Saturday, May 24, 2014

From Tragedy to Rejoicing

When we were moving into our apartment in Gloversville in April 1977, the news was full of a sad story of a 12-year-old boy who was missing on the nearby Great Sacandaga Lake. He had taken a boat out on the lake, and a strong wind had blown up suddenly. After twelve days, his body was found.

At one of the first sectional ministers' fellowship meetings we attended, we met a sweet Italian-American grandmother, who told us that the boy who had drowned on the lake was her grandson. She asked my husband to visit the boy's father, her eldest son. He had purchased a Revolutionary War era house that overlooked the point on the lake where his son had drowned and had arranged to bury his son in the old North Hampton Cemetery on that point. He was restoring the house.

Bob called him, and they set a date to meet. Over the next few months, as Bob met with him, the sorrowing father gave his life to the Lord. The following Easter Sunday, Bob had the privilege of baptizing him in water at his mother's church in Mechanicville since we did not yet have a building or a baptistry. We drove through a blizzard to get there, but he was determined to be baptized that night.

The man and his brother owned a paving and roofing company they had taken over when their father retired. In time, the  man completed his restoration of the large house and fixed up the smaller guest house on the property. As our church grew, the man began attending regularly. He offered to host Sunday afternoon picnics on his beach in the summertime. These frequently ended with water baptisms in the lake. (In fact, Bob had the privilege of baptizing his own mother in the Great Sacandaga Lake.)

The man's brother and parents often spent the weekends in the guest house, so they were included in our picnics. His father did not go to church and blamed God for the death of his grandson, but he enjoyed the get-togethers and often added homemade pasta dishes to the potluck picnic meals.

In time, the man, who had been divorced when we met him, fell in love with a young lady in our church, and they married. When the couple's first son was born, they named him after the son who had died, but reversed the order of the first and middle names.

Following the example of Mary and Joseph taking Jesus to the Temple to be dedicated to the Lord, the couple asked Bob to dedicate their new son. His parents came to that Sunday morning service. Bob pointed out that this child was not a replacement for the son who had died, who was with the Lord, but that he was a new, unique person. That got the man's father's attention as he realized that his grandson, though gone from this earth, still existed in eternity.

At the last picnic we held at the man's place on the Great Sacandaga Lake just before we left Gloversville, Bob baptized several people. Then, the man's father stepped forward to be baptized too. God had turned a tragedy into rejoicing!

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