a picture of John Wallis breaking the tape for Canoga Park High's track team. Inside, pictures of Kathi, Mike, John, and Dave graced the colorful pages, with their testimonies, snapshots taken at Camp Hammer, a newspaper clipping about the accident, and an excerpt of the funeral message.

   The last paragraph read: "If you would like to know more about the God of Kathi, Mike, and John, write to Dave Wallis."

   It was distributed to each student at the three high schools and began making its way into homes all over the San Fernando Valley and even into faraway states.

   As thrilling as the response to the booklet, was the Sunday morning service at which it was dedicated. The church was filled to capacity; many school friends of the four were there. And at one point, Felicia gave her first testimony of Jesus Christ.

   "I know many of you think it was Kathi's letter that brought me to Christ, but it wasn't. It was her life. I knew her and lived with her, and I knew she had something I didn't have -- something I wanted. Now I know it was Jesus Christ. And I don't have to be afraid or lonely anymore. I have Christ with me always. I only want God's will for my life."

   It was a shining moment! But only a foretaste of the real glory when we stand before the Lord and really know the countless souls brought to heaven because of Kathi, Mike, John, and Dave . . . .

   "Remember, things don't just happen to those who love God," I could hear my dad saying. "They are planned."

   "We prayed before we left camp," Dave told us. "We all prayed that the hand of God would be on our car."

   And their prayers were answered -- not exactly the way they might have expected, but answered -- in God's perfect timing. God had heard their dedication in promising Him all and had taken them at their word.

   As letters began coming in to Dave, I thought of the line in Kathi's letter to Felicia. "For every one I've failed, three more will come to trust in Jesus."

   Dave, so miraculously recovered, began answering the letters, sharing his faith with the many who asked for help. And Dave shared some of the letters with me, all written with the same plea -- from teen-agers, from grandmothers, from servicemen, and even from a high school coach -- "Help me find God!"

       Dear Dave,

       I read the small story of you and the other three of you Winning Team and I really felt a touch of our Lord's goodness I suppose you have many people ask you how you can be glad when your friends and your very own brother were killed, but they don't understand that they have already reached the home we want to have when we die. I only came too Christ a few weeks ago, but I am so glad I did. How can I tell my friends about Christ? Should I write a letter similar to what Kathi wrote to her friend Felicia and what she told her? I am wondering about this. Please help me.

       Dear Dave,

       I read the pamphlet on "A Winning Team" and was very impressed by it. I would very much like to know about the God of Kathi, Mike, and John. So as the pamphlet stated to do, I am writing to you for this information. I hope that through you I can find the God of Kathi, Mike, and John. My sincerest thanks.

       Dear Dave,

       I have read the magazine called "A Winning Team." I am of another faith but would like to know how others feel about God. I would like to know more about the God of Kathi, Mike, and John. I am a captain of a cross-country team.

   Letters upon letters, all answered by Dave, who had promised to "take their place."
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« Reply #25 on: September 26, 2006, 11:00:37 PM »

Chapter Twenty-two

   I EXPERIENCED A SHARP THRILL when I looked around at the people gathered in our living room. Some were Kathi's friends, some had never met her, but all had heard of the accident, read "The Winning Team," and wanted to begin a Bible study class.

   I thought of Felicia who had gone back to Texas with her mother.

   "I want to help her now," Felicia said -- Felicia, the rebellious girl who had run away from home. "I want to tell my brothers and sisters about Jesus."

   She had given me a card before she left, and when I opened it and read the words there, I longed for Kathi to know, too.

    Dear Mrs. Johnson,

       One of the things Kathi wanted most was that I become her sister in Christ. Now that is a reality. And being her sister makes me your daughter. I love you.

   I would always love and pray for Felicia.

   One night Steve came to our Bible study, and I knew from the moment I met him that God had great things planned for him. Steve endeared himself to Vern and me immediately. His desire to know more about God was all consuming; his prayers were simple, direct, and challenging to our own hearts.

   Steve, who had come from a broken home, would soon move in with Dave Wallis, who was to become a great influence in his life. The night Steve confided to Vern and me that he wanted to be a minister was a high point for us. Later Steve brought his friend Janie to the group, and after listening and studying, she, too, came to know Christ personally.

