Formed of Steel, But Coated In Clay

[Click on Above Title Link for Clearer View]   A Tribute To Dr Raoul Dederen (1925-2016)  By Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, PhD [NOTE: Dr. Raoul Dederen (1925-2016) was my “doctorvater,” theological and spiritual mentor,  pastor, father, and role-model in research and teaching. I learned from him ...

The Anatomy of Excellence

[Click on Above Link for Clearer View] By Guest Writer, Dr. Josephine Elia, “Engineer. Bookworm. Learner. Writer.” (A NOTE TO THE READER: This is one of the rare times I feel convicted to publish another’s work on this page. It’s a testament to my estimation of the article, which was ori...

Uncomfortable Grace: A Report on A Festival of Praise and Worship

[CLICK ON LINK for easier viewing] It was one of the most spiritually-uplifting events I've attended in recent times. And the devotional message I delivered captured the mood of the occasion and spoke to many hearts. The occasion was the 70th birthday of Dr. Joyce R. Aryee—a respected Chr...

Formed of Steel, But Coated In Clay

A Tribute To Dr Raoul Dederen (1925-2016) 

By Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, PhD

[NOTE: Dr. Raoul Dederen (1925-2016) was my “doctorvater,” theological and spiritual mentor,  pastor, father, and role-model in research and teaching. I learned from him humility in service, simplicity in lifestyle, and graciousness to those who hurt us. Through him I not only discovered the joy of teaching, but also the fact that teaching is, perhaps, the highest office in the ministry. Below is my tribute at his funeral on Friday, October 28, 2016, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. 

Below is my tribute at his funeral on Friday, October 28, 2016, in Ann Arbor, Michigan,[1] The tribute does not reflect his stature as one of our Church’s most distinguished theological giants. (At the appropriate time, I will do so). Rather, in presenting him as a man who was “formed of steel, but coated in clay, the tribute captures some of my personal interactions with him during the last five years of his life—a particularly difficult time when we engaged the problem of pain, whether deserved or undeserved.[2]–SKP]

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Dr. Raoul Dederen walked with the Lord. As a faithful servant, he demonstrated an abiding love for Christ, a deep respect for Scriptures, and a passionate desire to please his Savior and Lord. His unyielding faith in the unshakeable promises of God kept him throughout his most difficult days of suffering and pain—most especially, during the last five or so years of his life, when the health situation of his dear wife began to take its toll on him. One of his favorite Bible promises was: 

“I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” (2 Timothy 1:12).

OUR LAST FACE-TO-FACE MEETING

The last time Dr. Dederen[3] and I spoke face-to-face was on Sabbath, June 18, 2016, about four months to his bereavement. It was at the Ann Arbor Church, on the last Sabbath of the Michigan Conference campmeeting. Becky and I had just returned from a 3-month long mission trip in Africa. We were too tired to drive 3 hours to church at Columbus, Ohio, nor even the 2.5 miles to Cedar Lake, Michigan, where the Michigan Conference camp meeting was taking place. Se we decided to worship at our local Ann Arbor Church.

The worship service at the camp meeting site was livestreamed to the Ann Arbor Church for those of us who couldn’t be at Cedar Lake. The sermon was by Doug Bachelor on the subject of being born again. It was a heart-warming, Bible-based message based on John 3. 

Dr. Dederen was sitting two rows in front of us, and I could tell that the message meant a lot to him. 

Becky and I caught up with him after church. He looked very frail. I feared it might be the last time we would meet.  As I always did after my mission trips, I gave him the thought-nuggets I had written since the last time we met. 

