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Conduct My Funeral PDF  | Print |  E-mail

 

A Tribute to Iyeling Miller

By Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, PhD

 

[NOTE:Iyeling Miller was an Australian, a Christian businesswoman, humanitarian, and an active contributor to many missionary projects around the world. She died suddenly of heart attack on March 9, 2013, and her funeral service took place in Sydney, Australia, on March 18 at 11:00 AM.[1]The following is the tribute I paid publicly to her, in my capacity as one who had been closely acquainted with her in her spiritual walk and in her life of service to humanity and to the cause of GodIyeling was also a Board member of EAGLESonline organization (www.EAGLESonline.org). The title of the tribute, is the subject line of a text message Iyeling had sent me three years before her deathIf you want to LISTEN to the audio highlights of the funeral service, you can click on this link: http://eaglesonline.org/resource/conduct-my-funeral/ or  https://soundcloud.com/samuel-pipim/conduct-my-funeral-a-tribute.]

 

 

I. INTRODUCTION 

 

My name is Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, originally from Ghana, West Africa, but currently based in the USA. Iyeling was my Big Sister, a close personal friend and a spiritual confidant. Although we come from different parts of the world, we shared some things in common:

 

--We both had a Pentecostal background, then became members of the Seventh-day Adventist church. Totally on fire for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and, thus, fully committed to the authority of God’s Word, we viewed ourselves as God’s soaring “eagles,” for we had a passion for spiritual and professional excellence—not the mediocrity of “chickens.”[2]

 

--Though Iyeling was a naturalized citizen of Australia, she was an ethnic Chinese from Malaysia. (Her first name Iyeling was actually the English rendition of her Chinese name “Iye Ling.”)

 

--On my part, it was while I was in Malaysia in 1999 (some 14 years ago), speaking to a predominately Chinese-speaking youth that the Lord laid a burden on me to start missionary training program for public university students. This led to the establishment of CAMPUS and its unique training program in Ann Arbor, near the University of Michigan. Since then, CAMPUS has inspired and transformed a generation of young people, resulting in the founding of GYC by the young people. Thus, the global youth revival movement in the church—the spiritual and missionary revival movement that was inspired by CAMPUS and GYC—traces its roots to the Chinese people of Malaysia. Iyeling was also a Chinese-Malaysian.[3]

 

Ten years after the birth of CAMPUS, Iyeling and I met at a December 2009 GYC meeting to confirm formally our spiritual friendship and partnership in ministry.[4] Since that time, our relationship has been such that one might think we’ve known each other for a lifetime or that we were even biological siblings.

 

Iyeling had a very big heart and was a generous partner in the ministry to students and young people, and in the ALIVE mission projects in Africa (ALIVE, which stands for Africans Living In View of Eternity, is a missionary movement of graduates and young professionals in Africa).[5]

 

Iyeling was there for me, when I suffered a major spiritual crisis two years ago.  And through our regular email and phone connections at least once a week, she also was able to sail through her own trials and afflictions—although her circumstances were completely different from mine.

 

In fact, two weeks before she died, while I was in Ghana, Iyeling and I actually spoke on the phone. We talked about so many things, not knowing that it would be the last time.

 

Three years ago, Iyeling wrote to me some specific instructions concerning aspects of her funeral. I am here today, at her request, to share with the world some personal things about her extraordinary life that many do not know about—but need to know.  And I’d try to do so by using her own written words.

 

Many of you may not know that Iyeling was an excellent writer and a poet. In fact, over three years ago (in December of 2009), Iyeling and I jointly authored a 196-page book, but which book is to be released only after her death. It is titled A Treasure To Behold: The Gift of Friendship.

 

Since that day of the book’s release has painfully arrived, with your permission, allow me to place a copy on her casket, and say a few words, as though she can hear me:

 

“Iyeling, it’s official now. Relevant contents of our email exchanges will see the light of day. Thank you for your friendship and love. Thank you for the work you did for so many people, and for the cause of God. By God’s grace, what you lived and died for will not be in vain. We shall continue your legacy. Thank you, Big Sister.” 

 

If you want to understand who Iyeling was and what drove her in life, you have to read A Treasure To Behold. Not only does the book reveal a woman with an incredible gift of writing, the book also captures some of the challenges she faced in life—

 

--how she struggled with such life’s issues as pain, hurt, love, spirituality, etc. and

--how she eventually found peace and joy in the Lord.

