Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Venezuela

40 years ago today my family left the United States for Venezuela to reach tribal people with the Good News of Jesus Christ.

My parents had been commissioned to spend their careers among those people learning their language and culture, showing the people that Jesus died for their people, too, and ultimately plant churches among the people that would in turn reach more people in Venezuela with that same Gospel message.

The preparation phase of that plan on the field never finished. It was interrupted with the death of my father very suddenly overnight May 4, 1979. My great-uncle, Dave Breese, preached his funeral. Another great-uncle, Bob Christensen, shared the following tribute.
On behalf of the family we wish to express our sincere appreciation for your presence here today and for your concern and for your love.

Linda's asked that I share a few thoughts with you this morning—not going to be easy though.

Tom was born on September 16, 1950, to Ed and Betty Christensen, and some of the memories we cherish we would share with you today.

We remember Tom as a happy, enthusiastic, loving boy, just like the Tom that you knew, the man that you knew.

We remember Tom from his earliest days with that familiar bunch of keys at his waist or in his pocket, just like the Tom that you knew whose keys unlocked the doors that permit him to work, in his home, or in the church, or in all other phases of his life. No one ever cleaned the church with more love and devotion than Tom did when he would work around the Center and in other places.

We remember Tom eating 6 baked potatoes all at one meal—tremendous appetite—just like the Tom that you knew, but a tremendous appetite for God's Word and to work. I can hear him quoting Scripture verses learned from the club such as: “For by grace are ye saved through faith,” “For I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”—some of his favorites.

We remember how enthusiastically Tom entered his studies at DeVry. And we all realized his outstanding mechanical and electronic ability—that same ability that would permit him to be such an asset on the mission field: always helping, always fixing material things—and lives. Truly a minister of repair.

We remember Tom as a soft-hearted loving person who found himself in love with Linda who he met at Camp Awana. On their wedding day, January 18, 1975, I remember him saying, “Uncle Bob, I got her at last!”

We remember Tom as a proud doting Daddy, so delighted with every accomplishment of Timmy. And our prayer is that Timmy will grow to be a model of Tom.

We remember how Tom used to love to sing in the choir. I can see him standing there on that back row. Can't you hear him singing out, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine / Oh what a foretaste of glory divine / Heir of salvation, purchase of God / Born of his Spirit, washed in his blood / Perfect submission, perfect delight / Visions of rapture now burst on my sight / Angels descending brings from above / Echoes of mercy, whispers of love / Perfect submission, all is at rest / I in my Savior am happy and blessed / Watching and waiting, looking above / Filled with his goodness, lost in his love”—and then that familiar refrain—“This is my story, this is my song / Praising my Savior, all the day long / This is my story, this is my song / Praising my Savior, all the day long.”

We remember Tom as an excited missionary, and one who could never make it through the security check at the airport on his way to the mission field—those same old keys again.

Tom, husband of Linda, father of Timmy, son of Betty and Ed, brother of Linda, Phil, and Paul, grandson of Charlotte, son-in-law of Ralph and Gertie, left an impression on all who knew him, and a challenge for all of us. He lived his life for one purpose: that all who knew him and watched him grow physically and spiritually might also know that Christ he loved and served and who called him home to be with him on May 4, 1979. And we know for certain—no doubt about it—that Tom had the right key in his collection to open the doors of heaven.

For those of us who remained, the story has continued.

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