Jongeward Journeys

4 comments Written on November 17th, 2011 by
Categories: Alumni, Faculty, General

"I came across a quote the other day that said, 'We had the experience, but we missed the meaning'. Today I want to share with you the most difficult experience I have ever had. But I want to share with you the meaning... God has a way of turning tragedy into victory. Our story is a story of loss and of pain, but also a story of great gain."

Before continuing, Professor Dave Jongeward issued a challenge to his chapel audience. In a sincere tone, he told students that what he was about to share was an intensely personal experience and very integral to the man he has become. Because of this, he asked students to listen intently so that they might be changed and learn vicariously the deep truths that he himself had experienced through dark times.

The Journey Begins

With the students rapt attention, Dave proceeded to tell his story. In 1946, Dean and Alice Jongeward graduated from MU and became missionaries in Ethiopia where Dave was born. At 8 years old and one of 6 children, Dave and his family moved back to the United States and settled in Yakima, Washington. The passion that Dave's Dad, Dean Jongeward, had for God, missions, and people still burned brightly within him which drove him to travel and speak on missions at churches and places like Multnomah.

In the spring semester of Dave's freshman year of high school, Dean was diagnosed with brain cancer. After surgery, Dean began to recover only to deteriorate again with little hope for recovery. While he was in this downward turn, Dave and his brother, Allen, were in a very serious car accident. Dave and Allen where rushed to the hospital where Dave was treated for the injuries to his side, knee, and head. After a couple of days, Allen was still unconscious and when he woke up it was discovered that he was paralyzed from the neck down. As Allen was undergoing a series of surgeries, sicknesses, and complications, Dean lost his battle with cancer and died at the age of 44. Within the same month of Dean's death, Allen died as well.

Dave encouraged his audience to listen intently as he told us of the wisdom that he had distilled from this time of incredible pain.

What was the meaning?

1. The most difficult journeys can be the most meaningful. Somehow God seems to talk to us more in our pain. As C.S. Lewis wrote, "Pain is God's megaphone," which was certainly true as God sculpted the most defining moments of my entire life.

2. God is God. Do we truly accept and understand that God is a God of the Heavens and he does what he pleases? I can fight with him and I can be bitter or I can align myself with God's plan and be more refined. Be bitter or be better. It's your choice.

3. Trust God even though you don't understand what he is doing and even though you are in pain. Job stated his absolute trust in God when he said, “Even though You slay me, yet will I trust in You.” A passage that has continually spoken to my heart through this hard experience is Lamentations 3:31-33, 37-38, and, again, I am reminded that we need to trust that God knows what He is doing, no matter how bad it seems to us.

4. God is for me, not against me. When things go badly, you might be tempted to doubt the unconditional goodness of God. I have to remind myself that God does this for my benefit because God desires me, He delights in me and plans for me to gain.

5. God has the right to take my life. He also has the right to use my life for His glory.

6. There are worse things than physical death.

7. God was teaching me at a young age how to die to self. Because of the car accident, I had to wear a neck brace and could no longer play in any sports. Sports had been a very important part of my life, but because God taught me to die to myself, when the time came to take the neck brace off I was able to pray with sincerity, "God, if my life is not pleasing to You, You have the right to put neck brace back on."

8. Hard things are guaranteed to happen in life, the only thing you can change is your response to those circumstances.

9. Pain and loss are God's curriculum for life. When we learn about God through adversity, He develops our love for Him.

10. God can use our pain, failure and brokenness as a platform for His praise and ministry to others. As A.W. Tozer once said, "It is highly unlikely that God can use a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply."

To end our time together, Dave's mother, Mrs. Jongeward, recounted how God revealed His leading in her life through the loss of her husband, and she reiterated that God had indeed taken care of her all these years as a widow since 1969, after the death of her husband and son. There was a still solemnity as we then listened to a recording taken of Mr. Jongeward before he lost his ability to speak due to his cancer:

"I  am so conscious of the fact that God is with us and that all of His afflictions and testings are borne out of His great heart of love...and if the Lord sees fit to raise us up and give us added years, than that will be wonderful, and if He doesn't see fit to do that, well that's wonderful too."

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Senior Alumni Relations Coordinator

4 comments “Jongeward Journeys”

I remember as a student at MSB in the 60’s Dean would share in our chapel services. He was a favorite of mine because of his love for the LORD & his utter transparency. Thanks for the memories. God bless all of you.

I know that this comment is not the type that you usually see here. But I am so moved that I must say something. But it is not a “moving” in the direction that you expect! And I will be surprised if it is even approved for posting.

I received a Th.B. from Multnomah in the early 70’s. For 46 years I was a Christian, with time in Europe as a missionary, and many, many years in para-church ministries. And after much reasoned thought and research, I have had to give up my Christian faith, as it had no correlation with the actual evidence that we have in the natural universe around us. And I have to say, that Mr. Jongeward’s reasoning as displayed in this chapel address, is a perfect example of that.

Even Jesus said in Matthew 5:45, that the rain falls on the just and unjust alike. Disasters befall believers and unbelievers with a randomness that is outside the control of supernatural beings, whether they be the triune God of the Bible, or the Greek Zeus. Nature is no respecter of persons. Cancer hits people randomly; sure, there may be a genetic disposition that puts some people at more risk, but let us not think that God is choosing a certain person to inflict cancer upon, because he has a “lesson” that He wants to teach that person, or his family.

I disagree with most points in Mr Jongeward’s address. If we as human parents acted towards our children in the way that he says God has a right to act towards us, we would soon be in prison on charges of child abuse. I am so thankful that I am now free of this kind of “God is trying to teach you a lesson” reaction to every negative thing that happens in my life (a teaching that my parents drilled into me from the time of my conversion). Of course, there are times when we see negative results of certain kinds of behavior, but plain observation of human behavior reveals that. A supreme being is not necessary for those observations, either.

I do agree with Mr Jongeward on two out of the ten points: 1) “There are worse things than physical death”, and 2) “Hard things are guaranteed to happen in life, the only things you can change is your response to those circumstances.” Those are common-sense facts – no God required.

However, I ask you to see the danger in this kind of teaching found in the other eight points: I ask you see the danger in this kind of teaching: that when catastrophes occur in life, somehow it’s my fault, because God had to get my attention or had to teach me a lesson. This can lead to people feeling responsible for the death or injury of a loved one, when in actual fact it had nothing to do with them. It was the just the universe being the universe.

God did not cause the car accident in which Mr Jongeward had a neck injury because God wanted him to get his attention off of sports. Would you do that to your child? No, of course not. It’s about time Christians stopped trying to find God’s purpose in every little twist and turn of life. It’s just life, and nothing more, and nothing less.

I recognize that people do get comfort in having these religious explanations for the hard times in life. If that’s what they need to get through these times, then I do not begrudge them that comfort. But I have seen and experienced the other side of the coin, where people blame themselves for provoking God into inflicting pain on themselves or their loved ones, and as a result suffered deep emotional trauma, stress and injury that is totally without rational basis. It is that which I speak against here.

Thank you, Wesley, for your very frank words. We are glad when people are honest in what they write and we encourage others to do the same!

I just want to be the first on record to say that, contrary to your statements, it is not the majority opinion that what Professor Jongeward is contending is what you say it is: that God would break His own rules about the natural world in order to inflict harm or pain on others so that He can “teach them a lesson” – as you say in your comment. This is the logical paraphrase of what you assert, unless I am mistaken.

It would seem that a closer observation of Dave Jongeward’s statements from this chapel warrant a close investigation in to the issues that Wesley M raises in his comment.

What say you, community?

Christmas is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give, it’s Christmas.Merry Christmas