Wednesday, June 12, 2013

When Sorrows Like Sea Billows Roll

This is a very difficult post for me to write. I've been putting it off for a long time. In the last one I wrote, I talked about how looking into the new year full of possibilities was scary but exciting. Little did I realize that the hardest experience of my life to date would occur just weeks later.

John. What a beautiful smile he had.
On February 24, at about noon in California, my little brother, John Clifford Peters, went to be with the Lord after his heart stopped suddenly while he was at work. He was just barely 23 years old. He had no previous signs of heart trouble, and the doctors couldn't figure out what had happened. Nothing they tried helped, and after about 13 hours there was nothing left to do. My parents and my brother Caleb mercifully made it to the hospital the hour that he died and were able to say their goodbyes. My sister Hannah had stayed back in Arkansas to hold the fort down. When they had flown out they weren't aware that the situation was quite as serious as it was, so she didn't know to go. I, of course, was halfway across the world in Germany. The distance has never felt so incredibly far and unbearable. Every time the phone rang my stomach would sink and I would drag myself over to answer. I am so thankful for Steve, Stacey, and Callie, my fellow dorm staff, who were there supporting me literally and figuratively during such a dark hour. With the time difference, I was getting the news in the evening on that Sunday, and Stacey had a ticket booked for me by 11pm that night for the next morning. God was gracious in providing a low-cost ticket with only one layover so that I arrived in Los Angeles on Monday at about noon. The joy of seeing the rest of my family was severely diminished due to the circumstances, but I cherished my time with them and needed to be with them. Residence Life at BFA was very understanding and gave no complaints about me being away for 5 weeks.

Seriously handsome kid. Love this picture.
The support, sympathy, and prayers of so many people around the world has been very touching over the last few months. During that first week we were overwhelmed by the generosity of John's coworkers and friends as they put on a memorial benefit at the cafe where he worked to raise money to cover funeral costs and medical expenses. It was amazing to hear all the stories of how John, our little John-John, had been impacting so many lives through his love, kindness, and gentle spirit. I didn't realize that he was reaching so many people for Christ. I'm so proud of him. The funeral service was another expression of the love that people have for him. About 200 people showed up for the viewing and graveside service, and most everyone wrote a note to John on his casket with a Sharpie marker (John always carried a Sharpie in his pocket). His gravesite is on a hillside looking out towards the mountains, ones that he loved to hike and admire. I like to imagine him hiking the most amazing mountains ever with Jesus right now.

Our family in 2003.
There is no way to express the shock at John's sudden passing, or the pain that cuts to my very core. I thought that I had experienced some heartbreak before, but nothing that I've experienced comes close to this. Yes, I have hope in the salvation of Jesus and that I will see John again one day, but it is so hard in the meantime. It is difficult to keep our eyes on the eternal and not the temporal, the unseen rather than the seen. A friend wrote to me and told me that the unseen is more real than the seen. The world we live in is merely a shadow of what's to come, and it will be glorious indeed! But as I said, the waiting, the loss, the pain, the's still real, and we still feel it keenly. My sister is also going through a different and yet extremely painful grief on top of losing our brother. In March, she and her husband of 6 1/2 years finalized their divorce. I won't go into any details, but suffice it to say that she has her double measure of sorrow. My brother Caleb is 12, and the loss of his only brother has taken it's toll on him. My parents, Cliff and Jeannie, are still trying to understand the idea that they've lost a son, and the pain goes deep. John also left behind his girlfriend of nearly 4 years, Alicia, and she is facing a very different life and future than she had envisioned. Please continue to be in prayer for us all as the losses that we are experiencing are still settling into our hearts and minds. Pray that we would remain faithful and grateful to the Lord, trusting in His goodness and sovereignty.

Storchenblick Dorm
It has been so difficult to be away from my family during these most trying of times, but I know the Lord wanted me to come to BFA to serve, so here I am. I will be returning to the States for the summer on June 18th, but plan on coming back for another year to serve as an RA at Storch. Today was the last day of final exams for our students, we did dorm cleaning yesterday, and graduation is on Friday. I kind of feel like I've been in survival mode for most of the time that I've been back, but there have definitely been precious moments and memories with the girls, staff, and friends. I am thankful for the opportunity to be here, and it was so much easier to leave family knowing that I would be coming back to the people here. I am looking forward to summer break, to being with family again, but I'm also looking forward to next school year. Pray that the time back home would be a time to grieve, remember, rest, and be rejuvenated before returning to BFA in August. Thank you to all who have been so supportive and faithful in your prayers.

Precious photo of my precious brothers.
Here is a passage of Scripture that I realized has come up several times over the last 10 months, but especially more recently, in people's notes to me and in my devotions. Specifically verse 10.

Isaiah 41:8-10
But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.


  1. A beautiful post, Melissa! See you soon!

  2. I agree. Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing that Melissa.

    U. Teed