On Thursday 4 January, Ledo Silvano Giovanni Raffanti breathed his last breath. His nurse helped him wash up and dress in the morning, and left the room to fetch his breakfast. When she returned, he had quietly slipped away.
Oupa Joe was proud, strong, meticulous, and hard-working. He was a real engineer – a problem-solver, who invented many gadgets on a large scale (his ingenious ideas solved many problems in our public hospitals), and small scale (like using a rod to pull his car cover when he was not physically strong enough to do so anymore). At 91, he was still living alone, driving and fishing.
Yet in the last few months, he was humble enough to admit that he had many questions about the Bible, Jesus Christ and faith. Ryan got to spend a lot of time with his grandfather since our return to South Africa. He confronted his grandfather with the truth, and pointed him to the hope we have in Christ. I got to watch him faithfully and patiently walking his grandfather through wonderful portions of Scripture. Our joy at seeing Oupa’s response is hard to express. I still tear up when I remember Ryan telling me he’s heading out quickly to go buy a large print Bible because Oupa asked for a Bible. In his last few days, Oupa did not have the strength to speak. He wrote us little notes, often asking ‘Read another prayer’, or ‘Read me a Psalm’. And then he would hold onto my hand so tightly while listening. That will be my lasting memory of Oupa Joe – Ryan sitting next to his bed in the frail care unit, reading from the Bible…
If our plans to go to PNG were delayed only for this, that is enough reason for us to rejoice!
Friends, we are excited about taking to gospel to the ends of the earth. But can I encourage you today to preach the gospel to those close to you? The business man sitting next to you at work, relentlessly pursuing wealth, needs to be saved from his sin just as much as the tribal leader, dancing while performing a ritual. You do not have to go far to be faithful to the command to make disciples.