Elizabeth Barnes, 18 year-old daughter of Pastor Ron and Susan Barnes, died on May 17th while she was on a trip to France. The funeral was today.
Ron is the pastor of Grand River Community Church in Elora, Ontario. I know him because he is on the board of Carey Outreach Ministries, a ministry near and dear to my heart.
Rick and I attended the funeral. It's not often one has the opportunity to witness the funeral of an 18 year old, especially an 18 year old who loves and serves God as Elizabeth did. Most often, funerals of young people are dreadful occasions, filled with grief and sorrow.
I am not saying that the funeral today was without grief. Clearly, those who knew and loved Elizabeth were grieving deeply. But NOT without HOPE.
Four people shared attributes of God that Elizabeth believed - that He is a Holy God, that He is Sovereign, that He cares deeply for His children and has provided a way of salvation. The gospel message was clear. Songs were sung that further glorified God...Blessed be Your Name; It is Well with My Soul.
But it was when Ron Barnes got up and did the eulogy that I felt that I was on holy ground. Ron first prayed that God would help him, then he began to share stories about Liz. He described her birth - a difficult one, through a C-section - and the subsequent IV's that were placed in her feet and on the sides of her head. He joked that Liz's first haircut was a "Frohawk", because they shaved the sides of her head, and her hair was naturally curly.
Ron told us that Liz was fearfully and wonderfully made, knit together in her mother's womb by a Sovereign God. As he shared some of Elizabeth's characteristics, he spoke about genetics and how his loved ones, his relatives, shared many of the same traits.
Liz got her brilliance from her grandfather, Ron's dad, who graduated from medical school in second place - and this with two children competing for his time while he tried to study!
She got her musical ability from her grandma and mom.
She shared her "mushy, broad" nose with her dad. She loved to impress others by squishing it!
The list went on. Liz was a brilliant, dedicated student. A great athlete. A strong swimmer. She was an artist, and evidences of that were on display in the foyer of the church. She cared deeply for people, and longed for her friends and family to know and love God the way she knew and loved Him.
But the one characteristic that she did not inherit was her regeneration. It is not possible to gain salvation because your parents are saved. Nor is it possible to gain heaven because you go to church your entire life!
It is a gift of God.
Elizabeth Violet Barnes was rescued, saved by the grace of God, given salvation because Jesus paid the price for her sin.
And now she is free. Free from sin, from pain, from sorrow, from sadness.
Her dad's voice broke as he shared that he longed to see his daughter one more time, to pick up her lanky frame and cuddle her on his lap, and tell her, "It's going to be okay." He can't do that.
But Jesus can.
2 Corinthians 5: 6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
Elizabeth is at home with the Lord! There's no better place to be.