(NOTE: Dr. Dederen did not use emails, so we communicated in writing through letters. The thought-nuggets I share with him and others are my one-paragraph spiritual reflections for that week. Since Dr. Dederen didn’t use emails, I couldn’t get him the nuggets on a weekly basis. Thus, whenever I was overseas, I would compile the nuggets, and upon my return, I would give them to him, alongside a summary of my missionary activities. This is what I did during our last face-to-face meeting four months ago, on January 18, 2016. [4])

I asked when I could stop by for a visit (I always met to update him on my mission trips and also my spiritual life, etc.) Though I wanted to share my mission report, I really wanted to meet him the next day—Sunday, June 19—because it was Father’s Day. But, given his health, I left it up to him to decide if it was possible the next day or later in the week. 

He explained that he wasn’t very sure because of his worsening health condition—and that he was now living with the family of his grand-daughter Sheila. He shared a little bit about his health, how he could no longer drive, and had to walk with a cane. He also explained that his ailing health was the result of the 2 years intensive-care for his deceased wife (then quickly added, “But I don’t regret any bit of it; and if this is the price to pay, I’ll not exchange it for anything”).

 He wasn’t sure he could meet me face-to-face any time soon. He was under strict orders to slow down and cut out all visits etc. I understood and told him there was no rush. He could always let me know when it was best. He said, even if I couldn’t visit on Father’s day, we could always talk on the phone. 

He complimented Becky and I on our Ghanaian outfit. He really liked them, and joked a little bit with Becky (about how the Western world doesn’t have something like this: couples dressing alike). With Dr. Edna Rose standing nearby, we decided to take a picture with him. Somehow I was afraid that the things which we had often spoken about in the privacy of our conversations (discussions about the possibility of his imminent demise) might become a reality much sooner than I had thought. I was particularly afraid because Death seemed to be casting its dark shadows around me. Just a week earlier, I had witnessed the funerals of two of my role-models.[5] 

That Saturday night, Edna emailed me the photos she had taken of Becky and I and Dr. Dederen. Acknowledging receipt, I wrote to her:  

Thank you so much, my sister, for taking those lovely pictures of Dr. Dederen and us. It could very well be one of the last pictures we may take with him in good health. We’re praying for the Lord to spare his life for a little longer. He has so much to still offer our church.

I planned to call him the next day, Fathers Day. The thought nuggets I had compiled for him had three pieces—all dealing with my reflections on death and human pain. Titled, “Being A Champion,” “The Rough Mountains,” and “From Mourning To Morning,” the nuggets were inspired by the funerals of two of my role-models the previous.[6]  These three nuggets were to be an encouragement to Dr. Dederen, walking in the shadow of Death. Moreover, if we were unable to talk on Sunday, I wanted him to read the nuggets as my Father’s Day message to him. 

Dr. Dederen and I parted company in good spirits that Sabbath afternoon. But somehow I was still weighed down by his failing health. That Saturday night I felt compelled to express my burden in a special thought nugget for Father’s Day. Titled “Where Are the Men?,” the Father’s Day nugget bemoans the loss of godly fathers—in both society or the church—and its baneful consequences:

Where Are the Men?

Father’s Day honors not only biological fathers, but all men who act as father-figures in our lives—stepdads, uncles, grandpas, husbands, teachers and other responsible adult males. The day isn’t for hollow hilarity, but for sober reflection and honest introspection. It’s an occasion to celebrate the real men, the ones formed of steel, though coated in clay. It’s also a day to spotlight the reality of RECKLESS men—immature, lazy, inept, selfish, arrogant, and unspiritual men—who have thereby created RESTLESS women and ZESTLESS children. A time to echo God’s haunting question from Eden: “Adam, where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). And to swell the jarring refrain from today's women: “Where are the men?”

I searched for such Godly mentors and role-models as father figures in my life. And in Dr. Dederen, I found one that was for keeps, one of a few who was “formed of steel, though coated in clay.”  He’s the one who now lies asleep in death. One with whom I had a special bond—and who taught me so many things—especially what it means to be a man, in the face of adversity and pain. Allow me to share some valuable lessons I learned from this dear man.