   As the members of the group opened up to each other, we were all drawn closer to one another and to Christ. Our last Bible class met just before the Christmas season, and as each went his or her own way, I was thankful for the time of sharing and growing we had had. In losing Kathi, I had gained numerous sons and daughters in Christ.

   The day before Christmas I went alone to Oakwood Memorial Park and laid flowers on the three graves. The markers were new, and I fought back the tears as I read the verses each family had chosen.

   On Mike's, his favorite: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

   John's marker read: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."

   And for Kathi's we had chosen: "To be with Christ, which is far better."

   Oh, Kathi, I thought, if only I had really taken the time to know and understand you. As I turned to go back to the car, that verse about entertaining "angels unaware" ran through my mind, and these words came to me:

    I had an angel and didn't know it;
    She hurried through life in a breathless sort of way,
    She touched this one and that one in her short life span,
    Like a candle burning wildly and then flickering out too soon,
    For one brief, shining hour she warmed so many with that glow.

   We sat around the tree on Christmas Eve and opened gifts, and for the first time, Cindy had to open her traditional pair of slippers alone. But instead of the terrible longing for Kathi which I had anticipated, my heart was filled with a special kind of joy -- the joy that only Christ can bring! For sharing our first Christmas without her were Hope, Debby, Bev, and Kathi's old boyfriend John -- and a warm long distance phone call from Felicia.

   They missed her, too, for they had found a deeper meaning to life because of knowing her. And without saying it, we all felt her presence.

   Cindy's gift to Kathi's memory was in the form of a verse which she wrote in anguish one night. She called it "For Every Sister."

    Tomorrow,
    I'll try to understand her,
    Try to understand the excitement behind
    Those piercing black eyes,
    Try to understand her zeal for life,
    Tireless energy, and love for others.
    Tomorrow,
    I'll sit down beside her and get to know
    This sister of mine.
    I'll get to know the skinning little girl
    I grew up with and shared a bedroom with
    For all our teen years.
    Tomorrow,
    We'll share secrets together,
    We'll go for a long walk,
    We'll just sit together for hours and laugh.
    Tomorrow,
    I'll ask her about her boyfriends,
    I'll ask her about her girlfriends,
    I'll even ask what her favorite subject is in school.
    Today?
    I'm too busy,
    I have too much to do,
    She's getting on my nerves.
    Today,
    She's borrowing my precious clothes, ruining them.
    Today,
    She's using up all the gas in my car.
    Today,
    She's asking stupid questions
    I just don't feel like answering.
    Today,
    I'm too tired.
    But tomorrow,
    I'll tell her how much I love her,
    I'll hug her and tell her she's pretty,
    I'll tell her I'm glad I have a sister . . . tomorrow.
    Tomorrow
    Has finally come and she is gone!

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« Reply #26 on: September 26, 2006, 11:00:59 PM »

   A task I had been postponing loomed before me -- going through Kathi's clothing and belongings. I held each dress closely to me, remembering vividly some occasion when she had worn each particular outfit. As I was alone, I let the tears flow without restraint, lovingly folding the familiar red and white cheerleading sweater. I packed box after box, but I put the "Angel Dress" back in the closet; I couldn't part with it. The little green blouse which we had purchased that day together -- the only piece of her clothing found at the accident scene -- was also folded and put away.

   While going through her desk, I found a folded piece of paper at the very bottom of the drawer. It was a poem Kathi had written when she was sixteen -- a poem which revealed the heart of Kathi.

The Wonders of God

Looking all about me,
It's very plain to see
That God created everything,
The birds, the sky, the trees.
But then I look around some more
To the painful side of life,
At Satan, who tries to o'er power the world,
Lead people into strife;
The madness all about me
That seems to prevail,
The devil's really working,
But God can never fail.
For on Calvary's cross He died,
To save me from my sin,
So that forever after
I may enter in.
Oh, thank You, my dear Lord,
For setting me free.
I'm saved forever after,
Now I'll serve and live for Thee!

