written by SAM missionary, Lance Erickson (SAMAIR Bolivia)
This has been a week of intense sorrow coupled with overwhelming pride and bittersweet joy. As I got out of the plane after giving a flight lesson on Saturday, I received a call from my dad to tell me my brother Jay and his wife Katrina had died in a plane crash.
We were very close to Jay and Katrina. Jay and I spent the last six years together in school preparing for service as mission pilots. In the beginning he lived in our house and at the end we lived in their house. Jay and Katrina had just begun serving at the Chitokoloi Mission hospital in Zambia. The accident has made international news and thousands gathered for the funeral yesterday as they became the 7th and 8th Ericksons to be buried in Africa as missionaries. The president of Zambia declared a national day of mourning in their honor. All flags were flown at half mast and all programs of entertainment were cancelled. An appropriate honor for them, but nothing compared to the reward they are receiving from the Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth.
As I have reflected through many tears on my brother’s life and death and the many testimonies that have been given of his life, I see over and over what I have always known. Jay believed God’s word and he backed that belief up with action no matter the cost. Not just the nice part, that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ, but he believed the hard part, that man exists not for his own glory but to glorify God, that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart soul mind and strength, and that every command truly can be summed up in this, love your Neighbor as yourself. Jay and Katrina’s great sacrifice was not in dying on the mission field. That was a terrible accident. Their sacrifice, and that only by the grace of God, was at every turning point through life where they said God’s prestige is more important than ours, the means to help the hurting is more important than our comfort, the role we can play in relieving suffering is more important than the security of home and family. The need for people to know God is greater than our need for retirement, acceptance, entertainment, or safety. They were patient, kind, generous, and long suffering. It was not the incredible effectiveness of their missionary work in Africa that has made the news of their death so significant to so many, it was the priorities by which they lived that changed the world.
So with terrible sorrow I say good by to my brother and Katrina with no regrets or if-onlys. God gave them the grace to see the truth clearly and live by it. They died together, in a place they dearly loved to be, doing what they loved for the one they loved. They were flying together into the sunset and in a moment they were with the one whose glory they had lived for. The one who loves them even more than I do.
They spent their lives on what matters most. God, by your grace, let us do the same.