 

Through the email exchanges captured in this book you’re going to understand a little bit of the meaning of true friendship, love, excellence, and ministry. You’ll also know her vision and what she wanted her legacy to be.

 

It will also interest you to know that, as an effective writer, she was also working on her own biography—tentatively titled Gripped By Grace. For lack of time, my tribute will highlight some of my fondest memories of her. I will conclude by calling attention to one of the most significant implications from Iyeling’s transformative encounter with divine Grace.

 

 

II. PUBLIC APPRECIATION

 

But before I share some of my fondest memories of our beloved Iyeling, permit me to convey her special thanks to certain individuals. She wants me to publicly mention

 

  1. Her three daughters—Priscilla, Stephanie, and Jackie. Besides her loving Savior and God, you were the ones who gave her reason to continue living, laboring, and hoping. Your journey together through the valleys and mountains of life positively shaped Iyeling’s character. She loved you deeply and she wants the world to thank you for your love for her.
  2. Ex-Husband, Arthur—She’s indebted to you in more ways than you’d ever know. For example, through you, she learned some important business principles and also how to be a strong woman. The ups and downs of your relationship also drew her closer to the Lord.
  3. Relatives (Sisters & brother), & especially her dear, sweet Mother—For your love and support over the years. Mum, I know you don’t understand my English. But from your gentleness Iyeling learned how to be a submissive, dutiful, and caring daughter—and these qualities extended to her treatment of the vulnerable—especially, the elderly.
  4. Church Family & Prayer Team members—You provided a spiritual home for her, and a great support at a difficult phase in her life.
  5. Muslim brothers and sisters—she learned the power of humility, surrender, and commitment from you.
  6. 6.    Partners in AII Ministry—especially Rodney, Sam, Jarod, and those in the Adventist Interfaith-Initiative (AII). Your partnership with Iyeling enabled her to rediscover God’s calling upon her life. 
  7. Students and Staff at CAMPUS in Michigan—your idealism, passion for truth, excellence and service renewed the fervency of her childhood faith—when, at the age of 13, she gave her life to Christ at a Billy Graham meeting in Malaysia.
  8. Carl—“my precious business partner”; you were her trusted and loyal friend. Thank you for being there for her. She looks up to you to be there for her girls’ interests.

 

III. MY FONDEST MEMORIES

 

Let me now proceed to mention a few things about our beloved Iyeling:

 

1. Global Outlook & Interests

 

Iyeling’s background and association with so many people gave her a certain global outlook on life. She was a Chinese from Malaysia, became a naturalized Australian citizen, and was married to a Brazillian-Jew. She had a Pentecostal background, became Protestant Seventh-day Adventist, labored with and for Muslims of different nationalities, and had a passion for the spiritual transformation of Africa. What a woman! She was an international stateswoman.

 

Iyeling also pursued and promoted a broad range of interests and causes. She was passionate about issues concerning the old and elderly, the young, the poor, the environment, spirituality, business, excellence, etc. She understood the meaning of suffering and pain, but discovered the joy of living a life of commitment and service to God's work. 

 

 

2.  Sense of Humor

 

One unique thing about Iyeling (at least during the latter part of her life) was her sense of humor!  We both loved to joke, laugh, and clown around. Perhaps, the best way to illustrate this is to read some excerpts from the detailed funeral instructions she wrote to me three years before her death.

 

It was one early Wednesday morning, February 10, 2010. Much of the eastern coast of the USA had been blanketed with snow and it was extremely cold in Michigan. With a snow alert where I lived (meaning the weather was very bad for traveling), I was still cooped up in my bed when the sound of a text message on my cell phone forced me to get up. The intriguing text message read:

 

“My Funeral”—should be read at my funeral. Much Affection, IM.

