Robin Weidner, February 2008
"It is the Lord who makes the storm clouds. He gives showers of rain to men, and plants of the field to everyone.”
My husband Dave and I just returned from almost two weeks in Hawaii. Our trip started with “Pure in Heart” messages in Oahu. We were moved by the warm fellowship and responsive hearts. On Saturday, with Dave’s parents accompanying us, we flew over to a torrential rainstorm in Hilo. There, we met up with Randy and Patsy Harris (elders in the Chicago church) and our close friends Sam and Judy Hastings from DeKalb.
On Sunday morning, our group of eight worshipped under a carport with the Hilo brothers and sisters as the rain poured around us. The fellowship was hot, the singing was jubilant, and the tears flowed as Stan Olivera poured out his heart of love for us, circling our necks with leis he and his wife Lisha made themselves.
Monday morning, as I stood on the deck of the house we had rented, watching the steel grey ocean soaked by yet more rain, I was feeling responsible for bringing our dear friends to Hilo’s rainy season. Taking a few moments, I surrendered the happiness of each person on our trip to God.
By Tuesday morning, newspaper headlines shouted “Big Island Soaked!” as one spot received 48 inches in 3 days. That afternoon, after a day of making adventures in the rain, the deluge took another turn. Sam received a phone call that Judy’s brother had unexpectedly died of a massive heart attack. As Judy mourned, our little group wrapped our arms around her. Judy was heartbroken, but grateful that God had surrounded her with his comfort through us.
Thursday, we packed the day with beauty as God gave us a window of relief from the rain before Sam and Judy had to leave on Friday. We came home Thursday evening to a feast prepared by the Olivera’s and watched as Stan danced the hula for us.
Sunday, since Dave and I were flying home through Honolulu, Chris and Todd Ashida showered us with island hospitality, using their anniversary to take us to some of the most beautiful beaches on the island.
Another Storm Approaches
Little did we know we would return to DeKalb on Monday to a storm of massive proportions looming on the horizon. During our Wednesday night house church, one of our campus students, Gayle Dubowski, bounced up, and threw her arms around me, saying (almost singing), “I missed you! I missed you! I love you! I love you! I want to spend time with you!” We set up time together for Friday (she had recently asked me to be her campus mom).
Just 24 hours after Gayle’s sweet welcome home, my husband and I were standing in the coroner’s office with her parents Joe and Laurel (our friends of nearly 30 years) as they identified Gayle’s body. She was one of the victims of the firestorm unleashed Thursday at Northern Illinois University. Gayle probably never knew what hit her, as a shot caught her in the side of the head.
Since Gayle was tragically taken from us, it has rained rivers of tears here in DeKalb, in Chicago and across the world. Yet Gayle’s very life reminds us that rain is not only cause for weeping, it can also be cause for rejoicing.
Sunday, I watched as a news crew filmed members of our campus group sharing about Gayle. One of the memories was of how Gayle loved the rain. How one day, she went out and did cartwheels in the rain. Another sister shared how Gayle tromped miles on foot through the rain to come help her clean house, and showed up soaked (and smiling!) on her doorstep. (You can watch the broadcast at http://mystateline.com/media_player.php?media_id=12395#.)
Given the opportunity, I have no doubt that Gayle would share her faith in the rain, as she was often seen on campus walking away after inviting someone to a campus Bible study—with a huge smile or grimace depending on how the encounter went!
Cartwheels in the Rain
“Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and your election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:10-11
The reporter asked some of our students how they thought Gayle felt in the moments before she died. I’m convinced that God prepared Gayle with a special measure of grace for that time. One of her roommates said that she remembered thinking that morning as they said goodbye that her eyes were the bluest she had seen them. Later her Bible was found open to Psalm 141.
Regardless, we can be sure that the rich welcome that Gayle received into eternal joy totally outshone her exit from this world. Now the only rain Gayle will experience is God showering her with his love. It gives me great comfort to know that she’s laughing, singing and living with wild abandon in the presence of Jesus.
On Wednesday evening, well over a thousand people gathered in the gymnasium of Gayle’s High School alma mater to celebrate her life. Through two original songs, dance, choir and strings performances and sharing from numerous family members, friends and teachers, a beautiful life was celebrated. After the two and a half hour service, we all left convinced that our lives would never be the same. (Go to Gayle Dubowski’s Memorial site on Facebook to read more.)
Gayle, thank you for teaching us in life (and in death) how to do cartwheels in the rain. For us who walked beside you in the DeKalb church, you showed us how to live out our theme scripture: “… a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.” Isaiah 4:6
Mahalo (thank you) as well to the brothers and sisters in Honolulu and Hilo for giving us a rich welcome that far outshadowed the rain.
Most of all, thank you God for showering us with your comfort in this life, even when it appears that the rain we face is beyond our ability to endure. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
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