Yesterday a friend of mine died of cancer on the other side of the world. It’s weird. When I was young each day felt far more filled the sense of possible gain, and the possibility of loss felt like an outlier to my existence. It wasn’t reality but it was how I felt when I was young. Now that I’ve crossed the big 50 mark my days are far more filled with the sense of loss, and the possibility of gains begin to feel like the outlier of my existence. Again it’s not reality but it’s how it feels as I age. The fact is gain and loss are always part of reality in this broken world. Because God is gracious and kind we all experience unspeakable, and unearned gains in this life. Because this world is broken we will all experience unspeakable losses. Because God is love, and God is present, He is with us in both experiences!
Today I want to honor my friends Ken and Bola Taylor. Ken and Bola met in a sleazy bar in the Philipines at a time when their lives had stumbled into the red light district. He was a musician and she was a singer, and at the lowest moments in their lives they found Jesus and they found each other. They left the red light district life behind, got married and moved to America to start a new life following Jesus. I first met them when Ken entered seminary. He and Bola realized together that after years enjoying the benefits of America, God was strangely giving them a heart to be missionaries to the nation of Japan. Ken took classes to train for the ministry, while Bola took care of things at home. After a lot of hard work finishing up graduate school, and raising support, Ken and Bola left for Japan in 1995 with two young kids and a baby on the way. They arrived in Japan without a clue how to really serve God’s purposes and they began the slow and painful process of trying to figure out what in the world God wanted them to do in a foreign country.
They discovered the Japanese people (because of the movie “Sister Act”) were crazy – and I mean crazy – about Gospel music. Since Ken was a musician, and Bola could sing Ken decided to try something. He invited unbelieving Japanese people to come and learn how to sing Gospel music – in English. They had to turn people away! They simply taught people how to sing Gospel songs, then they taught the choir what the words actually meant in Japanese (as in teaching them the Gospel at every choir practice), and it climaxed at a giant concert widely attended by family and friends where they shared the Gospel all over again. In that first choir, many people gave their lives to Christ and since then Ken and Bola have partnered with many Japanese churches to reach thousands of people with the Good News of life available through Jesus. God has used them mightily. If you’re curious here’s a sample of Ken leading one of their Gospel choirs with Bola singing.
Recently, Bola was diagnosed with cancer. She fought hard, she trusted Jesus, but the cancer kept spreading. Two weeks ago Ken and Bola threw a huge birthday party/concert for Bola’s birthday. It was a massive celebration where she sang, she told people about her fight with cancer, about her love for them and even more importantly her trust in her Jesus no matter what might happen to her. So many people were moved by her birthday party. Yesterday on Oct. 19, 2015 at 3: 15am Tokyo time – Jesus took Bola home to be with him. I’m not sad for Bola because I know she is singing boldly before her Jesus today. I am sad for my friend Ken as he now tries to figure out how to do life without his dearest friend. Ken I write my blog today as a tribute to you and to Bola. It feels like the smallest thing I can do as an expression of my love and appreciation for you both. May God meet you and tenderly walk your through your grief my friend.