OUR CODED MESSAGE 

Last week Wednesday (October 19), when I heard that he was very sick, and that his kidneys were shutting down, I called his granddaughter Sheila, and followed it up with the following text message to be read to him:

"Dear Dr. Dederen, I'm very sorry that you're not doing well. Becky and I are praying for you and will continue to do so. We are presently in Ghana, where I'm conducting a Bible lecture series (evangelistic meetings) to both university students and the higher ranks of society. Your unshakeable faith in the Lord is a source of comfort to us. We know you're safe in God's hands. But let me know how I can be of help. Regardless of what happens, we know that with Christ, it will be well, even in the well. You are dearly loved. We're praying. --Your son, Samuel. "

“Your son, Samuel.” That’s how he treated me. He was a father to me—a role he lovingly filled for more than three (3) decades, and which role varied in expression as different circumstances demanded. Through it all, whether he was counseling, mentoring, chiding, having light father-son moments, or required to bear down hard with the rod of discipline, he gave me no cause to doubt his love and affection or to wish he could be any different than the unique man that he was. 

Sheila subsequently assured me that she read my text message to him, and that Dr. Dederen was very pleased and encouraged by it. His response warmed my heart, for it indicated to me that he understood very well that part which said “Regardless of what happens, we know that with Christ, it will be well, even in the well.”

That expression “It will be well, even in the well,” was a coded message to Dr. Dederen—a coded message that holds the key to how we should deal with suffering and pain—whether deserved or underserved. In the remainder of my tribute I will share some of these with you.

DEALING WITH SUFFERING & PAIN

Deserved & Underserved

For these last five (5) years, Dr. Dederen carried a huge cross—having to live with his beloved wife and watching her health deteriorate with Alzheimer's. And though his cross was totally underserved, he patiently bore it. On the other hand, during that same period of time, I struggled with another kind of pain: The pain of a self-inflicted wound, resulting from personal spiritual failure. Like Jacob, I brought on my suffering. But like Job, Dr. Dederen didn’t deserve his.  

And so, on several occasions, the subject of how to deal with suffering and pain, whether deserved or undeserved, was one that we talked about. Heart to heart, in the privacy and confidence of father and son moments, we often pored through the experiences of our daily struggles in the throes of pain that we could not easily cast off. We reflected on things we were discovering from Scriptures, that had relevance to our respective situations.

Surrounded by the frailty of life, we were not afraid to delve unrestrained into the topic of death, which we tempered with the promise of resurrection. Gripped with the pain of regret, we freely roamed the theme of failure, which was made bearable by the assurance of God’s forgiving, transforming, and restorative grace. 

Dr. Dederen shared deeply from his rich experiences, permitting no wallowing, and urging strength and the courage to press on through our different struggles. And from those fertile reflections, I grew in my knowledge on a number of things—some of which are captured in some of my weekly thought nuggets and in my published works during the past five years. Above all, some of Dr. Dederen’s rich experiences have enhanced the content of my work through our EAGLESonline Centers for Leadership Development (www.EAGLESonline.org)[7].

He often assured me that, perhaps, the Lord allowed me to fail to keep me humble, save me, and give me a tender voice to speak to the forbidden subject of failure. He said when the time comes, God would make the reason clear. So, for every trip overseas, I rushed to print out my report to deliver to his expectant hands on my return. He read and counseled, his mind still as sharp as in his younger days as theology professor in the classroom, Dean of the Seminary, publisher of several articles, and consultant on many councils and projects. 

Over and over, he emphasized key points that he said he wanted me to remember as the message from a dear father to his beloved son. Those themes proved a lifeline for me at very difficult periods of my life. They also provided the raw materials that gave birth to many thought nuggets that I shared with thousands by email and social media, and with him in printed form. Here are ten of the lessons:

1. Lessons On THE VALUE OF PAIN. Recalling some of the conversations we had, after watching him struggle with his pain…, I wrote

Gain From Pain

Pain is an asset to be invested. Difficulties, trials, and tribulations are often the best resources for future gain. The ancients used an instrument called a “tribulum” (from which we get the word "tribulation") to beat out the ripened grain and separate the wheat from the chaff. No farmer wastes his time and energy to run his “tribulum” over straw, chaff, or weeds, but rather to gain precious grain.  Similarly, our Savior doesn't needlessly put us under the pressure of suffering and pain. No! “We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3, 4). Don’t waste your pain, for it is a capital asset that has long-term value.

