Back in 1984, when I was a student at Roffey Place Christian Training Centre – then the brand new centre run by Colin Urquhart and Bob Gordon – one of the great joys was getting to know a lovely couple, Graham & Ann Coyle. Post Roffey, we kept in touch, sometimes albeit as ‘distance’ friendship, as they moved to Worcester, where Graham became Head Teacher of a Christian School and part of the leadership of City Church. It’s been my privilege in recent years to go there, most recently in February.
A while back, Ann was diagnosed with cancer. As you can imagine, there was much prayer for her, from the church, and from me… I’ve never met anyone more positive in their situation, except for my lovely friends Martin & Janice Collins, in Worthing, and it was a delight to be in their home for a few days.
Now, I’m so glad I was there: in the last week, Ann, just early 50’s, deteriorated rapidly, and went to be with Jesus around mid-day today. Even after 30 years of praying for the sick, and 43 years of being a Christian – taught that we should never ask God ‘why?’ – it’s very hard not to. Graham and Ann are a fantastic testimony, as are their lovely daughters, Becky and Lizzie: Ann was the ‘heartbeat’ of the church office, an organiser par-excellence, and amazing faith. Graham rang me a few minutes ago to tell me the news: even in the sadness, there was triumph and victory in his voice – not ‘put-on’, really genuine, and in Lizzie, too, who was with him.
Perhaps rather than ‘why?’, the valid askable question could be ‘what for?’ All who knew and loved Ann will miss her smile, her fun, her faith.
And in the middle of the sadness, Graham still – genuinely again – told me to go and raise the dead in Colombia…. the last Bible reading he read to Ann, last night, was from 1 Corinthians 15: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, o death, is YOUR victory? Where, o death, is YOUR sting?’ …. ‘but thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’.
Regular readers of my posts will know of so many positive testimonies: but I felt it would be good to write this, as a tribute to Graham, and Ann especially, and their daughters, and so that you know that it doesn’t ALWAYS work out the way we – I – would want, yet even in death, there is triumph. Martin died 15 months ago, and his loss is still with me, how much more with Janice, Lucy, and Jo.
If you have a moment, please pray tonight for Graham, Becky (and her husband Tom), and Lizzie, would you, please?