Dear family and friends:

Like us, you probably spent time last week praying for and empathizing with the victims of the brutal massacre on the Virginia Tech campus. No Campus Crusade staffmembers were killed, but four of the victims attended Campus Crusade meetings. Molly Donohue, a freshman involved in Campus Crusade ministry at Virginia Tech, was the first to discover the first victim, Emily Hilscher, her next-door neighbor at West Ambler Johnston Hall.

Isn’t it shocking how actual life differs from how we imagine, or would prefer, it to be? We expect to eat, drink, marry and be given in marriage, (Matt. 24:37-42) graduate college, plan careers and families.

Of course, on the one hand, this is what we have to do. But on the other hand, the implied warning in Jesus’ words is, don’t let your heart be fully invested in the things that aren’t going to last. (See Matt. 6:19-33) Because life occasionally throws some huge upsets, regardless of how content we are with our routine. Monday, April 16, 2007 was tragically such an upset for Emily Hilscher, Ryan Clark and many other young people who seemingly had very bright futures ahead of them.

Today will be a tragic day for many families; because death, even if it’s not accidental, occurs all-too-suddenly for everyone. Jesus warned of its unexpected nature when He said, “except ye repent, you will all likewise perish.” (See Luke 13:1-5) It’s why the Bible warns, “Today, while you can hear His voice, harden not your heart.” It’s also why we’re working to get His message delivered to millions before their day comes. Dan Lee, the leader of our recent staff devotional on heaven, made a challenge to us. Spend some time now, while there is time, to leave behind a recorded message to be played back for loved ones after our own death. Let it be a last plea to those who are putting off a decision for Christ.

I recently listened to a podcast from Christian speaker Ken Boa, recorded the week following September 11, 2001. He reflected on the sights and sounds that were burned into our consciousness on that day…but may be half-repressed for us today: people jumping hand-in-hand from burning windows…recorded messages from those on the ground or in the hijacked planes, like this heart-wrenching one: “Mommy, the building is on fire, there’s smoke coming through the walls. I can’t breathe. I love you, Mommy, good-bye.”

What’s really important, when it comes right down to it? Toward what thoughts do people turn their focus when they know they’re about to leave this earth? What would it be important to communicate from death’s door, or leave behind as a message?

Words of love: they honor relationships and remind us of their eternal nature. As the last person to see my dad alive when he dropped me off at school early one Friday morning, I have experience to teach me that we rarely recognize what will be our last exchange—we must cultivate the habit of making our love and celebration of one another more obvious and our disapproval and tension less obvious. It’s presumptuous to do otherwise.

Words of forgiveness: they lighten the grief of those we leave. Along those lines, if you could make things right with someone you had wronged, or release them from any concerns about your differences before the opportunity was gone, how precious and worthwhile that effort would prove for the one who remained.

Words of gratitude: they affirm significance. From this side, looking at the possibility of some kind of dramatic interruption to our best-laid plans, thankfulness might not be quite so obvious as the first two.

But we recognize that for Christians, death is really just that-an interruption. We will be together forever in the presence of Christ when all is revealed Open rewards will result from inspired acts done privately (Matthew 6:1-4). I struggle to find adequate words to communicate my gratitude to those of you who, through your prayers and financial support, have made it possible for us to have not only the necessities of this life, but eternal rewards at His coming. Imagine the celebration we’ll have when those we’ve reached together for Christ join us around His throne!

Prayer Request: before we could get this letter out, Emily exhibited some brief but alarming symptoms: slurred speech, lips drooping on one side, temporary inability to communicate, numbness in the fingers of one hand, and vomiting. Saturday evening, 4/21/07, she had an MRI at Arnold Palmer Hospital’s Children’s Emergency Room. Praise the Lord, it revealed a healthy brain!! Please pray for Emily, that upcoming neurological tests can be done quickly and they’ll also be favorable! Also that we can be wise about seeking treatment best covered by insurance!

With the sincerest gratitude,
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