I was honored to be a tiny part of what transpired in Alona’s brief life. The story is true, the events cited happened recently, and I believe the story can be a source of encouragement. The message is simple: the Creator of universe cares for us — one at a time. While we live in a fallen world, He knows where we live, what we go through, and walks with us if we call on Him — even in the most challenging of circumstances where life itself is challenged. His touch on Alona, and His touch on me in the process of God’s touching her, illustrates the point…
Roland Beard, April 2017
I walked with my late wife through five cancers, numerous surgeries, and a host of indignities that she had to endure. I prayed for healing until the end, knowing God could raise her but also knowing He might take her home. He worked through extraordinary circumstances in her life. As we drew near to her end, she would sometimes ask me, “Why do you love me? I cannot be the wife I think I should be. I am cut up and scarred. Your whole life is just geared to taking care of me.”
But love, when based in Christ, goes very, very deep. She never quit serving God; I never quit loving her. Cancers destroyed parts of her, but she was beautiful to me. So, when she finally died and went to be with Him, it was quite an adjustment. However, the hand of God was strong, because it held me to her when she lived and held me through grief when she had gone.
Just six months after Linda was taken home, I returned to my Filipino friends at the Institute of Foundational Learning (IFL), where Linda and I had served in a mission capacity on previous trips. This time I was alone. I heard about Alona’s very high stage cancer and declining condition. She was just shy of her 20th birthday.
I began to pray. Her name came to mind often, which means the Holy Spirit was bidding me to pray often. I knew I needed to see her and speak to her, but no matter what I did, the meeting seemed impossible to set up. About a week before I was due to return to the US, I was told I could go with a couples’ Bible study group to see her.
How was I to function? How could I keep my composure? My wife’s death was recent. Alona’s condition was serious and hard. Facial surgery robbed her of her physical beauty. Rapidly spreading cancer had robbed her of mobility. The cancer was aggressive and nasty. It was not treatable. Two years ago she was perfectly healthy. The situation drove me to prayer all the more. I had been down a similar path. I knew this path was not an easy one for Alona, her family, or her friends. I only knew I was commanded to go see her. I loved her before I ever saw her, and I knew it was the hand of God.
On the day of the meeting with Alona in the family’s home, I was in a rush to meet transportation. I had started to run down the stairs from my apartment but the Spirit of God told me to return to my room and get a necklace of Linda’s that I had planned to give away. As soon as I picked it up, I knew what it meant. I pocketed the necklace and ran to meet the transportation awaiting me.
A dozen of us greeted the family on arrival. I met Alona, who was frail, bandaged, and unable to move very much. Her body had suffered a lot. She could not talk. I noticed she was still taking care of herself as best she could and was as modest as she could possibly be. It reminded me how Linda handled herself with grace in the face of indignities.
Alona and I only talked briefly before I stopped and asked that we might worship, which the group of friends was more than willing to do. After a few songs, I knew what the Spirit of the Lord wanted me to do, so I sat beside Alona and looked into her eyes. As I spoke, I never wavered my look into those eyes. As I told her of her beauty, she wept. As I told her of God’s special love for her, tears continued to flow. I will never forget her steady look and those beautiful brown eyes. I told her a little about Linda’s determination to serve God when she was so sick, and encouraged Alona to continue to do the same. Even if she could not move or do much, whatever the Lord had her to do or pray, I told her to do it, because it would have great impact—whether she became completely healed or God took her home. I told her one of the two was going to happen soon, because her condition was so severe.
Then, I remembered the necklace. I placed it in her hand and spoke to her about the white shells that formed the strand, because they were a picture of purity. Jesus had made her pure. I spoke to her about the pendant, which was a glass heart that was held by a metal framework. It was a reminder of God’s hand that was holding her heart—no matter what her body was doing. I talked a little more, prayed for her, and kissed her forehead.
Then I spoke with her father and prayed for her mother. The Lord moved in a dramatic way, and I had nothing to do with it except to love and obey. The whole of the meeting with Alona and her parents was God’s doing. I neither scheduled it nor planned what was to happen. Had it not been for the Holy Spirit, I could never have said what I told her. I sang a couple Scripture songs to close our time. In less than an hour, we were leaving. I remember saying good bye to her and telling her I would keep her in prayer. She was clutching the necklace.
When I returned to my room later, I wept at the obvious hand of God on this young lady and the family. With my recent circumstances in view, I was humbled that He would use me in the process. A few days later I returned to the US but continued to pray. Hours before her death, I felt compelled to write what I had said to Alona in a message that could be delivered to her in person by another Christian. It was read to her in her native language. Again, it was God’s idea—not mine. I simply loved and obeyed. I wept again.
The reminder to Alona was delivered quickly. A few hours later, the Lord took her home to be with Him. It was the night before her twentieth birthday.
Alona was special to God.
Do you see? God’s love is immensely powerful but gentle. He is mighty but personal. And, He demonstrated His love for her as she walked the last hours on this earth. I was honored, but also encouraged myself. He walks with us and leads us and comforts us — even in a broken world, even in the face of death.
Do you know this God? The One that touched Alona and received her to Himself is prepared to walk beside us through anything if we would only call upon Him. And, though we will taste of death, He is prepared to walk with us through that as well, because it is just the beginning for those that claim Him as Lord and Savior.
As you can imagine, many were affected by the events in Alona’s life as well as her family and friends that stood by her. Testimonies of those affected are still being written. The family is still adjusting and walking through the grief. Please pray for them.
You need not pray for Alona. She is face to face with the One who holds her heart. Linda is there, too.