2. Lessons On REPUTATION & CHARACTER. At very difficult moments, he would often ask what I cared most about—my reputation or my character. From such conversations, I wrote this nugget:

A Good Name

Character outlasts reputation. Reputation is the celebrity we admire in the mirror. Character is the person who follows us everywhere. Reputation is our public image—what we want others to think. Character is our secret actions, words, thoughts, and motives—what we really are. Mathematically speaking, reputation is character minus the flaws we try to hide. We often mar our character by protecting our reputation, but God builds our character by smashing our reputation. Let’s allow God to transform our character, for when character is developed, reputation takes care of itself. Do you want a good name? Don’t fall for reputation; stand for character (Proverbs 22:1; Ecclessiastes 7:1).

3. Lessons On the NEED FOR SELF-EXAMINATION. He always challenged me to examine myself—to find out what lies hidden there. For, as I heard him say, “Our response to crises only reveals who you really are.” From this I wrote this nugget: 

Who You Really Are

You are what you think most about, what you do when no one is watching, what you say behind closed doors, what you do with your time, and above all, how you react when suddenly assaulted, insulted, or exalted. You reveal your true self in how you deal with injustice, discrimination, betrayal, and hurt. You are how you express your feelings when assailed by malicious gossip, slander, or cruel words. Who you are is evidenced by how you carry yourself during sudden demotion or promotion, in how you handle failure or success, and in how you treat the weak, most vulnerable, and undeserving. Ultimately, who you really are is what lies hidden in your heart. “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23; Mark 7:20-23).

4. Lessons on WHEN TEMPTED TO GIVEN UP. When discouraged on account of failings and character flaws and imperfections, he would remind me that the God who began a good work in me would bring it to completion. This led to the nugget:

Under Construction

God isn’t finished with you yet. You’re still under construction. So, don’t be discouraged when you see only broken pieces, rough spots, and detours in your life. The Divine Engineer is up to any challenge, and He’s more than willing to fix what is broken—if you allow Him. Here’s the assurance: “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). It’s God who took the initiative to start His work in you; He won't stop “… until the day of Jesus Christ.”  Yes, the unfinished will be finished! The broken will be fixed, the rough spots will be leveled, and the crooked places shall all be straightened. Right now, you’re still under construction. Let God finish His work in you.

5. Lessons On SACRIFICIAL GIVING. We must give from our pain—not only from our abundance. Pain is an asset to be invested. We reap rich dividends when we give from our pain:

Wounded Healers

“Sometimes the strongest among us are the ones who smile through silent pain, cry behind closed doors and fight battles nobody knows about” (Unknown). They’re wounded healers. All too often, the ones praying for others need prayers; those feeding others need to be fed; and those extending compassion need compassion. Throughout His life, Jesus Himself was a wounded Healer. Even on the cross, He still suspended His own pain in order to offer compassion and hope to the dying thief. Are you a wounded healer? Are you walking in concealed grief? Spending on others and being spent? My prayer for you is that, in reaching out and being there for others, may the Wounded Healer heal your own wounds in your times of pain, loneliness, and loss (Isaiah 58:10, 11; cf. Ecclesiastes 11:1).

