To Die Is Gain
August 16, 2016 by isaprude
On the afternoon of Sunday, July 31, Jamison & Kathryne Pals, along with their three children Ezra (3 years), Violet (23 months), and Calvin (2 months) were all killed in a rear-end collision. They were pronounced dead at the scene in Nebraska. They were traveling to Colorado to participate in their final training session for their long-term deployment to be global partners with Christ Bible Institute in Nagoya, Japan. (See article in Omaha World Herald.)
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I would love for you to first meet the Pals family through the pages of Dad Jamison’s blog: For the Joy of Japan. The most recent entry, “An Update on our Children,” dated July 26, 2016, will allow you to see each of Jamison and Kathryne’s beautiful, lively children – Ezra, Violet, and baby Calvin – ages 3 years to 2 ½ months. Scrolling down the blog there are many, many other posts which give us a window into this young family’s life in St. Paul while they prepared to go to Japan as long-term missionaries with World Venture. Why Japan? Jamison writes:
So, why Japan? Well, depending on who you talk to, the Japanese people are either the largest or second largest unreached people group on earth. It just seems fitting to go to the place where there are the most people without sufficient witness to the gospel and all its awesomeness. The Church in Japan is not yet large enough to share Christ and disciple new believers on its own. There is a need for more laborers … It burdens us to know that over 126 million people in Japan don’t have Who we have. We cherish Jesus Christ. We know that he is worthy of love, trust, adoration and obedience, no matter what people group you belong to or culture you identify with. We simply want to play a small part in bringing these things about for people in Japan. We want Jesus Christ for Japan. That’s what “the joy of Japan” really means.
In perusing his blog, don’t fail to read the exquisitely beautiful “A Second Proposal.” Here is a love story of a different kind. It is Jamison wooing Kathryne for a second time. However, it is not toward the altar, but toward missions. You should read Kathryne’s journey from uncertainty to yielding in her own words, but let me share her closing paragraph: “It may just be that God’s aim is to reach the nations through weak mothers relying daily on his strength, so that in everything he might be glorified.” The Pals work in Japan was to begin in October.
So, when we read about this family in the pages of their blog, smile at the photos of their sweet children, and enter vicariously into their vision for Japan, it is almost beyond belief when we read their pastors’ August 1, 2016, post (above) on the Bethlehem Baptist website: “On the afternoon of Sunday, July 31, Jamison & Kathryne Pals, along with their three children Ezra (3 years), Violet (23 months), and Calvin (2 months) were all killed in a rear-end collision. they were pronounced dead at the scene in Nebraska.”
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The memorial service was fittingly a mixture of lament for what has been lost by friends and family and rejoicing for what has been gained through the blood-bought redemption won for the Pals by Jesus Christ. Former pastor of Bethlehem Baptist, Pastor John Piper, offered the prayer at the funeral. He opened with five paragraphs of lament which began, “O Lord, God of might and mercy and mystery, you have driven the arrows of your quiver into the breast of your people, your beloved. You have filled our throat with bitterness and gall. You have made our teeth grind on gravel, and laid us down with wounds in the ashes of dreams.”
Pastor Piper did not allow for grief with no hope, though, and went on to thank God for this family who “did not count their lives to be more valuable than obedience; who set their faces, like flint, toward Japan and the finishing of their course and the ministry they had received from the Lord Jesus.” And lest we doubt, Pastor Piper was careful to remind us that the Pals did indeed finish their course and ministry; just like the apostle Paul wrote from Rome, “I have finished my course,” even though he never did get to Spain as he had planned.
Bethlehem Pastor Jason Meyer gave the funeral message (you can watch video of the service here). He began: “Don’t let the fact that this is a funeral and this is a funeral message fool you into thinking that Jamison and Kathryne and Ezra and Violet and Calvin are dead. They are not dead. It was the great preacher, D.L. Moody, who gave a voice to this blessed hope:
Some day you will read in the papers, “D.L. Moody of East Northfield is dead.” Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now.
Pastor Meyer exhorted the mourners that because of Christ we dare not call tragedy what the Bible calls victory (1 Corinthians 15:54-57), nor do we call loss what the Bible calls gain (Philippians 1:21). He began, “This grace of Jesus coming and living and dying and rising again secures the victory over the only things that could truly kill us forever. Before [the Pals] could receive the blessing of his face shining upon them in grace, the sacred head of Jesus had to bear the cursed crown of thorns. He bore the wrath of God in their place — that is grace — pure, glorious grace. They saw the bright light of the glory of God in the radiant face of the resurrected Jesus and they were never the same again.”
So, while we grieve, we rise up with resurrection faith as we embrace together our blessed hope that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. And so, we celebrate the fact that the Pals family is not dead, but more alive than ever because of the grace of God that is ours in Jesus Christ. Little Ezra loved to sing “10,000 Reasons,” and “now he is singing 10 billion reasons.”
But what of the loss to Japan? Accounting for God’s sovereignty in life, in salvation, and in death, how can we reconcile this? Fellow World Venture missionary, Meredith Barrett, reflects on the friendship she and her husband, Jeff, developed with the Pals during their training (the Barretts are currently beginning their assignment to the Albanian people). She writes that the Pals had “so much hope looking toward the future and excitement about what God had in store ahead.” But she profoundly adds:
I can’t help but be struck by the fact that God never intended them to actually go. His plan and purpose was not for them to be in Japan but rather in the going to Japan. The season of preparing, planning, waiting. That was what God had for them and then He called them all home.
But what of God’s plan and purposes for Japan? After the death of the Pals family, World Venture received a call that went something like this:
My wife and I have been wondering if we should someday serve as missionaries to Japan. We heard the news of the tragic loss of the Pals family and God is making it clear to us that we should step into their place and go. I speak Japanese and I have a Bible degree. My wife and I have four children. Let’s talk and pray together.
“God is not done,” Pastor Meyer declared resoundingly, “He is at work. His purposes cannot fail.”
I’ll close with Jamison’s compelling “Second Proposal.” He closed his proposition to Kathryne with these words by Samuel Rutherford:
“How soon will some few years pass away, and then when the day is ended, and this life’s lease expired, what have men of the world’s glory, but dreams and thoughts? O happy soul forevermore, who can rightly compare this life with that long-lasting life to come, and can balance the weighty glory of the one with the light golden vanity of the other.”
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Note: You may send memorial gifts to the Jamison and Kathryne Pals Family Foundation, 3570 Vicksburg Ln N, Ste 100, Plymouth, MN 55447. Gifts will be used to spread the gospel of joy through Jesus Christ to Japan and beyond. Learn more about the foundation and share thoughts and memories of Jamison, Kathryne, Ezra, Violet, and Calvin at palsfamilyfound.org.