Making Sense of This

I can’t. I can’t make any sense of this. My dear friend, Auline Platt, died yesterday. She leaves behind her faithful husband, Mike, who is a good man. And 11 children.

Michelle and I met Mike and Auline in 1994. I remember it like it was yesterday. The church I was serving as youth pastor in Dayton, OH was growing fast. My youth group was growing fast too. 8 kids at my first youth group meeting had turned into 50 in one year – and 150 in five years. I needed help. I got a phone call one evening from a guy named Mike. He told me that he and his wife were in the military and would only be in Dayton for a year. They had decided to attend my church and wanted to know if they could serve as youth leaders. I had just attended a seminar at a National Youth Workers Convention that had scared me straight about the potential risks of volunteer youth workers. In the seminar, I learned a 10-step process for vetting potential volunteers. I told Mike that night that he and Auline would have to go through all 10 steps. They were the only ones I made do this because after I put them through it, I saw how ridiculous it was. To this day, I laugh when I look at all the paperwork I made them fill out. So do they. I kept it all.

The first night Mike and Auline attended a youth group meeting back in 1994, we let our then 3 year old daughter, Emily, ride with them alone to a restaurant afterwards. We didn’t know them from Adam, but they had passed my 10-step vetting process, so I guess I felt like I could trust them – strangers – with my daughter. Auline reminded me of this often…and laughed. That night began what would become a lifelong friendship – a bond – that would stand the test of time and the test of miles. The Platts moved to Albuquerque in 1996. We had only a bit more than a year with them in Dayton, but our friendship had been solidified. They fell in love with our children there and became dear, dear friends.

A few years later, Mike called me and said that he had put my name in for the open youth pastor position at Foothills Fellowship – the church they were attending in Albuquerque. When he told me this, I told him that he was a jerk for doing it. I was happy in Dayton. Why in the world would he do such a thing? But over the next 13 months, God moved my heart and placed a calling on me and Michelle to take the position. So, by faith – and knowing that we would be reunited with our dear friends, the Platts – we left Dayton for Albuquerque in 1999…and had another year with them. Then they left – this time for multiple overseas military assignments. But our friendship grew nonetheless.

All this time, Mike and Auline loved on our children (and many others) while trying to have children of their own. Even back then, they talked of someday having a lot of children – biologically and through adoption. Ironically, for years, they couldn’t have children. And then along came Seth. And then precious Maggie – who passed away after only a few days on this earth. And then sweet Ava. Then, they set their minds and hearts on adoption, and along came 4 adopted children. And then, foster care…and 5 more children. 11 in all.

They returned to Albuquerque a few years ago specifically to be a part of our church plant in the International District of Albuquerque. They could have gone anywhere. They made deep friendships all over the world, but they decided to return here to move into one of the poorest areas of the city so they could minister to and live among poor and hurting people. They moved their entire family into an area of town that many people try to move out of.

In December of 2016, my church commissioned them and a few other families to begin a new church there – a church made up of people who had sacrificed much to move into one of the poorest and most dangerous parts of our city to bring the Kingdom of God there, and Auline was a key piece of this new ministry. Her ability to connect with and love people – regardless of who they are or what they had done – was unparalleled.

And yesterday, Auline died. And I can’t make any sense of this. And I may never…

It’s in times like these that I must enact my faith – regardless of how I feel or of what I understand or don’t understand. The Scriptures make it clear that God’s ways are higher than mine. It also makes it clear that death is not part of the ultimate and perfect plan of God. Death is part of the curse of sin that Jesus came to defeat. And He did. God’s Kingdom broke through on this earth at the coming of Jesus, but sadly, it’s not here yet in all its glory and perfection. Already but not yet – and as long as the not yet is not yet, we will suffer and we will die.

As Auline’s husband, Mike, walked through these last days with his precious wife, his faith astounded and encouraged me. He led his family in prayer a couple of different times, and through his tears, he proclaimed his faith to the Lord by saying things like, “Lord, even though we don’t understand this, what we do know is that you are good.” This is where I choose to be too. Confused, devastated, incredibly sad…yet still clinging to what I know of the Lord – that He is loving and good.

Will everything be ok? I don’t know. Would it have been better if Auline had not died? I sure do think so, but I’m not all-knowing. Are all of her precious children going to make it through this tragedy ok? I don’t know, but I pray so. Is our church plant in its infant stage going to be as effective in reaching their community with her gone? I can’t see how, but I HAVE to trust the Lord and believe that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

I truly believe that for Auline, all things are better now. No more struggling with the curse of sin and the brokenness of this sin-stained world. I also truly believe that Mike will be ok too because He loves God and is one who is called according to His purpose. And our church plant will be ok too, because the birth of this church is an obvious call of the Lord.

I can’t make any sense of this, but I have no choice but to trust in the God who knows all, loves His people, and works in mysterious ways. My heart is broken, but my faith is strong. May yours be too.

15 thoughts on “Making Sense of This”

  1. Every moment of our lives is in God’s care
    Every day begins and ends with His purpose
    There will always be a faithful, never changing God
    In control

    I sobbed a lot over this and I didn’t even know them that well, but they touched my heart. I feel a peace now that I either trust the Lord or don’t even when I don’t understand . Especially when we do not understand

  2. Thank you so much for writing this, I needed to read this Today.
    Mike worked for my Husband in Albuquerque, that is how we meant Mike and Auline. Part of our AF Family. My heart is truly broken today.

