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Forever In Our Hearts

Ron’s first mission trip at age16 to Venezuela set the course of his life—for the rest of his life! Returning from the trip, our strong-willed and adventuresome son left our home in Canada to live and work with youth in Tucson, Arizona. Encouraged and mentored by a local pastor, Ron had opportunities for ministry and travel that were beyond what our family could offer. A year later, Ron returned home and enrolled in Emmanuel Bible College in Kitchener, Ontario, where he enjoyed brother/sister coffee-shop dates with his older sister who was also studying at the college.

Emmanuel had a sister-college relationship with a school in Ilorin, Nigeria, and one of the professors had spent a number of years teaching there. Ron found a kindred spirit with this professor.

One weekend when Ron was home, he talked about not wanting to be caught up in the “North American Rut” of life and said he was considering going to Nigeria for his next year of schooling. Knowing Ron’s adventurous spirit, we were not totally surprised, so we prayed for God’s will to be done. He maneuvered through the red tape as quickly as possible, wanting to get to Nigeria by the end of August. Prior to leaving, Ron flew to Arizona to be in the wedding party of a man he had mentored, then back to Toronto, where our family met him, guitar and luggage in tow, to send him off to Nigeria.

As I saw Ron arrive at the airport, and then depart, I kept crying. I couldn’t understand it because I had seen him come and go many times before, but this time it was different somehow. Even his older sister got emotional as she saw him go through the door of the plane, wearing his traveling hat.

It took him a while to get internet service, and we cherished every word we received from Ron. We imagined what it must have been like for him to go, in such a short space of time, from the beautiful resort setting of the wedding in Arizona to a very primitive school setting in Nigeria. A room had been found for him off campus, which provided more amenities—a cooker and water pump. From what he told us, he adjusted very well to his new environment. The pictures we saw warmed our hearts: Ron with his arms around his Nigerian brothers, Ron sharing a common bowl of food with friends, Ron swimming with friends. We were thankful he was adapting well.

Bonding quickly with the local people, before long he was dubbed by them as a “Son of Nigeria.” They couldn’t understand why someone from Canada would want to go to Nigeria when so many dream of one day going to North America. For Ron, being in Nigeria was an achievement of a lifetime!

In December, Ron was invited to celebrate the Christmas holidays with Canadians and Americans in the distant city of Jos. They arranged for him to accompany a group to the Gashaka Gumti National Park in Southeast Nigeria, the largest of Nigeria’s seven national parks and known for its rugged terrain with deep valleys and steep hills. Ron—always wanting to explore the region and loving to hike—was thrilled that the trip included the opportunity to climb Leopard Hill.

It was from this hill that Ron plunged to his death on December 28.

At first, we were only told that Ron was missing. But by the ninth agonizing day of vigilant searching and burning the tall grasses, his body was found on a ledge. To our utter dismay, the outcome was not what we had hoped and prayed for. But we were so thankful and at peace that his body was found, and that he did not suffer. We also knew that he returned to the One he lived for.

With the help of countless people, Ron’s dad and I, along with his two sisters and brother-in-law, were able to visit Nigeria and meet the people who knew Ron and walk where he had walked. We even got to climb the hill—under the watchful eyes of the park rangers—to the place where Ron’s body was found. We lovingly gathered flowers from the trees and plants nearby and placed them where the grave would be.

Before we made the trip to Nigeria, our church held a memorial service which was attended by hundreds of people wanting to pay tribute to Ron. We heard so many stories of how Ron had encouraged and impacted his peers, stories that we knew nothing of. A memorial service was also held in Nigeria at the college Ron attended, with people speaking encouraging words about the white man who came from Canada to study with them. After we returned from Nigeria, Emmanuel Bible College held another service, honoring Ron by setting up a memorial scholarship in his name. How proud we were of our son! He had a heart for God and had done more in his 21 years than most of us do in a lifetime!

As a mom, my grief was so intense that I didn’t know how I would continue living. Tragedy like this often separates couples, but it brought my husband and me closer together. Besides the Lord, Peter was my rock. We had met as students at Elim Bible Institute in Lima, New York, where we fell in love and married. Being Canadians, we later moved back to Ottawa, Ontario, where we lived, worked, and began our family—first a daughter, then Ron, and eight years later, a baby sister whom Ron adored.

Even now, nineteen years after Ron’s death, the sense of loss is very real. But the Lord has been our strong tower to whom we run for safety, security, and soundness. Satan surely attempted to prevent the gospel from being proclaimed through Ron’s life, but God is the Victor. Even in death, Ron’s life still speaks!

Betty Anne and her husband, Peter, have been married for 44 years and live in Ontario, Canada. They have two daughters and three grandsons. They attend a Baptist church in a nearby community, where Peter is an elder. They are involved with church life, prayer meetings, and actively promote the “WHY Encounter” program, a Canadian evangelistic effort.

Article Link: http://ccmusa.org/read/read.aspx?id=chg20170402
To reuse online, please credit Challenger, Oct-Dec 2017. CCMUSA.