‘Sister Shirley, bring warm clothes and long boots, it is cold in Romania’ read Dora’s text.
‘It is cold in Romania’. How those words burned into my heart. I thought of the emptiness, the sadness, the finality of separation surrounding those I love. The water of ‘time’ is flowing fast and the waters continue to rise. I sense the need to return home. There is a longing in my heart to ‘spend a morning’; ‘share an evening’; offer a few moments of my time to listen, trying to understand the road of towering mountains, unanswered questions many walk just now.
Distance, change of climate, unfamiliar surroundings, my favourite chair, yet I do not feel a stranger, I have One who walks beside me, who knows my heart and whose promises are my ‘silent companion’. This ‘abiding place’ is home to me. An abiding peace, an abiding faith, fills my heart as I remember that ‘here we have no abiding place’. We are on a journey with the One who never changes and who will abide with us wherever we are. Home is a place of security, filled with the love of a father, mother, husband, wife, the joy of brothers, sisters, yet as I plan my visits, I realise there will be an empty chair, a silence in a room once filled with joy. ‘Change and decay in all around I see, O Thou who changes not, abide with me’. The freshness of those words whisper ‘no need to fear’ because I know that wherever I am I must be ‘ALL’ there (Jim Elliot). ‘In my father’s house are many mansions’, a ‘Home’ a place of dwelling, prepared and waiting – Eternity!
There are many tender ministries of our Lord but none more precious than in the time of loss. I felt His touch in a very special way as I learned of the ‘Home Call’ of my dear and treasured friend James (Jim) Johnston. A Soldier of the Cross who was promoted to Glory. Jim endeared himself to me during these (all too short) years since moving to the North Coast. How will I remember him? A gentle, patient, quiet gentleman who demonstrated through his interest in mission, everyday actions, the character and nature of the Lord he loved and served for many years. We both shared a passion for music, his face would ‘light up’ as he spoke of his days in the Salvation Army where he served as Bandmaster and Songster Leader. Jim was a gifted musician with a tremendous knowledge of music. Psalm 90: 12 says, ‘Teach us to number our days’. Jim embraced these words, recognising that our time is limited, our days are numbered. He invested his time in ministering to others, making every second count for eternity. He finished well. He is finally ‘Home’.
There is a shadow of change now for his dear wife Eileen of sixty eight years, whose love and devotion go beyond words. Eileen, ‘hush’ be ev’ry murmur dumb: it is only till He come. What a morning that will be. Please remember Eileen, her sons Trevor, Jim and daughter Hazel and the wider family circle.
As I reflect on the life of my friend Jim, I am reminded of a solo I sang, written and composed by Janet Pascal :
Strike up the band, assemble the choir
Another soldier’s coming home
Another warrior hears the call he’s waited for so long
He’ll battle no more, he’s won his wars
Make sure Heaven’s table has room for at least one more
Sing a song of welcome
Another soldier’s coming home.
With a humble heart; a burning desire; an urgency to serve, I return ‘Home’. Home on a mission that as I reach out and touch even one, that they will come to know the love of Christ in all its breadth, length, height and depth. That Christ will dwell (be at home) in their hearts.