6. Lessons On UNFORGIVENESS. Sometimes our friends wound us more deeply than our adversaries. At a time when I was struggling to forgive some friends, Dr. Dederen pointed me to Christ who forgave even his enemies who were spitting in his face. If we are to love even our enemies, how much more are we to forgive our friends. Unforgiveness only hurts us more. And that birthed the nugget—

Sitting On A Bumble Bee

Unforgiveness hurts us more than those we wish to hurt. A little boy was writhing in agony while sitting on a park bench. A man walking by asked what was wrong. The boy answered, "I'm sitting on a bumble bee." "Then why don't you get up?" the man asked. The boy replied, "Because I figure that I’m hurting him more than he’s hurting me!" True healing begins the moment we choose to not inflict pain on those who hurt us. I may have been a victim to past ill-treatments, but if I remain a victim, I’m now a willing-volunteer. I may have experienced injustice and hurt, but God is able to transform all things for my good. This is why I choose not to sit on bumble bees (Romans 12:19-21).

7. Lessons On HOW GOD ARRESTS OUR ATTENTION. In some of our conversations, and phone calls he made to check on me, he would gently remind me about the extreme measures God takes to save us—and our need to yield to Him. From his reminders came this:

By Necessary Means

God knows how to arrest our attention in order to save us. Sometimes He employs confrontation (Nathan vrs. David) or shame and humiliation (e.g, on Samson, Prodigal Son, Peter). He allows afflictions (Miriam and Hezekiah), judgments (on Manasseh and Nebuchanezzar), betrayal by close friends and confidants (e.g., Ahithophel), and the curses and hurts by critics/enemies (e.g., Shimei). He may even use the voice of Balaam’s donkey or knock us off our high horses (Paul on Damascus Road). He also whispers in still small voices (as to Elijah). By such necessary means and many more, the Holy Spirit quickens our consciences, convicts us of sins, and leads us to repentance (John 14-16). Unless we’ve totally grieved away the Spirit, none can escape the reach of God’s saving grace.

8. Lessons On THE POWER OF CHRIST'S RESURRECTION. On Sabbaths during Easter weekends, when he preached some sermons, they sparked some thought nuggets. Here are two of them:

Ugly Scars

Deep wounds, whether self-inflicted or inflicted by others, often leave behind some ugly scars. These scars can cause embarrassment, shame, and pain. But they can also remind of worse situations that could have happened, but didn’t, at the time of wounding. Scars from our self-inflicted wounds caution against repeating the same mistakes. And they can help us appreciate the ugly scars of our risen Savior. By displaying His scarred hands, feet, and side, Christ identifies with all our disappointments, failures, fears, doubts, insecurities, and pains (John 20:19-29; cf. Zechariah 13:6; KJV). Those of us who carry ugly scars—on our bodies or on our souls—should look at the scars of Christ. For in the scars of Christ, we find hope and courage to move on, embracing our own ugly scars of pain, shame, and regret as scars of hope.

We Shall Also Live

When He cried, “It is finished,” some thought He was finished. “One of His friends betrayed Him. Others deserted Him. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies, and He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While dying, His executioners gambled for His clothing, the only property he had on earth. When dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. But three days later He rose from the dead” (James A. Francis). “He is risen…indeed,” announced the angel (Matthew 28:6, 7)! He Himself later declared: “I am He that died and am alive for evermore.” His enemies thought they could tarnish, banish, vanish or finish Him. But He rose! And He lives. And “because He lives, we shall also live” (cf. John 14:19).

9. Lessons on GOD’S RESTORATIVE GRACE.  He reminded me that failure is never final, and that wounded eagles can heal and soar again. I subsequently wrote two thought-nuggets to capture these assurances: 

Bounce Back

Failure isn’t final! You can bounce back and thrive again—IF you respond in humility and repentance. After Nebuchadnezzar’s failure and humiliation, God’s grace reversed his misfortunes: “I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding RETURNED to me… My reason RETURNED to me, … my honor and splendor RETURNED to me. My counselors and nobles RESORTED to me, I was RESTORED to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was ADDED to me” (Daniel 4:34, 36). Don’t be discouraged by the pain, loss, shame, gossip, slander, gloating, and other malicious acts that attend failure. “Lift up your eyes to heaven” and bounce back. That’s restoration (cf. Jeremiah 15:19)! After failure empties your cup, God’s grace can fill it to its brim again! 