 

IM stood for “Iyeling Miller.” I understood her text message to be an urgent signal for me to go and check my email for instructions concerning her funeral. Fearing the worst (heart attack, car accident, a suicide note, etc.) I hurriedly got up to my computer. Thus begun a flurry of emails that February Wednesday and the next day.[6]

 

IYELING:

My Beloved Brother,

I have finally found the person I want to conduct my funeral--YOU!  According to the law of average, I am more likely to depart before you.  Assuming that is the case, you are to conduct my funeral in Sydney, Australia.  You will let my girls know that it is to be conducted on a fine morning so the birds, butterflies and all living creatures and flowers can celebrate my life that day.  …

 

I would like you to put your words on my headstone together with my girls' words.  I give you permission to say anything you want about me, however, silly or profound they may be.  You will not make it a sad occasion but rather a celebration of life that has gone to momentary rest…. [Your message at my funeral must] “bring hope and joy to all who gather there.”

 

Iyeling then included a thoughtful message to some specific people who have meant so much to her—namely, her three daughters, ex-husband, Muslim friends, and church family. Then she explained why she chose me to conduct her funeral:

 

My dear Pipim, thank you for doing this.  I picked you because, in my final decades you caused me to soar like I have never soared before.  It was you who caused me to see my worth in God's eyes; it was you who revived the child and the little girl in me; it was you who empowered me mentally and spiritually, and it was doing the work beside you that was my happiest and most fulfilling --thank you, my precious friend.  I love you! --- Iyeling

 

I promptly replied to her email.

 

SAMUEL: 

Dearly Beloved Sister:

When is it ever a happy occasion to conduct [or be at] the funeral of a friend? And yet, you've given me the honor to do so. I accept your invitation and promise to make it a very happy event….  

 

I assume that you'll inform the girls to arrange for the best weather Australia can showcase to the world. The birds, butterflies, and all living creatures will reward their efforts at timing it right. [SHE DID!] You can also do a lot to facilitate the great celebration of your life by departing at a time when we are guaranteed good weather. Give us +/- two weeks to plan. [SHE DID—10 DAYS BETWEEN HER DEATH AND FUNERAL!]

 

 I assume that you'll budget for me to wear a tuxedo to the event. Then you'll fly me first class [SHE DIDN'T!] [A]nd house me in the highest-star Sydney hotel. These would ensure that I'll be well-rested and in good spirit to make your momentary rest a restful experience. .

 

Do you want to know Iyeling’s response to my request for a multiple-star Sydney hotel and tuxedos?

 

IYELING:

Dearest,

The only hotels with the highest number of stars [in Sydney] will be in a sleeping bag out in the paddock under a galaxy of million stars.  Tuxedo is a good idea but may be too hot.  Besides, I don't want black so anything but black.

 

Talk about a sense of humor. Only Iyeling can insightfully transform a sleeping bag in the open air to the most decorated hotel in Sydney! On tuxedos, I took her counsel and therefore I’m wearing my colorful African suit—the best airy tuxedo there is in the world.

 

 

3. Resolute & Persistent Spirit 

 

Not only did Iyeling have a sense of humor, she was also stubbornly persistent until she got what she wanted. One example is contained in the exchanges that followed her funeral instructions. I’ll start with what I had written to her.

 

SAMUEL: 

Now I know why you do so well in business: You plan ahead. Apparently you've been looking for someone for some time, and you "finally found the person" to do your funeral. May I suggest that that you also work on a backup plan, in case I go before you.

 

(Just in case you want to know, I have decided that when my time comes it must be sudden and quick. Hence I've settled on the following three options: plane crash, heart attack, and car accident. My preference, is the plane crash. Why? (1) The message of my final exit gets free announcement on TVs around the world. (2) The instant cremation is environmentally friendly and cost effective [no need to purchase or cut down any trees for my casket]. And (3) dying in the sky gives me the advantage of being closer to heaven than all those on the earth!)

 

Iyeling was glad that I had agreed to conduct her funeral. She checked it out as one important priority that had been done. She then mentioned that she would write a poem to be read on that day, and that her daughter Stephanie already knew the piece of music to play.  However, regarding my suggestion that she comes up with a back-up plan, she replied emphatically:

 

IYELING:

 “No back up plan at his point in time. Trust you to want to go out with a bang!

 

She left no room for negotiation regarding who goes first. She had decided, based on the law of averages, that she’d go first. Hence no need to even consider a back-up plan. [SHE'S PROVEN TO BE RIGHT!]

 

Talking about resolute persistence, let me mention her emphatic responses to my statement about what I’d say on her tombstone.

