Losing My Wife
I was in the house as it burned. Sometime around 3:00 A.M., I escaped the thick smoke and flames through a second floor window. Because the fire started below the room where my wife for 41 years, Barcy, slept, she passed away.
This mental tape of events continued to replay in my mind (and still does from time to time), but a few days after the fire, something extraordinary happened. As I sat praying on the front steps of my daughter’s house in Lexington, I first gave thanks for Barcy’s life; that she was now safely home. The physical and mental illnesses she had wrestled with daily were now a thing of the past. But still hearing the sounds of her last tormenting moments on earth, I asked God to give me some small confirmation that her passing was nothing in comparison to the joy she now obtained.
In the middle of that prayer, I looked up into a bright cloud above me, and it opened up like a window. Barcy was standing there with the most peaceful look I ever saw on her face this side of heaven. Next to her stood a person in white, shining robes (I can only assume it was the Lord). He was simply smiling at her. Then, He turned and looked at me . . . and smiled again. With that, the window closed. Instantly, peace washed over me like a cool shower on a hot day. My grief and deepest pain were gone. All I knew at that moment was the Lord’s unexplainable mercy and grace.
The Lord Provides A New Beginning
The next month brought a whirlwind of paperwork, decisions, insurance filings, and adjustments to a whole new life. My brother and his wife offered their condominium unit in Bonita Springs, Florida, as a place for me to get away by myself and re-create. So I did. I consumed those days reflecting on the Word, spending hours every day reading and meditating on Scripture and praying. That’s when my life’s course took another turn.
I had been reading the passage from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians on marriage. After reading that, a prayer immediately went up, “Lord, I had 41 years of being loved and learning to love and care for a wife and family. Now I am ready to move out and serve you around the world as I see you now leading me. (I was about to leave on a 3-country work trip). I will put my hand to the plow and not look back. I have a home here in the U.S. with my two beautiful daughters with whom I can spend a few weeks whenever I’m back in the States. Thank you for the peace and the life you’ve blessed me with, so now please take my life and use it so others will hear of You and desire Your Kingdom above all.”
Then something happened. God spoke. Audibly. He said in an unmistakable voice: “Not so fast. This is not your home. And . . . you’re not to be alone. I have someone else for you.” As I heard the first part of those words (“This is not your home”), I immediately acknowledged this world was not my home, yet I knew instantly He meant something else. I voiced a mild objection. “I’ve already been married for 41 years. I have a family already. I really don’t need or really want to start that all over again.” But again, as soon as those thoughts gave voice in my head, I knew that God had good reason to say I was not to be alone. Somewhat doubting and reluctant, I agreed that if He made it clear, I would in turn obey.
Mission Trip Experiences
The last half of September and the month of October that year gave way to working in Thailand, India, and a consultation in southern California on how to bring new hope to the Middle East and North Africa. November, meanwhile, brought me back to my Indiana roots and a cabin in Brown County State Park where I was able to spend some time alone in the woods. By late November and December, I left for Manila to gather with a select group of leaders from 23 countries that wanted to find tools for better oral communication strategies.
The planning team from around the world found leadership in the Filipino team headed by Roce Anog. This group, with members from Wycliffe Bible Translators, Philippines, worked from June 2017 till November putting it all together, and we met through Skype calls each month.
Coming “Home” to the Philippines
As I arrived in Manila and stepped from the deck of the plane on to the awaiting jet-bridge, I heard God’s voice again. This time He said, “Welcome home.” I had never been to the Philippines, and quite frankly, never thought much about it except that I had some good friends living there. This was a powerful moment. I knew from the deepest part of me that I was home (an echo of God on the Florida beach . . . “this is not your home”).
As the meetings progressed, God’s word about “welcome home” began to take shape. Following the introductions to orality, I met with some leading seminary and university administrators who eventually asked when I could start teaching all this in Manila – in their schools. The words came back again: “this is not your home,” and “welcome home,” and in a way that defies explanation, I knew that this was His calling for me: to move to Manila; to begin teaching in the heart of the world’s largest population—from India to China to the Philippines and beyond. Here, where two-thirds of the population of the planet lived. Here, where the deepest poverty in the world was located. Here, where the richest people stayed. Here, where the greatest number of people had no access to the transformational message of Jesus. Here. New home for me – here.
On the last day of the conference, the leaders soaked in the training. We closed with the Lord’s Supper and sang a song of praise in our own language. Some of us dropped to our knees. Others just stopped, cried tears, and experienced the intimacy of the Lord’s Presence.
The organizer of the conference (Roce Anog) re-entered the room, heading to the front to continue the prayer time. Then, for the third time in three months, and as clearly as I could hear people speak to me, I heard the Lord say, “And this is the woman.” The words He spoke on the Florida beach also re-emerged: “You are not to be alone. I have someone else for you.” The woman was Roce.
I didn’t really know Roce outside of our group conference calls. She worked as a specialist in arts and culture, and she was a fellow-leader with the International Orality Network. Her background certainly gave us common ground for our work and a friendship, but I was not ready to hear anything like this. I mean, what was I supposed to do? Walk up to her and say, “Excuse me, but God just told me I’m supposed to marry you?!”
My immediate prayer went up saying, “God, if this is you, I don’t want to seem reluctant to obey, but you’re going to have to confirm this in unmistakable ways. I don’t trust myself to act on this one.”
How does God confirm to Chuck that he is to marry Roce? How does this love story unfold? Find out in PART 2 of “Beauty from Ashes: A Story from the Refiner’s Fire; Experiencing Amazing Grace.”