An Eagle Is An Eagle

"A weed is a plant whose virtues have not been discovered" (Ralph Waldo Emerson). Those who're quick to dismiss you on account of your past or present circumstances will later discover your worth. Oprah Winfrey was fired from her TV reporter's job and advised: “You're not fit for TV.” Steve Jobs was forced out of the Apple company he founded, but returned 15 years later to rescue it from near bankruptcy. Today’s defeats are the feats of tomorrow. Rejected now? You’re still God’s eagle. A wounded eagle is still an EAGLE, and not a chicken or a turkey! Through God’s grace and mercy wounded eagles can heal to soar again (Isaiah 40:31; Proverbs 24:16; Micah 7:8-10, 18-20). An eagle is an eagle. You! 

10. Lessons on DISAPPOINTMENT & CHALLENGES. From his personal experiences and challenges, Dr. Dederen taught me how to deal with disappoints and how to face with courage the vicissitudes of life. Hence I wrote: 

Appointments With Disappointment

Disappointments are inescapable appointments in life. Why do we have to face them? Often, dashed hopes, shattered dreams, and unmet expectations summon us to change directions so we can get on the right track. Setbacks are also useful for the trial and exercise of our courage and faith in God. Though painful, a blessed disappointment is when God allows our plans to fail, so His plans for us might succeed. Our disappointments are His appointments to transform our bitterest moments into occasions of great significance. Be sure to honor all your appointments with disappointment, for we sometimes have to be disappointed in order to be appointed for our unique purpose. (Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:28, 35-39; Hebrews 10:35).

The Rough Mountains

There are no smooth mountains. If our mountains were smooth, they would be difficult to climb. So, when God gives us mountains to climb, He leaves them rough. The bumps and rocks along the way—the obstacles and hurdles in our path—are actually stepping stones in our mountain climb. Thank God for your rough mountains—your trials and afflictions, your temptations and setbacks, your disappointments and sorrows. Without these jagged sides of life, there'll be no maturity and growth, nor mountaintop experiences. Faith climbs rough mountains. Therefore, welcome your struggles and challenges. By faith, Caleb said: “Give me the mountain” (Joshua 14:12). May we dare to say: “Give me my ROUGH mountain.” 

DECODING OUR CODED MESSAGE

It Is Well, Even in the Well

Do you remember the “coded message” I had sent to Dr. Dederen when I heard that he was very ill, and that his kidneys were shutting down? 

"Dear Dr. Dederen, I'm very sorry that you're not doing well. Becky and I are praying for you and will continue to do so. We are presently in Ghana, where I'm conducting a Bible lecture series (evangelistic meetings) to both university students and the higher ranks of society. Your unshakeable faith in the Lord is a source of comfort to us. We know you're safe in God's hands. But let me know how I can be of help. Regardless of what happens, we know that with Christ, it will be well, even in the well. You are dearly loved. We're praying. --Your son, Samuel. "

Let me now decode the code in the coded message, Regardless of what happens, we know that with Christ, it will be well, even in the well.”

1. “Regardless of what happens” was a reference to the worst that could result from our respective ordeals of pain. Dr. Dederen’s underserved pain—the consequence of his having to live with his beloved wife and watching her health deteriorate with Alzheimer's; and my deserved pain of a self-inflicted wound—the result from personal spiritual failure. Regardless of the cause and consequence of our pains, “it will be well, even in the well.”

2. The coded phrase, “we know that with Christ” was a reference to the basis for our unshakeable confidence. “We know” because of our belief in Scripture’s trustworthiness and authority. And “we know” because of our belief in the all-sufficiency and power of our risen Savior Jesus Christ the Lord. 

 3. The phrase “It will be well, even in the well” was our code of saying that, no matter what the enemy would do to us, God will ultimately win. In the great controversy between Christ and Satan—a controversy that was playing out in our Christian walk—in trials and temptations and trials, in the ups and downs of rough mountains and deepest valleys, if we surrender our wills to Christ, He will work all things for our good and to His glory. 