 

SAMUEL: 

I will certainly say anything the Lord will lay on my heart. I'm sure I'll say some things that will make you blush yellow in your casket![7] ... I already know what the headstone will read (but it will remain a secret until that day)…

 

Iyeling would NOT allow me to say anything I wanted to say on her tombstone. And she was adamant on that. Here’s the exchange we had: 

 

IYELING:  The headstone writings cannot be a secret.  I need to know and approve.  After all, it is my headstone. You can't wait till that day—[it] would not be in my interest.  So tell me! [SHE WAS LITERALLY ORDERING ME TO TELL HER WHAT I WOULD PUT ON HER TOMBSTONE!]

 

SAMUEL: If I tell you the headstone writings, you'll also want to know … what I'd say at your funeral. How does your new plea for the [tombstone] secret harmonize with the full permission you gave me earlier? Once you reconcile the two, I'd share with you what I'm thinking about for your headstone. Until then, the headstone remains a secret…

 

IYELING: My, my, you're in a sparring mood today. It is my funeral and I can ask to know anything I choose to ask. If you do not comply, I will seek another funeral director who will. Now consider carefully. To do the latter, you stand to lose a good donation at the funeral. Would you want your eaglets to lose out?

 

SAMUELIs it a bait and switch advertising? [This is a situation whereby a company advertises one product to bait customers, but delivers another (i.e. switch it) as soon as a contract is signed on the advertised product.] Sounds like it: "I give you permission to say anything you want [BAIT]. . . I can ask to know anything I choose to ask [or else…; that’s SWITCH]."  Or is it a display of the savvy businesswoman's negotiation acumen?

 

IYELING:  It matters not. My fingers are overworked on this blackberry. If you truly love me skype me in the next 5 minutes and we shall discuss. If I don't hear from you, I will turn computer off. ... You've got 5 minutes or this device before me shall self destruct. … Five minutes, Samuel or you'll be sorry!

 

SAMUEL: Sounds like a threat. Doesn't it?

 

IYELING: Call it what you like. 3 mins.

 

That kind of threatening persistence left me no choice but to yield. Hence, with dispatch, I emailed to her what I would write on her tombstone. The information utilizes the title of our joint-book, my reflection on her struggles and victories, and her abiding hope in the resurrection.[8] 

 

Talk about a woman who was resolute in her persistence until she got what she wanted. That was Iyeling. From her funeral instructions we get a glimpse of one who left no stone unturned. As a result, she got what she wanted.

 

Today, we all can testify that even death itself and nature have yielded to her careful planning and persistence. What a perfect time to die and have one’s funeral—sunny Spring time in Sydney, Australia, with all the birds, butterflies and all living creatures and flowers celebrating a remarkable woman’s life! Oh, by the way, did you notice that she even planned her death to almost the very same date of her birth? Born on March 6, died on March 9.

 

 

4. Teachable & Open to Honest Criticism  

 

Though Iyeling was stubborn, and stuck to what she passionately believed in, she was also teachable and open to honest criticism. Let me explain with one example: Concerning a biography she wanted to write.  On December 20, 2009, she wrote to me:

 

I have been praying and meditating about my story and an appropriate title.  All I can come up with is His Plans For Me!  and Gripped by Grace. [In another email she had mentioned In the Hollow of His Hands.] What are your thoughts?  I'll start on some draft notes over the next few days, if I can, and share them with you.

 

SAMUEL:

 

None of your suggested titles—His Plans for Me and Gripped By Grace—have a ring to them, at least not yet. The first sounds self-centered and the second is clichéd. So is the third one--In the Hollow of His Hands—an annoyingly overused phrase.  Usually titles only crystalize after the manuscript is done. Besides, when we're all done, we shall "field test" a couple of suggestions with my talented young people and extensive network of friends around the world.

 

Now, if you know anything about book publishing, you would know that authors can be very adamant in their choice of titles and subtitles. Thus, for an already stubborn person like Iyeling, questioning the merits of titles she has long thought through is like courting the wrath of a bear. How would she respond to my unapologetic blowing away of her cherished titles? Worse, I proceeded to offer an alternate title: Just A Steward.

 

I explained that my suggested title was not overused, was a humble phrase, has a biblical ring to it, communicates the idea of God's grace in her life, and serves as a link to discuss the biblical concept of stewardship—a subject, which, as a Christian business woman, she was very much interested in. I added:

 

But it's too early to think about it [a book title] now. Start jotting down some of your life reflections and the burden on your heart. We'll cross that bridge when we get there.

