Category Archives: Death

Remembering and Celebrating Auline Platt

Sunday, March 26, 2017 was a day of remembering and celebrating the life of Auline Platt in Albuquerque, NM. It started with a church service at Foothills Fellowship where her family gathered for worship. Songs of mourning and hope were sung, the church gathered around the family for a time of prayer, and Pastor Jesse Harden of New Creation ABQ (the church Foothills planted and the church the Platts attended) preached a powerful and comforting sermon from Romans 5.

At 3PM, some 600 people gathered to remember and celebrate Auline. It lasted 2 1/2 hours with one person after another coming forward to share about how Auline had touched their lives. There were lots of tears…but probably more laughs!

Below are links to everything that happened that day. May you be encouraged as you listen and watch, and may your heart be ministered to as you hear of all that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, did for and through Auline. To God be the glory!

MEMORIAL SERVICE VIDEO

MEMORIAL SERVICE AUDIO

SERMON AT FOOTHILLS FELLOWSHIP BY JESSE HARDEN

A very special thank you to the several brothers and sisters from Foothills Fellowship who worked hard behind the scenes to make this day special for the Platt family, the Foothills family, and the many in-town and out-of-town guests.

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.

Are You Really Pro-Life?

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the recent killings of criminals by the police. I’m sure you have too.  You may even have a well-crafted opinion about them like, “The kid in Ferguson was a thug and deserved what he got.  The man in New York City should not have resisted arrest and shouldn’t have been so unhealthy in the first place.”  These are common opinions I’ve heard from many – including some of my Christian brothers and sisters.

Now…I don’t want to get into a debate about whether or not the police were justified in using the kind of force they did.  I don’t want to argue about whether or not those they killed deserved it or not.  I want to speak to my Christian brothers and sisters who claim to be pro-life.

At the most basic of levels, to be pro-life is to oppose abortion and euthanasia.  A person who is pro-life fights to protect the lives of the unborn and the elderly.  It’s a position that claims the “sanctity of human life” as one of its main tenants.  Christians who hold this position quote Bible verses like Psalm 139:13-14 to support their pro-life stance. And rightfully so.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 

However, to REALLY be pro-life means that we value not just life at the beginning and end, but life in-between too.  It means that we value all human lives – including those who have made a mess of theirs.  Being pro-life means that we do not celebrate the taking of one human life by another human.  Being pro-life means we fight for and seek to preserve life from conception forward.

Some may call my position “liberal” – and it is.  As a Christian, I believe that the One we follow calls us to be liberal with our views on and protection of those who live.  Actually, it’s not as much a liberal position as it is a “biblical” position.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:38-44:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth’ but I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Words like these from Jesus, coupled with the fact that God is the creator, giver, and sustainer of all life ought to heavily inform the way in which those of us who follow Him view the issue of life.

While on earth, Jesus claimed to be “the life,” called His followers to love everyone (including their enemies), to live lives of peace, and He even wept over the death of His friends.  And then ultimately, Jesus allowed Himself  to be murdered in order to once-and-for-all defeat death and give life to all mankind.

Therefore, no one who claims to be pro-life should ever celebrate the killing of one man by another – regardless of the scenario.

I do believe that God has established the ruling authorities as the Apostle Paul says in Romans 13.  I’m thankful for our laws that are some of the most just and fair laws in the world, and I’m thankful for our rulers – including the police, who we hire to enforce our laws.  I believe they have one of the most difficult jobs in our society.  When they kill someone in the line of duty – whether we think it’s justified or not – as pro-life Christians, we should mourn.

So, in order to be consistent with what I say I believe, I’m choosing to mourn the deaths of those who have recently been killed by the police.  If you are pro-life, will you join me?

I Escaped…and So Did He

Mike's accident-9 yr old

35 years ago, I was hit by a car.  I was in route on foot to the neighborhood gas station to buy 2 Cokes from the machine outside the station.  My brother and I were watching soccer-great Pele’ play on TV, and during a commercial break, he gave me two quarters and two dimes, and I took off running.

The car was going at least 35 miles an hour when it hit me as I crossed the road.  He was supposed to yield, but he didn’t.  Witnesses tell me that I tried to jump on top of the hood of the car, but I didn’t make it.  The impact of the car hitting my lower back launched me in the air about 10 feet high.  When I hit the ground, I rolled some 50 feet and came to rest in the entrance of the gas station.