Thus, the expression “It will be well, even in the well,” was a coded message—that holds the key to how we should deal with suffering and pain—whether deserved (like Jacob, David, Peter) or underserved (like Job, Joseph, or Jeremiah). In fact, in two of the works I produced during the past five years when we both were in the crucibles of pain, I have fully expounded the meaning of this coded message. The books are: GOOD NIGHT and SIX MORE CHANCES.[8] 

Of these two works, Dr. Dederen’s favorite was GOOD NIGHT (a book whose pages, Sheila confirms, he heavily underlined); it’s a work dealing with “suffering, sickness, death, and hope). On the other hand, my favorite is SIX MORE CHANCES, a work dealing with how to turn failure into success. The following two nuggets summarize why “it will be well, even in the well.” 

Good Night Or Good Morning?

Can there be a good morning after a bad night? Joy after sorrow? Jubilant songs to replace our mournings? From the morning we’re hatched from the womb, till the night we’re dispatched to the tomb, our lives are matched with pain and grief. But we ought not despair when our days are dark or when we bid farewell to our loved ones!  Good night shouldn’t be goodbye, for there’ll be a good morning. A song reminds us of a glorious day coming,  “When no heart aches shall come …No more clouds in the sky…No more tears to dim the eye” (John 5:25, 28-29; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 21:4). It will be well, even in the well. For with Christ, the laments of our dreaded “Good Night” can be replaced by the songs of “Good Morning!” Morning, not mourning!

From The Deepest Valley

From the mountaintop, some of have seen the Promised Land. But from the deepest valley, others have caught a vision of God Himself. Jacob of old, fearing, fleeing, and weighed down by his sin, had a dream of a mysterious Ladder. Seemingly cut off from man and God, the lonely wanderer saw a stair of angels and heard the voice of God atop the ladder (Genesis 28; John 3). From the depths of your deepest valley, you also can have the company of angels, catch a heavenly vision, and hear words of comfort and hope. Yes, even from the depths of your hell you can hear echoes of mercy that can transport you to your promised mountaintop. It is well, even in the well.

To all who are experiencing pain—whether deserved or undeserved—I offer our coded message: “It will be well, even in the well.”

Within the last few years, our frequent discourses on suffering, pain, dying, and death prepared Dr. Dederen for his demise, and me for the pain that would occasion. He was clear on what he wished for his manner of passing—a peaceful departure. He reiterated the manner of his interment—to have his body laid next to that of his wife after a simple service. 

We talked about the possibility of that happening while I was out of the country. We discussed the longing for it to be when I was around. Unsure of what the future held, he reminded me of the need to say all that needs to be said to loved ones when we have the strength and the power to. 

Saddened by the news that he might be nearing his end, I had been reliving many of our deep experiences since I heard about his decline in health. Now that he's been parted from us, I am comforted by the fact that we said all that was possible to say to each other over the last few years.

Dr. Dederen was a man who served his God faithfully and loved his church passionately. His path was difficult but he bore it with patience. His load was heavy, but he did not flinch from it. He taught how to study the Bible, and how to live it. He modeled Christ's love in its rich fullness of justice and mercy, to His biological and spiritual family. 

We have lost a great man and many of us will miss him. I would, dearly, for he had too great an influence on my life for me to not feel the pain of his passing. And he made too deep an impression for me to forget him. But the Dr. Dederen I knew would understand the pain yet not permit any lingering of grief from his passing. 

A day is coming when we shall see him again. Until then, he has left us much to encourage us to live as godly men. And Christ has given us much to hope for in the resurrection. May we all be found faithful to the very end so that we can reunite with the dear one we have lost. 

—Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, PhD

Director EAGLESonline

October 28, 2016.