 

What was Iyeling’s response to my critique and proposal? She was surprisingly understandable and teachable!

 

IYELING:

You are right; JUST A STEWARD is so me through and through.  You read me well.  It is so refreshing to be so in sync in our thoughts and ideas. 

 

In fact, in subsequent conversations via phone and skype she kept referring several times to this phrase: “Just A Steward.” Indeed, that’s how Iyeling saw herself after conversion and rededication to God. She understood that, her saying "Yes” to her Lord, calls for a disposition of submission to Christ’s authority. She was “just a steward” of Christ.

 

The irony is, the more I reflect on her life (especially in the context of my own spiritual failure two years ago), I’ve come to appreciate Iyeling’s title Gripped By Grace—even better than my “Just A Steward.” Iyeling was persistent, but not rigidly stubborn. She was teachable and open to criticism. I pray that I will have the same spirit.

 

 

5. Decisive & Action-Oriented

 

She had a poetic way of expressing the sense of urgency with which she conducted her affairs. Observe why and how she diplomatically urged me to reply with dispatch to her emails:

 

IYELING:

You are such a busy man and it is wrong of me to expect immediate replies.  I do not wish to place any kind of pressure on you so I urge you to take no notice of me and reply when you get the time.  My days are filled with laughter when I hear from you; my steps have a spring in them and my mind is churning creative ideas to do work with CAMPUS.

 

Every sentence or phrase in the above pregnant paragraph was calculated to induce me to reply quickly to her mails. Then she capped it with: “My steps have a spring in them.” What a beautiful way to describe a sense of urgency and the need for decisiveness in action? And, just in case I still don’t see the urgency, she finally appeals to my professional and spiritual purpose in life—namely, training and empowering young people to work for God. Who would not respond to a person whose “mind is churning creative ideas to do work with” one’s immediate preoccupation, passion, or calling?

 

 

6. Loved To Talk 

 

In one of our exchanges, she confessed that she was a talkative. She was reflecting upon one of our phone conversations in which we were brainstorming ideas on missionary projects in Africa:

 

It was lovely talking to you and hearing some of the ideas which I am all excited about.  I apologise if I kept jumping the gun and cutting your conversation with my hurried speechI think fast normally but sometimes I speak a lot faster than I think and has been my downfall but I am learning.

 

When you combine qualities of someone who “has springs in her steps” and who “speaks a lot faster than she thinks,” it spelt trouble for those who seemed slow to Iyeling.

 

 

7. Unafraid and Bold for God

 

Iyeling had a passionate commitment to the cause of God. A daring faith. She was a woman who knew what she wanted, yet would refrain against all tendencies if it was not in the will of God. When, in the later years of her life, she eventually re-discovered God as the object of her love, she was prepared to do what was essentially and controversially right by sacrificing that love to allow the will of God to prevail.  She was willing to give up her desires to allow God’s desires to emerge. She didn’t care what other people said.

 

I am at a time of my life where after decades of sinning against God, His faithfulness rescued me and I surrender to His calling.  I am happy to say, that I want for nothing and I hunger not for man's approval as I now crave for God's.  Man's opinion cannot shape me nor their judgment condemn.  Giving God my steering wheel is so easy once your value shifts.

 

 

8. Sought To Do Big Things for God

 

I was particularly impressed by the fact that Iyeling didn’t take baby steps. When she was into something, she went all the way.  Whatever she did, she gave her all.  She was generous in causes she believed in. I describe her lavish response to the call of God “wasting on Jesus.”[9]

 

I am at a point where I await God to do the Supenatural and the Extraordinary through me.  Are you ready for the Supernatural?...  Do you want to see your dreams for CAMPUS to manifest before your very eyes?  You had better be ready, my beloved brother...for God & I do not do things in small measure!!...  We do things in the accompaniment of loud clanging cymbals, bugles and trumpets!!!  SO, watch out, my beloved Pip![10]

 

 

9.  A Longing for True Love

 

Prior to rediscovering Christ, she was a woman who desperately sought for love and affection—sometimes in all the wrong places. It is not surprising, therefore, that many people wormed their way into her company solely because of her financial resources or anything else they could get.