  3. Mike, thank you so much for sharing this. I’ve been having a lot of the same thoughts the last few days. I truly believe death is the enemy and can’t wait to see the day that death is no more. In the meantime I will continue to praise God for I know He is good, despite the the things I do not understand. My grief, my heart and my prayers are among you and the many people she touched.

    1. I echo my daughter Rachel’s sentiments here. She introduced me to Auline a few years ago, and I instantly felt this sweet woman was one of the most precious I’d ever meet. When Auline walked into the room, her smile lit up the place, and she commanded attention with her fun, vivacious, positive, cheerful, and always-loving personality. I wish I had had opportunity to know her better … but even when Rachel and I went to visit her in the hospital the day before she went to meet Jesus, as we were leaving the room packed with family and friends, I placed my hand on Auline’s foot at the end of the hospital bed. The cool washcloth that had been placed over her forehead and eyes was removed by someone at that instant and Auline looked straight ahead, and into my eyes. I smiled at her, mouthed the word “goodbye” and waved very small with my other hand … and she waved back at me. I KNOW we will see each other again, and we’ll have all of eternity to become the good friends I wish we’d had time for here. Thanks for sharing this beautiful story of Auline. What a precious soul Heaven has acquired!!

  4. Thank you for your beautiful piece shared here. We met Mike & Auline back in 1993 when MIke and my husband Scott were stationed together. They’ve always kept in touch. We are moving back to Albuquerque for our next assignment, and even 24 years later, Auline’s first comment was, let us know if you need any help moving! She will be missed.

  5. My wife and I have known Mike and Auline since 2000 timeframe in Germany. Awesome people and sincere believers. We will miss Auline, but know she is much better off than us right now. She is basking in our saviors presence. One day we will see her again. For us it is “see ya later,” Never goodbye.

  6. I have tears running down my face, trying to see through the liquid in my eyes to type this. Your words moved me. I don’t understand ant of 4it…but I will try to have faith and believe that it will all work out together for God’s glory.

  7. In tears but I know God will honor her service and Mike’s faith. To know despite anything else that “God Is”. Blessed are those that mourn for the shall be comfortred. May the comfort of our Lord and Savior abide with you all. Saddened by your loss

  8. I know little of Auline Ello-Platt. AEP was about 20 yrs younger than my Wife-Grace Ello-del Castillo. But I know her Father & Mother well. Auline’s Parents were our Wedding God-Parents in Dec 31, 1966. Auline’s Generosity-of-Heart is genetic in the Madrid-Ello families. As Filipina-born, it not surprising that Auline exhibited extraordinary Love-of-Family by caring for her Husband-Mike & their very own 2 biological children – and more, by adapting 9 Haitian children in the hope of a better future in the USA. Unbelievable!!! As a migrant Filipina (as many Filipinas studying in the USA), Auline must have excelled well in St Dominic Academy to be described as “most likely to succeed”. As a young Catholic Filipina girl who matured to be a Christian American woman, Auline lived a hilarious life spreading the Light-of-Christ wherever Mike’s USAF-Assignments brought them. Indeed, AEP was an extraordinary woman whose smiling face has become a lasting imprint in the lives of people who have come to know her. And for AEP to be remembered as an “Extraorfinary Woman”, her Husband-Mike (whom I’ve yet to meet – God knows), cannot be any less extraordinary in the eyes of their children & of God’s people. God bless to all grieving – in the loss of Auline here on Earth & in the rejoicing of the Communion-of-Saints in heaven.

  9. My heart is absolutely broken by the news of Airline’s death. I pray for the comfort and wisdom of God for all who knew and loved her.

  10. Beautiful sharing about beautiful people. I’m friends with Mike we were in high school together. When Auline came along… she was a natural fit into the old hometown gaggle of friends..a perfect match for Michael…. life happened… lead us all to different places but 36+ years later… my heart and soul ache for the inexplicable earthly loss of Auline. I love you Mike and so amazed at the beautiful life and family and way you have impacted so many. Continued prayers, warm thoughts and much love to the Platt Family.

  11. God bless Mike, their children, family and the many friends they have around the world. They are an inspiration to all of us on how to live with love. Kathy Hughes

  12. My husband and I met Auline and Mike in Port au Prince in October 2009. Though I only saw her one more time, a Haiti adoption gathering in KC, I communicated her through the years almost weekly. Through the adoption process I was often impatient, many times angry and rarely a good and faithful servant. Auline taught me, Everything in God’s time, because his timing is perfect. I am praying those words now as I cry. She is forever twined within the story of my family. And her lesson is one I keep on my heart daily. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story and for all the beautiful stories here. Thank you God for Auline.

  13. So thankful we met Auline and Mike in Germany in 2002, and after we met realized we had also worshipped with them (and you)at Faircreek in 1995/6! I have this vague memory of Auline in the nursery but it wasn’t until Germany that we became friends. God clearly wanted us to meet! Praying for comfort for you and Auline’s pastors.

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