Author: Lori Apon
Category: Grief: Memorials and Remembrance WidowLife
When the children of Israel made it to the Promised Land, the Lord spoke to their leader, Joshua, commanding him to build an altar of remembrance. Joshua did just that encouraging the people to take time to remember all the ways that God had been faithful to them. The altar of stones would be a sign to the children of the next generation when they would ask, “What is that altar and what are the stones? Please tell us, what is this all about?” Joshua 4 tells us this story.
Every time I visit my grandson, he asks for me to tell him a “life-child story” meaning a childhood story of my life. I think ahead through my life-child stories to have them prepared for our bedtime devotions. What he is asking is, “Tell me about when you were a little girl.” The Village Appreciation Celebration was overwhelming in that over 300 people came to create a life-child story for my grandsons. We took time to place stones on the altar as we remembered God’s faithfulness over the last eighteen years. The altar also presents a challenge for the next generation to consider being used in the lives of others. Hurting people follow after us. Let’s be faithful to share the story of Jesus.
(10 years old when her daddy died. Today, Abi is married to Nick Fasciano raising four precious boys.)
As the oldest child, I should have the most memories of Bobby Apon. Truthfully, my memories are a swirled crescendo of my senses. My dad smelled like sawdust after he built something by hand on the cold concrete floor or in the driveway. He felt like his huge hand over mine when he built and then taught me to hold a bow and arrow correctly and then together we shot it at the inside of the garage door. Looked like muted color pancake batter he made in the shape of Mickey Mouse with carob chip eyes, smelled like burning leaves, sounded like my own shrieks of joy as he bounced on the trampoline, felt like wet cement when I squished my hand into the floor of the bike shed he just built, feels like my stomach jumped into my throat one Monday night in May eighteen years ago.
I started to believe the lie that I had lost the most significant person in my life. That there would never be anyone as important and I would continue to live as a bird with a broken wing that wouldn’t heal. The enemy wants me to believe that since I endured such a significant tragedy so early in life, the rest of my life is spent just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Do you want to know the truth? We did lose a significant person. As I look around this room I see hundreds of people who made the deliberate decision to get his or her hands dirty, use their time, spend their money to try and fill one man’s abandoned shoes, and I am confident there are hundreds more unaccounted for tonight.
I see all of you who became intentionally significant to us. To you significant people, God as Father sounds like biblical truth set in front of me over and over again. Looks like a teacher at The King’s Academy brushing the knots out of my hair as she let me weep into the sink over something insignificant. Feels like security when other teachers guarded normalcy in my life when at times I felt like a little goldfish in a bowl. Sounds like hearing myself calling one of you Dad while we were camping. Instead of you making me feel silly, you reassured me instead. Feels like being heard when the pressures of high school made me feel overwhelmed with darkness and you took the time out of your day to meet with me to talk me through it. Sounds like the time that I heard I would get to attend Liberty University a gift that remains one of the largest in my life. When the enemy tries to remind me of a giant void in my life in the shape of my dad, the Lord is quick to remind me of your faces.
(9 years old when her daddy died. Today she is married to Ben raising four sons and one foster boy they hope to adopt. They planted a church in Vermont three years ago.)
I specifically want to thank you for the ways you have ministered His Word to our family.
Psalm 107:20 says, “He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.”
That’s exactly what the Lord has done in our family. He’s used so many to train us in the Word of God teaching us how to study. He sent many to pray Scripture over us as well as to send us verses that remind us of the promises of God’s Word. We would not be where we are today if we didn’t have so many faithful people ministering the truth of God’s Word into our hearts.
1 Peter 2:6 “For this is contained in Scripture: “Behold I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
The cornerstone is Jesus, and He’s the One we have built our lives on and we are not disappointed.
He has brought us through fire and water. He has laid an oppressive burden upon us that we don’t always understand, and yet He has brought us out into a place of abundance and we are not disappointed. I want to encourage those of you who may be walking through fire and water and you are wondering what in the world the Lord is doing. Cling to Jesus. Trust Him. Obey Him. Hold tight to Him and you will not be disappointed. Psalm 66
(8 years old at the time his daddy died. Today he is married and impacting others as a coach in the life of the business world.)