 

But, praise the Lord, when Iyeling totally surrendered to God’s love, she discovered the love that had eluded her throughout much of her life. Here’s how she describes it, in the context of our spiritual friendship that had deepened her love for Christ:

 

I feel a tremendous joy and love within my very being;  unlike that between a man & a woman, nor between a mother and a child, nor between siblings and much more than between best friends.... more like two non -gender souls connecting in the Spirit of God with one sense and purpose!!!  Is this just me or are you sensing the same???  It is a good, wholesome  and powerful feeling. ...I have fallen in love with Jesus all over again!!  I've got it!  I feel exactly the way I felt the day I was born again as a thirteen year old under the marquee [pavilion] of Billy Graham crusade in Malaysia.  It's like dejavu!  Wow!  This is incredible This is the best Christmas experience I have ever encountered.  I tried to compare this feeling with the 'loving' feeling I felt eight months ago and it pales in comparison.  I believe the Lord has really heard the longing cries of my soul in the past few months.  Hellelujah!  The prodigal returns......Amen!

 

 

10. Gripped By God’s Grace

 

Why did she love the Lord so much? Why did she dare to do great things for her God? And why did she give so much of her means and time to God’s work? She repeatedly explained to me that it was because she was “gripped by God’s grace.” Grace that pardoned her every sin, wiped clean her sinful past, transformed her into a child of God, and gave her a purpose of living:

 

Iyeling found her transformative encounter with God’s grace to be the secret of the elusive love and acceptance she had been chasing after throughout her life. She discovered that God’s love was deeper than the superficial love offered by sin. 

 

Whenever she was gripped by the grace of God, sin lost much of its attraction, and doing God’s will became her delight. Iyeling stated this fact in her beautiful rhymed poem titled: “The Lament”—a poem she wrote after breaking off from a wrong relationship:

 

The Lament

 

A sin is a sin no matter how one words it,

To continue would surely bring damnation'

But halted in its track, succumbing no more,

I see-- as my only redemption.

 

So quick to rush in, to do wrong for the flesh;

So painful to let go, and to do what is morally right!

Yet, right and truth must forever be upheld,

No matter how difficult, how tough the fight!

 

God forgive me for all I've said & done,

Stay close, lest I should be tempted again

Stay close as that 'little man in your eye';

In your shadow, I will regard sin with disdain.

 

Do grant me strength and serenity,

Grant me wisdom and purity;

Embrace me, let me feel your heartbeat,

And please begin your healing in me!

 

You have a love for me that exceeds all planes;

A love so profound and more...

It will withstand the test of times

It will take to eagle wings and soar!

 

So weep not, my beloved, for I have wept aplenty,

Tears make way for deeds of honour

And the love we share means much more

When we make God the winner.

 

Incredible what God’s grace can do. Oh, there’s more I can share about my Big Sister Iyeling. I’ve mentioned ten so far:

 

  1. Global Outlook and Interests
  2. A Sense of Humor
  3. Spirit of Persistence
  4. Teachable & Open to Honest Criticism
  5. Decisive and Action-Oriented
  6. She Loved to Talk
  7. Unafraid and Bold for God
  8. Sought To Do Big Things for God
  9. Had A Longing for True Love

10. Gripped by God’s Grace

 

One significant consequence of the last point (“Gripped by God’s Grace”) is that it transformed the life of Iyeling, making her a very forgiving person. This is the point on which I want to conclude. In my opinion, Iyeling’s spirit of forgiveness was that which ultimately enabled her to experience peace in her life.

 

A Forgiving Person

 

In the course of her life, Iyeling made many mistakes, but through the mercies and grace of God she discovered forgiveness, true peace, and joy.

 

Also like many of us, our beloved Iyeling was often betrayed and hurt by so many people. There were times when she was sorely tempted to seek vengeance and justice. I’m sure many of us who have been wounded—by even our fellow believers—can identify with that. I certainly do.[11]

 

But despite the hurt, in the end, Iyeling was able to extend to others the twin gifts of mercy and grace that she herself had received from God. She had a forgiving heart. She understood that a forgiven person is a forgiving person.

