Since I was a young pastor in my early twenties Erwin Lutzer and I have shared a deep friendship. This has led to many wonderful times of conversation, ministry and prayer. Erwin's dad and mom are both over 100 years of age. This in itself is a remarkable fact but then his dad and mom are two rather amazing people. Erwin's dad finally passed away this week at the ripe old age of 106! Since I have heard so much about Erwin's dad for most of my adult life I thought it only right to share Erwin's account of his dad and his passing with all my readers. (If course, I have Erwin's permission to share this story with you. I also ask you to pray for him in light of this loss.)
Here is Erwin's brief account of his dad's amazing life and his death this week.
My father, age 106, laid his burdens down and entered the presence of our Lord this Wednesday morning at 5:00 AM. Dad did not have an easy life. He was born in 1902 to a German family living in the Ukraine, and during World War I, (1914) Russia insisted that all of the Germans within its boarders had to become refugees (lest they side with Germany in the war). My father's family was forced to make the difficult trek to Afghanistan, and there his mother (my grandmother) died at the age of 46 and was buried in a mass grave in Kabul. My father, age 12, did not have a chance to say goodbye to his mother and thought he'd never stop crying.
When the war was over in 1918, Dad and his father and two brothers, were able to return to their farm and several years later he was able to immigrate to Canada. There in a church, he met my mother who had just been born again through the preaching of an evangelist. Dad walked her home, asked her to marry him, and within three weeks they were married. That was 77 years ago.
I will spare you all the hardship my father endured both in Europe and also the challenge of raising five children on a small farm. To this day, we as children don't understand how he did it all: for example, having to shovel countless loads of grain years before grain augers were invented. Of course we also had cows, chickens, and pigs, all of which needed care. Added to this, he had panic attacks, and couldn't work for days at a time. We as children said "goodbye" to him a number of times, because he thought he was dying. My mother shouldered these burdens and had to cope with all of these uncertainties. We never dreamed we would see Dad live a long life.
We were wrong.
Dad had come to know Christ as Savior in the Ukraine and throughout his long life he loved God, read the Bible consistently and cared deeply only about that which was most important. "I read the whole book of Ephesians today" he told me when we visited him in Canada when he was about 101.
When he was a hundred, I knelt next to him and asked him to give me a blessing as the patriarchs did in Old Testament times. He held my head in both of his hands and prayed a prayer that "would make heaven shake" as I put it.
When we visited my parents this past May, Dad, now in a wheelchair, spoke very little. He recognized us, but only occasionally. So while we were sitting and talking with my mother, he appeared to be sleeping and was quiet the whole time. Then to our surprise, he said in a complete German sentence, "We have been speaking about the present…now it is time for us to speak about eternity and the Glory of God!"
Well, Dad, now you can speak of eternity and the glory of God in a way that you have never done before. Thanks for all the hard work…the care you gave to me and my siblings. Thanks for the hundreds of hours of prayers offered up on behalf of all of us. I can only hope those prayers will be answered.
Now my dear mother, who enjoyed her 100th birthday party three weeks ago, is a widow, anxiously awaiting her own entry into glory. She often prayed Dad would die before she did so that she would know he was well taken care of. God answered that prayer.
Rebecca and I are planning to fly to Canada Sunday afternoon for the funeral which will be on Monday. We don't know yet when we will return, but I'm sure I'll miss the Christmas Eve service. We accept all of this in God's timing. All the details are pending.
Thanks for your love and prayers