   Honors were bestowed upon Kathi, Mike, and John. Memorial trophies were set up at their high schools and places of work. And these tributes were a continual reminder of what lives surrendered to God can do.

   That fall Cleveland High dedicated the Homecoming game to Kathi, and Impact ran a story about them, telling of their last week at camp.

   Marilee Drown, a camper from Arizona, penned these lines when she heard of the accident:

The impact of metal against metal.
. . . shattered glass
. . . sirens . . .
lifeless youth . . .
In the darkness
the gaping emptiness of death!
LORD!
. . . WHY?
yet, always
in the darkness
the gaping emptiness of death
. . . of lifeless youth.
The impact of death without remedy
. . . shatters hearts of the living.
PLEASE
bring the remedy for death to lifeless youth yet living.

   This became our daily prayer -- that God would use our daughter's life and death to His glory -- that many lifeless teenagers would find life in Him.

   Our prayers have been answered. We have seen it happen!

   The Wallis family has seen it happen!

   The Quatro family has seen it happen!

   And Dave, back in Brazil, testifying continually to God's miraculous healing, has seen it happen! 
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« Reply #27 on: September 26, 2006, 11:01:24 PM »

Chapter Twenty-three

   FRIDAY, MARCH 13 -- Kathi would have been nineteen.

   Memories of past slumber parties came to mind. No empty Coke bottles or wall-to-wall potato chips this year.

   A small bouquet of flowers arrived from Dave and Ethel Wallis in memory of her birthday.

   Although six months had gone by, pain was my constant companion; although we had seen miracle after miracle and experienced the peace and grace of God, this day brought a different kind of sorrow. For this was my daughter's special day -- nineteen years ago I had given her life.

   That evening we drove to my mother's home for dinner. It was my cousin's birthday too, and I wondered if I could say "happy birthday: without crying. Eighteen years ago he had given Kathi a tiny locket for her first birthday -- for the girl who shared his special day.

   Through the waves of memory of that night, I am reminded again of the brevity of life. For my brother Leo had only nine more months to live; my strong brother would die suddenly, unexpectedly, and would enter heaven's gates to greet his Lord, his dad, his younger brother, and his niece.

   And only one month after we buried my brother, Kathi's friend Jim -- "special" Jim -- died in an accident. As I stood at the back of the church at Jim's funeral, I remembered him weeping so openly as he helped carry Kathi's coffin. I remembered him throwing stones at her window and their long talks at midnight. He had said at the graveside, "Kathi taught me so much."

   Once again Glen, Tom and Jon picked up a coffin and set it beside a freshly dug grave.

   "The Lord is picking," Glen said quietly.

   One year from the date of the September accident, our family, with Ethel Wallis, Steve Quatro, Ethel Emily Wallis, and Debby, drove to the cemetery to lay flowers on the graves. When we arrived, we found two teen-age girls sitting beside the graves; they had gone to school with Kathi.

   "If it wasn't for Kathi," Mary Ann said, in the course our conversation, "I wouldn't have my Savior."

   The caretaker who was standing nearby began speaking to us in broken English, finally resorting to his native Spanish. Ethel Emily, who was a veteran missionary to Mexico, walked over and began talking with him.

   "He wanted to say," Ethel told us, "that he wondered about these three graves. He said he was here the day of the funeral and that there has been someone here nearly every day since to lay flowers or say a prayer. He wanted to know the story behind the three plots."

   And Ethel told him the story of Kathi, Mike, and John.

   Thus, a day that I had dreaded became a healing benediction to our daughter's staunch testimony.

   Our second Christmas without Kathi the Lord filled our longing hearts with His love and joy. Tom called to wish us "a Merry Christmas"; Bev stopped by to bring us a beautiful poinsettia plant and we talked of our wonderful Lord. She was growing spiritually, making her witness felt at college and among her friends. And Debby, now in the Waves and home on furlough, spent all Christmas Eve with us.

   "I want to be a missionary," she told me when we were alone in the quiet living room.

   My eyes filled with tears as I remembered a confused, troubled Debby sobbing her heart out at our home after Kathi's funeral -- a girl who had tried everything to find peace found it at last in the Prince of Peace Himself.