I remember seeing the silver stripe on top of the blue car’s hood right before it hit me, and then I remember rolling.  I was nine years old, and I remember wondering as I rolled if I was going to die or not.  I felt no pain.

The next thing I remember is trying to get up and realizing that I had lost both my shoes and my socks.  The shoes I understand, but the socks?! I have no idea how they came off.

People gathered around me and told me to lie down.  My brother heard the screeching of the tires and came running.  I remember his face as he knelt over me.  It’s a look I’ve never forgotten.

My dad ‘s restaurant was about 3 blocks away from our home, and within minutes, he was there kneeling over me.  I found out later that he didn’t have the car that day (my mom was using it to grocery shop), so he ran from the restaurant to the accident scene.  He weighed over 300 pounds at the time.

Mike's accident -9 yr old #2

I was fortunate that day.  My reflex to try to jump on top of the car probably saved me from being run over.  No bones were broken, but – as you can see from the picture – along with my shoes and socks, I did lose a lot of skin.  By the way, I DIDN’T lose the money.  I held onto the change throughout the entire ordeal!

It was only years later when I was in high school that it was revealed that my back had been damaged by the impact, and I struggle with back pain to this day…but I’m thankful nothing worse happened that day.

The following news story made me think of my accident.  The man involved in this accident escaped serious injury like I did, and he says that he remembers rolling down the street – like I do.  Our bodies are incredibly fragile at times and amazingly durable at other times.

I escaped serious injury when I shouldn’t have…and so did he.

Life and Death – All in the Same Day

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I am a proud grandfather once again as Melody Rose was born on Tuesday to my daughter Alexis.  What an incredible blessing she is to our family.

But Tuesday was a weird day.

The day started off early as I accompanied a family to Santa Fe to bury their mother at the Santa Fe National Cemetery.  I performed a short committal service, said good-bye to the family, and hopped in the hearse for the one-hour ride back to Albuquerque.

SFNC

While in the hearse – a vehicle that one can not think about death when riding in – I received a phone call that Alexis was in labor and being admitted to the hospital. The hearse dropped me off at my car, and I quickly made my way to the hospital – wearing the clothes I had just buried someone in.

Within 2 hours of my arrival, Melody Rose was born.  I mentioned the extremes of my day to someone at the hospital, and he said, “Wow. Kind of a sobering day for you, huh?” It was.

All I could think about that day were the words from the Old Testament book of Job: “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

One family was mourning that day, and my family was rejoicing.  The Lord took one away from one family, and the Lord gave one to my family. I’ve experienced both death and new life in my family over the past year, and I can say that I agree with Job. Regardless of whether the Lord gives or takes away, I will still say, “Blessed be His name.”

Richard R. Potter “Dad” Mar. 6, 1944 – Mar. 13, 2013

One year ago today, I received a call that I did not expect to receive. It was from my brother-in-law saying that my dad had suddenly died.

Yes. I knew my dad had stage 4 cancer, but I had just been with him a week earlier, and although he was skinny and weak, it seemed like he had more time left. He was up and around quite a bit. He celebrated his birthday with the family and even went to church. I was planning to return to Ohio to visit him in April. But on Monday, March 12, my mom said that my dad was having a bad day. So I sent him a text – expecting that I would talk to him soon on the phone or on Skype and then see him in person in a few weeks.

I still have the text conversation with my dad from that day on my phone. I wrote: “I hear you are not having a good day. I’m sorry that you are hurting. I am praying for you and will continue to do so. Love you.” He wrote back: “Think I’m messing around with the flu. Thanks for your prayers and love. I appreciate you so much. Love Dad.” That was the last conversation we would have. He was taken to the hospital in the middle of the night and passed away the next day. March 13.

Death sucks. Losing your dad sucks. Living without your dad sucks. I’m not happy that he’s no longer here. He was only 69 years old. Way too young. I miss him and still experience waves of sadness and disbelief that he’s gone. I know my siblings do too.

I believe that my dad is with the Lord, and I often find myself asking the Lord to tell my dad that I love him, that I’m happy for him, and that my family is ok. This is not something I ever envisioned myself doing – asking the Lord to speak to someone who has died – but death has a funny way of tweaking one’s theology.

I dream often about my dad. Most of the time he’s sick and frail in my dreams and the dark cloud of his impending death is present. So today – on the one year anniversary of his death – I’m posting a picture of my dad when he was healthy. He loved New Mexico, and this is a picture of us after taking the train to Santa Fe and preparing for a delicious NM feast! This is how I hope to remember him and dream about him once the nearness of his death has passed.

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