As I look at each face, I remember that ice cream trip. I remember that day in the batting cages. I remember that prayer session when you laid hands on me and my wife. I remember that study hall where you straightened a young buck out. I remember that research paper I probably didn’t do that good on, but it was a learning lesson. I remember that night where I was sitting at the table talking to you and not playing video games. It’s all so overwhelming. It really is. So, from my heart, and you will hear this all night, that the purpose of this evening is that we want the Lord Almighty to be glorified and we want you to be gratified.
There are people who intentionally took an opportunity to take a young kid and say, “I am not going to let him become a statistic. I’m not going to let him fail.” You spent your time and energy to mentor me, while the whole time I was starving for an example. What does a provider look like? What does a protector look like? What does a family vacation look like with a dad? What does it mean to be a man of purity? What does it mean to be someone who is a prayer warrior for their family? I didn’t have that. My dad was an amazing man that I have nothing but positive memories of, but I didn’t have that model. Thank you for modeling manhood to me. I cannot thank you enough because I have a lovely wife, Brittany, who is a direct recipient of what you have invested in me. I love you.
(6 years old at the time of her daddy’s death. Today, she is making preparation to work as a photo journalist with the International Mission Board.)
I was asked to share how God has been a Father. That’s is not an easy question since God has fathered me in numerous ways over these last eighteen years. As I think through the pillars of grace I must say that, for me, God is love. He has been a Father of love by bringing people to pray for me over the numerous trips I’ve been able to take. There are people who not only said they would pray, but actually got on their knees to intercede on my behalf. He has been love by providing and working in the tiny details of my life. Because I have experienced God as my Father, I know that He cares for the details of your life as well. Growing up, I imagined a father considering the details of his child…He would know what your favorite color is or what you like. This is the coolest thing to me because some people see God as Father as a distant idea, thinking “Yes, God is a Father, but I don’t really see Him as my Father.” They see God as impersonal. However, God has chosen to point out to me that He cares about the details just as an earthly father would.
God doesn’t have to be a distant far-off idea of someone you can kind of talk to or pray to who doesn’t interact with us because He does involve Himself. I don’t know where we lost the idea that God is a personal Father–He really is. He was a Father before time began. Jesus Christ is His Son. He gets to portray that on us which is huge. He has been a Father to me as a personal God, yes, but as Father of details.
God knows the deepest desires of our hearts and cares about the deepest details. God is such a faithful, loving Father. Thank you for praying for me all these years because I know all of you have. Thank you for writing letters and sending texts, for meeting with me for coffee, for coaching us, and for teaching us. Words are not easy to express our appreciation, but thank you so much for everything. You mean the world to us.
(was 5 years old when his daddy died. Today, Isaac works as a graphic designer for Liberty University.
It is really cool to see the whole collective of people as a testament to see when you are inside of the Lord’s will to see what He is capable of doing which is anything and everything. One of which is beating the statistics of a fatherless family which is what we went through. The world is not in our favor when it comes to being fatherless. They look at a single mom and the eight kids and think this probably won’t turn out too well, but the Lord stepped in saying, “No, I have a better idea. I will be their Father and walk with them from the beginning. It’s really neat how the Lord selected different pockets of you to minister to each of my siblings. Some of you ministered to my older siblings in ways that would not have been effective for me. And some of you ministered to me in ways that wouldn’t have touched my younger brothers and sister. It’s really cool to see the Lord’s Sovereignty and faithfulness in all of that. He knew exactly what we needed as fatherless kids, and allowed you take part in the story as the hands and feet of Jesus. It’s a humbling opportunity for all of us to look out and see your faces. Thank you. We would not be here today if it weren’t for the Lord and very importantly if it weren’t for you. We are where we are today because you said yes to the Lord in caring for our family. We love you deeply.