 

In recognition of this fact, this morning (March 18, 2013), I posted a thought nugget on our EAGLESonline website and my Facebook pages, explaining the excellence of God’s grace—the grace that gripped Iyeling and which led her to be a forgiving person:

 

THE EXCELLENCE OF GRACE

The thirst for vengeance should never be mistaken as a quest for justice. Neither should the verdict of justice ever transcend the excellence of mercy and grace. A father’s only son has been brutally murdered. Vengeance tracks down the murderer and kills him. Justice calls the police, gets the murderer arrested, tried, convicted, and executed. Mercy pleads with the judge and the guilty man’s life is spared.  But Grace asks the Judge for the custody of the guilty murderer, adopts him as his own son, takes him home, loves him, and lives with him forever! (Titus 2:11;Romans 5:10; John 1:16, 17). Vengeance is incited by the evidence; Justice weighs the evidence; Mercy overlooks the evidence; but Grace IS the evidence.  In our hurts, let’s always be moved by the excellence of grace--SKP[12] 

 

Yes, “in our hurts, let’s always be moved by the excellence of grace.” This is, undoubtedly, one of the most significant things I learned from Iyeling. Perhaps this is why she wanted to title her biography Gripped By Grace. She was gripped by the excellence of God’s Grace. Today, we also can experience this grace. How? By letting Iyeling’s prayer be ours too. She wrote:

 

My Heart's Cry to God:

Turn to me and be gracious to me

For I am lonely and afflicted;

The troubles of my heart have multiplied

Free me from my distress,

Look on my afflictions and my pain

And forgive all my sins,

In Jesus name.

Amen.

 

 

IV. POSTSCRIPT:

She Lived & Died Well

 

May I conclude by mentioning the fact that I didn’t sleep at all last night. In addition to working on what I should say during my tribute today, I also felt impressed to write some poems in memory of Iyeling—poems that will be dated on this day of her funeral. I did write two, which I want to share with you. They are titled “She Lived and Died Well” and “Find the Treasure.”

 

 

She Lived & Died Well[13]

 

She lived and died well,

With enough years, I can tell.

Though not to a ripe old age,

Yet with the charm of a sage.

 

She survived many defeats,

And gained victories at retreats

Spent cloistered with her God,

Soaking up His precious Word.

 

She had her fair share of wailings,

And a history of rises from failings.

For she stoutly refused to stay down,

And ran all the way without a frown.

 

A bungled “one chance” is not the end,

Trusting God's “Six More Chances” to mend

All the cracks, breaks, and painful tears

That can switch our joys with crippling fears.[14]

 

 

Find The Treasure[15]

 

Many things masquerade as treasure,

And hide in different forms of pleasure

But the best has never been in anything,

Only in Him, Creator of all human being.

 

She embodied God's refreshing grace,

And lived her life a mirror of His face.

Her heartfelt wish was that you get to find,

The Treasure that'll guard your heart and mind.

 

 

 

NOTE:  If you want to LISTEN to the audio highlights of the funeral service, you can click on this link: http://eaglesonline.org/resource/conduct-my-funeral/ or  https://soundcloud.com/samuel-pipim/conduct-my-funeral-a-tribute.
 

__________________________________

 

ENDNOTES

 

 

[1] The service was conducted at the Parramatta Seventh-day Adventist Church, New South Wales, Australia. The funeral sermon was preached by Dr. David McKidden, Iyeling’s church pastor. Besides her three daughters—Priscilla, Stephanie, and Jacqueline—I was one of four people selected to present their “Tributes and Reflections” on the life and ministry of Iyeling.

 

 [2] In my Bible lectures to youth and professionals around the world during the past two decades, I’m well-known for my use of the eagle as a symbol of excellence—academic, professional, and spiritual. Thus, I have promoted the ideal that we must all be eagles—God’s eagles. The eagle metaphor is employed to challenge all to live to their highest God-given potential and soar above the “chicken” predicaments of the day. Iyeling embraced this “eagle” ideal, and like several of my friends around the world, she sought to “soar.”

 

 [3] For the relationship between CAMPUS (Center for Adventist Ministry to Public University Students) and GYC (Generation of Youth for Christ), see the “Introduction” to  Sikhululekite Hlatshwayo, Justin Kim, and Stephanie Quick, eds., For This Purpose: A Compilation of Sermons and Presentations from GYC (Ann Arbor, MI: GYC Resources, 2008). See also my From Ministry To Movement: The Potential of Public Campus Ministry (2010), and Israel Ramos, “What Adventist Young People Really Want: The General Youth Conference Experiment,” in Here We Stand: Evaluating New Trends in the Church, ed. Samuel Koranteng-Pipim (Berrien Springs, MI: Adventists Affirm, 2005), pp. 61–70. I was privileged to be the founder of CAMPUS and served as its Director from 1999-2011.

