Friday, August 5, 2016

A Short, Glorious Life: Jamison and Kathryne Pals Went to Heaven instead of Japan

Your life may be more important than you think. I hope this will show you why, and increase your joy in what The Lord brings you to do each day. I think this is something the Pals family would have wanted. Jamison and Kathryne Pals were a young couple that attended our church. They were preparing to move to Japan as missionaries. They would bring with them their four-year-old son, two-year-old daughter, and a newborn son. Last weekend the whole family was on the road to Colorado for the final part of their training before moving overseas.  

In April, Jamison's blog Joy of Japan included a post with these words which he wrote to his wife Kathryne three years ago:
“I do not know how things will turn out for us.  As a husband I feel obligated to lead our family toward obedience—whatever the end may be.  Whether it is life or death or discomfort or disappointment, it is clear the Lord Jesus calls us not to an easy life.  However, He calls us to take up our cross just as He did to suffer and die.  Perhaps we will toil for years to raise support and never make it overseas.  Perhaps we will go and utterly fail as missionaries from all the worldly perspectives.  Perhaps we will labor for decades without any visible fruit.  Or perhaps through willing obedience many will pass from death to eternal life.” 
That road of obedience led them through Nebraska last Sunday. In the middle of the afternoon, a semi crashed into their car from behind and the impact caused a fire that took the lives of the entire Pals family.

Many people would only see this as a sad and tragic end to their dreams and hopes. Yet while the grief of family and friends is tremendous, there is also a surge of hope rising up in the midst of it. I did not get the joy of knowing the Pals personally, but I know friends who did, and I see that hope rising to the surface for them. In the stories that follow below, you can see that same hope in their parents. Part of the reason for that hope is that we firmly believe that the Pals are in the presence of God now, where there is no sorrow or regret at being welcomed home early. Christians know that the presence of God is unending joy and uninterrupted worship. Forever. That is why Paul says that to depart and be with Christ is "far better" than life on earth. (Phil. 1:23).

Another reason for that hope is that God never wastes our obedience and devotion to Him. Christianity has a history that shows extraordinary results from the humble deaths of people who loved the Lord. Sometimes death can produce a greater impact than a long life, if you leave the right things behind you. There is much that the lives of Jamison and Kathryne may yet do for the people of Japan and others who will be inspired by their story. The news of the accident as reported in the Omaha World-Herald the next day was full of details on the missionary vision for loving the people of Japan that had brought the Pals through Nebraska. Their story has been nationwide news. People magazine ran an exclusive story on its website this week that, again, displayed the heart of the Pals in bringing the Gospel to people in Japan. It also included many quotes from their parents showing their hope in the Lord even while mourning. Their blog Joy of Japan will now be read by far more people than they ever may have dreamed it would. How many of those people will learn for the first time that the 120 million Japanese people in Japan have almost no Christian witness among them? (See the Joshua Project for more.) Imagine if their story caused another 10, or 20, or even more people to dedicate their lives to the Gospel in Japan.

This has reminded me of another missionary, Amy Carmichael. Amy served in southern India from 1895 until her death in 1951. She worked to rescue young girls from sexual slavery and established a school and home to support and train rescued children, named Dohnavur Fellowship. In 1931, as she was concerned about financial support for the school, she suffered a terrible accident. She fell into a pit inside a dark house just rented for the school's purposes, breaking her leg and twisting her spine. It left her bedridden for the rest of her life. She was unable to actively serve in the ministry of the school she had worked so hard to found and support, although she continued to direct and lead it. While confined to bed, she wrote prose and poetry that ended up becoming known around the world. Through this writing, the work of her school and home for rescued children also became known across the globe, and her ministry received enough support that the Dohnavur Fellowship continues today.

Who can say how the Lord may now use the lives of Jamison and Kathryne? Amy Carmichael's personal disaster ended up making the work of sharing the Gospel in India known and funded, also drawing attention to the horror of young girls being enslaved and exploited in the temples. But she likely never imagined her work would gain such attention. She was just doing what she believed God wanted her to do. Just like Jamison and Kathryne followed the Lord in preparing to serve in Japan.

How should we feel after reading such testimonies? Usually we feel impressed, awed, and a little small in comparison. Often we feel guilty, too, as if we aren't doing enough to measure up to such devotion to God. I want to persuade you to set those thoughts of guilt aside. Instead, I think reading about the lives of the Pals and of Amy Carmichael should encourage us about our daily work and study. All they were doing was what they could, no matter how small. They had no idea where it would lead. Amy Carmichael couldn't have known that writing poems to express her feelings and faith would end up creating worldwide interest in her ministry in India and lead to generous giving and support. 

Jamison and Kathryne Pals had the same humble thoughts about what they were doing. And now, because they just kept seeking God first in how they used their time, and did not despise doing small things, holding to the hope that one day that faithfulness might produce a great result, their story is being read around the world. I hope and believe that the kind of impact they wanted to make with their lives and devotion to the Gospel will spread even farther through their unexpected deaths, showing people a faith that is worth living for and losing everything (on earth) for. If we want to honor their lives and their passion, I think we could start by seeing the ordinary things in our lives as vastly important to what God may do some day in the future. Maybe we won't see the future results ourselves, and maybe we will. But just as with the Pals and Amy Carmichael, the important thing is that other people would see, and believe.

For Supporting the Vision of Jamison and Kathryne Pals

Here is a video of the memorial service from Saturday, August 6, at Bethlehem Baptist Church. It was a remarkable service. This is one more way their story can be shared.

If you’d like to help the family with expenses, they have a GoFundMe page to raise money to bring the family’s ashes to Japan.

Jamison’s father asked that, above all, people might take some time to read the Joy of Japan blog, and learn what they were truly about.

Pastor Jason Meyer of Bethlehem wrote this about the Pals. The University of Northwestern-Saint Paul radio ministry,, shared the words of Jamison's father and friends of Jamison and Kathryne (along with the WCCO article linked within). The People story highlights the thoughts of Kathryne's parents.