Friday, April 14, 2006

Little Matthew's Hope

He is Risen!

At a February banquet honoring missionaries, my friends Monty and Melody Huffman and I listened to a chorus sing an old spiritual about heaven. The music ranged from mournful to exuberant finale. As the song ended, I looked toward Melody. She grasped my hand, saying, “Makes you want to go there, doesn’t it?” One reason Melody longs to make the trip — heaven adopted her seven-year-old son Matthew in 1991.

In 1989, the Huffmans moved their family from Happy, Texas to Salvador, Brazil to work with a missionary team. Five-year-old Matthew and seven-year-old Micah quickly learned Portuguese. When he wasn’t sleeping, Matthew was outdoors. He explored. He captured bugs. Scamper, a marmoset, was his constant companion. The small New World monkey was just the right size pet for little Matthew.

Melody home schooled, and the Huffmans lived near a beach on the Atlantic Ocean. Near the soft waves one hot August afternoon, the family looked for black sea urchins with tiny pink mouths, but Matthew didn’t feel well. On the walk home, he held his mother’s hand.

Unknown, at the time, Matthew had bacterial meningitis. Later, his condition worsened. The onset of severe headaches followed by sudden blindness caused his parents to scoop him up and rush him to a hospital. Frantic, his dad drove 30 miles down coast. In the backseat, Melody cradled Matthew in a blanket.

Melody tells what happened on the way to the hospital: “Matthew kept reaching out his hand into the air. I would take his hand and tell him ‘I’m here.’ I was holding his hand and he said, ‘No, not you.’ This happened several times.

“Finally, in desperation I said, ‘What do you want, Matthew? I’ll get it for you.’ His last words as he slipped into a coma were, ‘I’m trying to reach Jesus' hand.’ With those words, his little hand seemed to close around something in the air.”

Never regaining consciousness, Matthew died two days later. His family brought him back to Happy, Texas. On his grave stone, a small hand rests in a much larger one.

Matthew’s story is part of a greater story, the greatest story ever told. Jesus promised to overcome God’s enemy Death. After his resurrection, Jesus asked Mary Magdalene, who was weeping, “Woman, why are you crying?”

It wasn’t a calloused question, but an illuminating one: Jesus knew tears are native to the earth, and eternal life is native to heaven. This weekend celebrate the risen Lord. Hold his hand through life, then, like Matthew, stretch your hand toward Jesus when you journey home.

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