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It's an incredible story...

I heard it again just recently at one of our Evening at the Crossroads events. I was in from Beijing and had the opportunity to participate in some of these special gatherings of prospects, alumni and ELIC staff.

It was Theresa Davis, a valuable recruiter on our staff, who shared the story, a deeply personal and very moving account of what happened to her and her students following the greatest crisis in the history of ELIC.

It was the end of the 1994 school year. Two of our teachers, Mark Stoel and Mark Woodrum, were about to return home. They were Theresa's teammates. They were all very close. But because of logistics and class schedules, Theresa remained behind. They said good-bye at the train station.

The next night Theresa and her students received the shattering news that the plane both Marks were on had crashed shortly after takeoff. No one survived. The story I've asked Theresa to share with you begins when she first heard the news that Mark Stoel and Mark Woodrum had gone home to be with the Lord. Please read every word.

It was as if a dark cloud had fallen across the campus. The entire school knew Mark and Mark. Their students were shaken dramatically by the news of their deaths, some were even hysterical.

I felt weak and sickened by the news. At first, the fact that they were with the Lord did not console me. They were my dear friends. We'd worked together, worshipped together, cried together. We'd seen each other at our worst and at our best. The bond between us was extremely strong. I felt broken inside to know I'd lost them.

I could still see their faces so vividly at the train station as they talked and shared with their students for the last tzme. Even then, they spoke of Jesus in their final goodbyes. I had difficulty accepting the fact that they were gone and I'd been left behind.

More than 100 students gathered with me to mount and grieve. Many cried openly, others sobbed in my arms.

Then one student spoke up. He said, "Theresa, we know you are hurting inside, so are we. But we see in your face that you still have hope." I was surprised at such words. I felt so utterly broken. I found it difficult to believe that they saw hope in my face. It was clearly the Lord.

Then they asked me to please come and sit down and talk with them. So we sat together in one of the empty classrooms. I was drained. I thought, "Lord, I have nothing to give to these students." Then I began to speak.

We talked about life and death. I told them of Jesus Christ, of His death on the cross, and of the hope that comes from His glorious resurrection. Because He lives, each one of us can live through faith in Him. I told them they can have a new life that begins now and has the power to carry them victoriously through death. I told them that Mark and Mark had gone to be with the One who holds the power of life and death in His hand. They listened to every word intently. I could feel the power of the Holy Spirit.

In the two weeks that followed, many students came to me and shared privately, "I think yourJesus is real. " I'd never experienced such an outpouring as student after student said to me, "I'm ready to believe in your Jesus."

In witnessing the salvation of these souls, I came to see God's plan so clearly. He was using the deaths of Mark Stoel and Mark Woodrum for His eternal purpose in the lives of our students. The peace I felt was inexpressible.

Now, it was my turn to leave. We gathered at the train station. It was an extremely emotional time for me. Even then, as many of our students hugged me, one whispered excitedly in my ear, "I believe, I believe"

As the train pulled away from the station, I watched their tear-stained faces slip from view. My heart ached with joy. I strained to see them as the distance between us grew. I wished Mark and Mark could see their students, and know how their deaths had impacted them so greatly. What joy it would bring to them.

Even now, I think of my two dear friends and our students who mean so much to us. I realize anew the high price the Son of God paid to make us His own. And I'm sobered and awed by the sacrifices He sometimes requires from us so that others may know Him. Because of these two lives that were so freely given, my life will never be the same.

As I heard Theresa's story, this verse came to mind, "Greater love hath no man than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13.

Mark Stoel and Mark Woodrum paid the highest price to serve Christ. Hundreds of teachers like Theresa have also sacrificed dearly to serve in His name.

This Christmas, may you and your family be blessed as you remember the supreme price our Father paid by sending His Son into the world to shed His blood. Also be blessed to know that you can love in like manner by giving sacrificially to send others like Mark and Mark and Theresa to share the message of His great love with those who've never heard. How will they come to know Him unless someone tells them?

Christmas peace, joy and love to you,

Kenneth P. Wendling, President

P.S. Because of your prayers and your sacrificial gift, many students from China, Mongolia and Vietnam will one day say, "I'm ready to believe in your Jesus."

 

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