Patty and I lost a dear friend last week in Grayson, Louisiana. She seemed much too young-barely 58—and she went much too quickly—3 weeks from the day of her diagnosis. We have known Sandra since she was a 29 year-old soldier’s wife in Germany. We loved her then and marveled at the way she made a beautiful loving home for her husband and three young girls and also made their military apartment a refuge of love & hope for other young families and soldiers. Later we would experience her as a pastors wife, a conference coordinator , women’s ministry leader and a grandmother to 12 young boys and girls. Through all of this she was a true Christian and our dear friend. While they were in Germany as military missionaries (two separate assignments totaling 11 years), we always felt at home in her kitchen and enjoyed her hospitality. I’ve come to believe that one of the reasons I came to Louisiana as the overseer was to help bring them back to their childhood and family home. She passed quietly, was memorialized then was buried while surrounded by family and friends in the place of her birth and upbringing—Shreveport, Louisiana. I’ve been asked to share the following thoughts I gave at her funeral in Shreveport.
Reflections on the passing of Sandra Kay Alcorn October 15, 2010; Shreveport, La
13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14)
Everyone that knows and loves Frank and Sandra Alcorn has been with them on the emotional roller-coaster that has been their life the last three weeks. We were shocked to hear of the initial hospital visit, the dramatic surgery and then the pronouncement that she had stage three cancer. We prayed fervently while she was in surgery and were so hopeful when we learned that the surgery went well. We hoped and prayed for the best. Every day I would speak or text message Frank to get an update. Some days were hopeful, even exhilarating-many were not. Over every day there was a heaviness that reminded us that our Sandra was not well and we longed for the day we could see her recover and would have no need for the special care of the hospital. Sandra too longed for it to be over with. I doubt many of us spent much time entertaining the possibility that she would not survive this ordeal and not be going home with Frank at some not-too-distant moment.
All of this was still being processed in my spirit when I turned on the television late Tuesday night to try to catch up with the news. Every station seemed to be covering the live developments of the Chilean miner rescue. I locked in to join the masses around the world that were viewing this unfolding drama as we waited for the miners to be brought up. I watched the powerful emotions displayed upon the rescue workers, the family members, members of the press and even the Chilean President and his wife. It seemed that everyone had a huge stake in what was happening. You all saw it but let me review just a few of the issues involved.
The miners had been trapped in the darkness of this underground cell for more than 69 days. Though they had been able to get them food, water and some electricity, they were far from being comfortable in their underground cell.
It was reported that the miners were in relatively good spirits. They had adapted well and had even organized themselves into a very close-knit band of brothers – a community of faith of sorts.
In spite of all of this they had all looked forward to the day that the half-mile rescue hole would be completed and that one-by-one they could be rescued. Their struggle to survive had built very special bonds but all knew that they were destined for more than to spend their lives in a hole 2500 feet under the ground. They longed for the deliverance that was to come. They had rehearsals to prepare them for the day they hoped they would all be rescued. A roster, or an order of who was to be rescued first was put together and sent topside.
The hole was dug, and a rescue capsule had been prepared. No one knew for sure, however if it would work. Engineers acknowledged that the 2500 foot hole was not perfectly straight but proceeded down at an angle. As a result, it was possible that the capsule, over 7 feet high but only 21 inches in diameter could jam and get stuck in the long tunnel thus locking one of the miners in place with it. This would be a disaster, not only for the miner in the capsule but for the rest of the miners still to be rescued. Everyone on both ends watched —for 22 hours, while one by one the capsule was sent down loaded with a miner and then brought to the service. Each miner had to face a half-hour ascent in a pitch dark, cramped capsule while being pulled slowly to the service. With every arrival at the top the reaction was always the same. The crowds laughed, shouted, cried, hugged, sang and families were reunited. The Joy and celebration could not help but totally capture anyone watching even from thousands of miles away. I found myself weeping tears of joy and laughing out loud with them as I imagined what it must have been like for a family member to be reunited with their loved ones.
In the midst of this I thought of Sandra Alcorn. We are grieving her passing. The truth is, she has been down here trapped in the mine shaft with us. She had helped all of us who knew her to brighten our existence. She helped us so much that we often forget that we are not meant to be here. At best we are trapped in a dark place that is only made tolerable through the light, resources brought from above, our support of each other and the ultimate hope that one day we will all be delivered. Sandra made it to the top of the shaft…she has been rescued!! She is among that liberated group that is breathing the fresh clean air of the eternal dwelling place all of us were created to share with her. They are celebrating topside! The Word of God says “Precious in the sight of the Lord are the death of His saints.” She was privileged to be higher on the rescue roster than some of us. I would submit to you that the joy in heaven upon her arrival far exceeds that joy demonstrated by the Chilean president, people and rescuers welcoming the rescued miners.
Remember our scripture in Colossions 1:13? For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,
Here’s what I hope to bring to you…and to me. Picture this…When the miners still in the hole, heard that one of his fellow miners got to the top safely—they erupted in cheers. They were glad for their deliverance-and they were reminded that soon they too would enter that dark capsule long enough to be vaulted to the light of their deliverance. They would be brought into the arms and safety of their loved ones never to be endangered again.
Thank God for what has been called the “Blessed Hope” of the church. The resurrection of His saints:
13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.(I Thess. 4:13-18)
50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God ; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery ; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet ; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. 55 “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY ? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING ?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law ; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. (I Co