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ENDNOTES

 

 [1] Dr. Dederen’s funeral service took place on Friday, October 28, 2016, at 1:00 pm (EST) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Shortly after the service, he was buried at the Bethlehem Cemetery by the side of his dear wife. Pastor Steven Conway officiated at both services. The three individuals listed on the funeral program for special tributes were: Dr. Samuel Koranteng-Pipim (myself), Dr. Dennis Fortin (Colleague and former Dean of the Theological Seminary at Andrews University), and Mrs. Francine Bergmann (Granddaughter). 

[2] Because my wife Becky and I were at that time on a mission trip in Ghana and thus, unable to be physically present at the funeral, we requested Sikhu Daco, our adopted daughter to read the tribute on my behalf.

[3] Coming from Africa, where we’re taught to respect our elders, seniors, or those in authority, I could never get to address him by his first name “Raoul” or by his last name “Dederen”—unless I qualified the names with an appropriate title. Titles signify either veneration, an official position or a professional or academic qualification. Some came by default—Mr. Mrs., Madam. Others—like Uncle, Auntie, Brother, Sister— were used for ANY adults whom they know (related or not). Even when the appellations stood alone by themselves, they had a very rich meaning—Uncle, Auntie, “My Father,” Doctor, Pastor, Elder. Thus, the great Christian statesman who lies before us today can only be addressed by a fitting title. Even here, although I could have chosen one of several appellations to address him, to me he was always “Dr. Dederen”—although he graciously took me as his son.

[4]  I share the weekly nuggets with friends, on social media, and on our websites.  The goal is to inspire, encourage, and challenge. They are available for free download at our EAGLESonline website: http://eaglesonline.org/weekly-nuggets/nuggets-archives/. The nuggets began as my attempt to capture some of the things I was going through in the aftermath of my spiritual failure in 2011. Originally titled "Songs in the Dark," each of the one-paragraph long nuggets described the things the Lord was teaching me as “I sat quietly in the dark, to listen and learn the song the Lord would have him sing." (For a background, see http://drpipim.org/resignation/151-listeninginthedark.html)

[5] The two were Elder CD Brooks and Muhammad Ali. I have many role-models—some believers and others not. Elder C.D. Brooks, the renown evangelist was one of my spiritual role-models whose funeral had taken place the previous week. More than a mere role-model, Elder CD Brooks, like Dr. Dederen, was a spiritual father to me, and so I kept him informed via writing about my experiences and mission reports, and he, like Dr. Dederen, had been ministering regularly to me through his personal letters (cherished handwritten letters). My other role-model whose funeral had been conducted the previous week as Elder CD Brooks’ was Muhammad Ali, a Muslim. I had met him in person only twice—both occasions on the campus of Andrews University, where I studied. He had his home in Berrien Springs, the town where Andrews University was located, and on two separate occasions, he had invited my wife, Becky, to his home. Though not a Christian and though a boxer (a sports I don’t watch), I count him as a role-model because he inspired me by the courage of his convictions, his perseverance in the face of adversity, and his graciousness and humility. That week give birth to three nuggets—all dealing with my reflections on death and human pain. They were titled, “BEING A CHAMPION,” “THE ROUGH MOUNTAINS,” and “From MOURNING To MORNING.” Search for them by their titles at our EAGLESonline.org website or at: www.EAGLESonline.org/weekly-nuggets/.

[6] See, note 5.

[7] EAGLESonline is the umbrella organization for two Centers for Leadership Development known as EAGLES (Empowerment & Advisory Group for Leadership, Excellence, & Service) and ANANSE (African Network & Advisory for Needed Services and Excellence). For more, see www.EAGLESonline.org.

[8] Good Night: Suffering, Sickness, Death, & Hope (Ann Arbor, Michigan: EAGLESonline, 2014); Six More Chances: Success in the Midst  of Failure (Ann Arbor, Michigan: EAGLESonline, 2012). These works are available in softcover, hardcover, and ebook at: http://store.eaglesonline.org/. the umbrella organization  

 

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