 

 [4] For the evolution of our friendship from August 2009 (the time we first made a casual acquaintanceship at an ASI meeting) to December 2009 (the time we formally confirmed our spiritual friendship and partnership in ministry), see our unpublished 196-page book A Treasure To Behold: The Gift of True Friendship. This work is a collection of our email communications during that period.

 

 [5] For more on ALIVE, see www.AfricansAlive.org. Iyeling also served on the Board of EAGLESonline, the umbrella organization for the two Centers of Leadership Development known as EAGLES (Empowerment & Advisory Group for Leadership, Excellence & Service) and ANANSE (African Network & Advisory for Needed Services & Excellence). See, www.EAGLESonline.org.

 

 [6] The references to Iyeling’s funeral instructions in this tribute are based on the emails we exchanged from February 10-15, and the subsequent phone & skype conversations we periodically had on the subject of her death and funeral wishes.

 

 [7] Blushing yellow was a reference to her Chinese ethnicity—not black (like me) or white (like most Australians), but yellow (as Iyeling and other Asians are generally characterized). I had also mentioned that, to support CAMPUS, I would charge every attendee at her funeral $US1,000. Though this unorthodox way of fundraising would definitely make Iyeling blush yellow, she seemed comfortable with it: “[I] trust you to capitalize at my funeral; but I do concede it is a brilliant idea! You may pass the hat around and announce that a donation be given to CAMPUS work in place of flowers. How much you'll get will depend on how moving your sermon will be.”

 

 [8] I’ve already passed on to Iyeling’s daughters the information I shared with her:

 

A Treasure To Behold

Her life validates the Latin saying:

"Per ANGUSTA ad AUGUSTA"

(Through Trials to Triumph").

She rests in the hope of the resurrection

(1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

—Your Dearest Brother & Friend, Samuel Koranteng-Pipim

 

 [9] Virtually, everyone who has been closely associated with me has heard my message “Wasting on Jesus: Is It A Waste?” Based on Mary’s selfless act in anointing Jesus with an alabaster bottle full of spikenard, I urge my colleagues, associates, and young people to give their very best to God—no matter what others may say or do to them (see Matthew 26:1-13; Luke 7:36-50; John 11:55-12:8; Mark 14:1-9). The heart of that message is that nothing is too costly to sacrifice for Christ. For only those who totally love Jesus would give Him their very best. Stated differently, lavish giving is always the result of one’s devotion. We never give too much to the person we love. “Wasting on Jesus” is, therefore, a call to total, selfless, and sacrificial giving of our means, time, influence, etc.—our all—to the cause we believe in. For Iyeling, this meant doing great things for her Lord.

 

 [10] Iyeling had in mind her great plans for CAMPUS and numerous ALIVE mission projects in Africa.

 

 [11] I have mentioned this fact in my soon-to-be-released book Hope Through the Dark: Inspirational Nuggets on Failure, Betrayal, and Hurt. The book is a collection of thought nuggets I’ve shared with close friends (on my “Samuel Pipim” Facebook page and on the  www.EAGLESonline.org and www.drpipim.org websites).

 

 [12] You can access previous thought nuggets at: http://eaglesonline.org/weekly-nuggets/http://www.facebook.com/drpipim, and http://drpipim.org/thought-nuggets.html.

 

 [13] This poem (dated March 18, 2013) is my reflection on Iyeling’s life, in the light of my book Six More Chances: Success In the Midst of Failure—a book that was birthed by my personal experience with failure.

 

 [14] Lines one and two of this stanza are echoes from the title of my book Six More Chances. Based on Proverbs 24:16, the book argues that if “a godly person rises again after falling seven times,” then the mathematical implication is that after we first fall, we have “six more chances” left!

 

[15] This poem (dated March 18, 2013) is my reflection on our joint-book A Treasure To Behold and on Iyeling’s intended  autobiography. Though it goes by different titles, depending on the occasion and her mood,Gripped By Grace was one of the proposed titles.