(turned 4 years old three days after his daddy died. Today, Evan feels the call of God to give his life sharing the Gospel with others especially those who are also fatherless.)
Hebrews 13:7 “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”
Anybody can talk and try to influence people by what they say, but ultimately nothing can impact anyone more than when their lives and their character outshine the words that they speak. We imitated your actions, and watched your faith. We considered the outcome of your way of life. You may not have even known that we were watching, but it was when we watched your actions that our lives were changed. Thank you for playing a part in our story.
(was 2 when her daddy died. Today, Amy is a junior attending Liberty University with plans to be a flight attendant.)
I wanted to focus specifically on how the mentors I looked up to ultimately shaped me into the person that I am today. Whether that be a teacher, a high school intern, or parents of friends of mine, throughout my life God has sent people walking alongside of me.
God fathered me in tangible ways: In third grade, my school had an event called Dads and donuts. I remember Pastor Johnny took time out of his super busy schedule to pick me up in his hummer which was the coolest car in the world to me. After the event, he took me to the mall and told me I could get whatever I wanted. That was such a huge deal to me. I felt as if I were walking around with the president. He showed up making me feel like I was on cloud nine. Fast forward to high school and that tangible example of a father was my best friend’s dad. God could see this was something that I wanted. God knew this was something that I needed because high school is the hardest part of your life, at least for me it was, so I wanted and needed a father-figure. God physically fathered me through someone else’s dad.
Thank you! We give glory to God for the way He used you because without you we wouldn’t be where we are today.
(Micah was a thirteen month old baby when his daddy committed suicide. Today, Micah is preparing to study business at Liberty University. His goal is to own a Chick-Fil-A after graduation.)
Because I was a baby when my dad died, God has been very unique in my life compared to my siblings because I have no memory of my father. I’ve never known what it is like to have a dad. The way God used Himself was different. God promises to be a Father to the fatherless. He did that through you—the body of Christ which was most relevant in my life. He has used families to take me on trip giving me that family experience with a dad. He has given me friends who moved me closer to God rather than drawing me away. What you did in answering the call of God was truly impactful and we will forever be thankful for you. You have challenged me, been a servant, been generous, given your time, giving money – NewSong sent me to SLU and taught me about leadership allowing me to take that path. Through all of that, I now want to do the same with my life. I want to continue to be a servant, a light in other’s life, show them hope and further God’s Kingdom through that.
We saw the story from a different perspective. Perhaps you bought a pair of tennis shoes, you may have prayed, you were a teacher, you fixed our dishwasher when it was leaking through to the garage. You know what part you played in the body, but we saw the grand and glorious story. We saw God. We wanted to share a glimpse of that with you so that you could see that with God all things are possible.
God charted the next season of our lives with a promise from His Word that we have lived our lives on.
Psalm 68:5 declares, “I am a defender of the widow and father to the fatherless.”
We believed His Word and we have lived His Word every single day. God’s truth makes a difference.
When I stood at the wedding altar, my wedding ring had inscribed, “Everything God does remains forever.” When my husband was no longer here, I remember wrestling with God asking what was that all about since my marriage did not last forever. Over time, I put stones around that diamond of hope—eight stones to represent my children as my forever. The ring came on and off as the emotions would rise and fall. The Apostle Paul expressed a desire in 1 Corinthians 7:8 for those who are single and those who are widowed to “remain as I” – focused on the Lord and focused on others. Of course, Paul also encouraged marriage for those who were married. His point was to fulfill your calling. I wear my ring today as a symbol that I am called to remain focused on the Lord giving the next season of my life to encourage the widow and fatherless to put their trust in God and the promises in His Word. God’s perspective makes a difference.
I have been so impacted by the body of Christ and the way God has worked in our lives that I want to give back. I want to turn around and comfort those who have been called to walk with God as Husband and God as father as I have been comforted. I want to share His perspective with them. You are the reason why we have started Perspective Ministries. This ministry is because of you. I want to be like you in this world. Thank you for being there to help light our world. We want to be there to help Light Their World.