   My eyes were drawn to Kathi's always-smiling picture on the wall.

   "I'm out for the world," she had said. "No time to waste." And she had reached the world -- the world which God had put her into -- her world of teen-agers. Her world of Bev, Felicia, Sharon, Hope, Debby, Steve, Janie, Jim, Glen, and the list goes on and on . . .

   I see her clearly now -- long hair flying in the wind, bare feet, and blue jeans -- our carefree, laughing Kathi. Kathi, who could whisper honestly, "I, too, would be willing to die if it would bring my friends to Christ."

   I see the little red Mustang traveling bravely through the mountains carrying four young people, laughing, singing, talking, praying, planning -- and in an instant three are home.

   Home free for all eternity.   
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« Reply #28 on: September 26, 2006, 11:02:02 PM »

Epilogue

   Eighteen, No Time to Waste was written one year after Kathi's death. With an aching heart and through many tears, I wrote this book as a memorial to her, as a gift to her many friends, and with hope that it might help fulfill Kathi's dream of "telling everyone everywhere about Jesus." Writing this book brought me a surprisingly therapeutic release, washing my face with cleansing tears as I walked back through her life and dredged up memories that had to be faced and resolved. The death of a child is a shattering experience, so out of the natural order of things. A parent, it seemed to me, should not have to stand at the graveside of a child. Yet when this incomprehensible loss did occur in my life, God showered me with encouragement and sympathy, wonderfully comforting and strengthening me. In time, I discovered that I could pass on this same help and comfort to others.

   Since the book was first published in 1971, letters have arrived from around the world, from bereaved parents pouring out their grief and from mothers who have experienced similar conflicts with their own teen-agers. My own grief has softened as I have been able to rejoice in the truth that "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love him."

   Many people have asked about Dave Wallis, the young man who survived the accident that took Kathi, Mike and John. Dave has been "taking their place," faithfully serving Christ first in Brazil as a missionary, then as a pastor, and presently "in the marketplace." Dave is married, the father of three children, and lives in southern California.

   Throughout the years I have told Kathi's story to hundreds of groups, telling of our mother-daughter conflicts and how God helped us resolve them before He took her to Himself. Through this outreach, I have become acquainted with many other hurting parents. While our circumstances have varied, we have all shared similar human responses of grieving, suffering, and asking "why," whether the loss has been through death or estrangement.

   Many teen-agers have identified with my vivacious, independent daughter -- "My parents won't accept me as I am" or "They're trying to put me in their preconceived mold," they write. Many parents, like me, have had a difficult time letting go of their adolescent and adult children. Parents write to express their deep sorrow over their "prodigal" children who have rejected their values and are living in a "far country." I have grown to believe that the death of a Christian child is not the greatest tragedy a parent can experience. There are far deeper hurts than laying a child in the arms of Jesus.

   One of my greatest joys was a call from Kathi's friend Sharon, who excitedly exclaimed that she had come to know Kathi's Jesus. The transformation in Sharon's life has been incredible and complete.

   Janice, a young lady in northern California, wrote to tell of driving past the accident scene, of weeping through the night, of questioning how a loving God could take three young people and leave another severely injured. Subsequently, when she read Kathi's story, she "remembered her childhood faith and recommitted her life to Jesus Christ."

   I received a thrilling call from Elke in Germany, a broken person, alienated from her parents and heavily into drugs. After reading Kathi's story her letters became a lovely and living reflection of her newfound faith.

   Kathi has been physically absent from our family for many years now, yet our memories of her are still vivid racing through the house, waving good-by with a vibrant smile, rushing out the door, and roaring down the street in her red Mustang. Time has healed the tender wounds and given me a wider perspective that has proven the promises of God again and again. No matter how deep the pain, this truth remains clear: God's grace is greater than all our hurts, greater than all our failures, greater than our painfully aching hearts. If we relax in His promises, if we relinquish our anxieties, if we allow our faith to rise to believe His word, He will generously reward us with the wondrous gift of "beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness."

MARGARET JOHNSON
1987
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