Before I begin, I want it known that I wish I had better writing skills to more adequately express my thoughts and feelings about Peter. This is but a very poor representation of my thoughts and emotions.
My story with Peter begins before I met him and his wife Shanie. In the spring of 2002, I was having a hard time sleeping one evening. This was unusual for me. Normally I sleep like the dead. Not that night. So I got up, went in the office and flipped on the TV. At one or two AM, there’s normally not much on worth watching and that night was no different. So I spent the night scanning channel after channel, hoping to find something worth my time.
After a while, I happened upon a documentary about the Bosnian war. Well more specifically about the aftermath of the war. The film crew was following a group of orphans as they tried to survive in the still brutal city that was Sarajevo. The kids ranged from around 8 years old to late teens and was a mix of boys and girls. Something grabbed my attention and while I NEVER watched this sort of thing before, I felt compelled to watch it.
That night, I wept like a baby. Many of these kids had either been victims of horrible violence or had seen it first hand as intruding armies raped and pillaged their families and friends. A couple of the girls had been raped repeatedly and all had lived with the constant threat of death as bombs and bullets took the lives of people around them.
The room they lived in was the best room they could find in a bombed out building. The walls were pocked marked with bullet holes. There was no heat. They burned material taken from other buildings for heat. Most slept on the floor and they all huddled together for warmth on the coldest of nights.
Food was a constant worry. The older ones sacrificed for the younger ones and they all did without.
That night as I watched this horrific result of evil men’s actions, I knew that someday, I would be involved with kids like this on some level. My life changed that night although the next morning, I tried hard to forget about it. To be honest, I did nothing for a while. I just ignored it.
Then a few weeks later or perhaps it was just a few days, I can’t remember, suffice to say, within just a short period of time, Peter and Shanie Hinge showed up at our church for the first time. They were there to raise funds for the mission field they served on. Care to take a guess where they were serving? That’s right, the pictures they shared were from all over eastern Europe, countries that had once been part of the former Soviet Union, which Bosnia had been part of. They showed pictures of kids in orphanages, pictures of them teaching, as well as pics of other things I don’t remember. But that day, my wife and I decided to start giving to missions even if it was on just a small scale. God used the documentary along with Peter and Shanie to move us toward His calling on our lives.
I can’t remember if we spent any time with Peter and Shanie at that point but over the years, we were drawn to them and Peter became a close friend. Funny thing is, Peter and I didn’t really spend that much time together due to their travel schedule and the fact they lived in Europe and we lived in sunny Yuma AZ! But I feel like God knit our hearts together and after a while, we were close. Our interaction was limited to skype and email but mostly email. We visited them when they came to Yuma and in 2009, we got to visit them in his native Denmark.
Lo and I had often spoken about how we admired the Hinge kids. They were smart, mature and well spoken. They behaved like young Christian ladies and were respectful to their parents. They managed to teach these traits to their kids while traveling all over the world and we decided that was something we wanted for our kid. Peter and Shanie demonstrated Godly parenting in a way no one else ever has in our view.
In life, if a person has two or three really close friends in their lifetime, they should consider themselves lucky. I mean the kind of friend that sticks with you no matter what. The kind of friend you can be separated from for very long periods of time and when you are together again, its as if no time had passed whatsoever and you just pick up where you left off. The kind of friendship where nothing is demanded of the other except trust. Where each is free to be real with the other with no fear of relationship ending judgment. That is what I had with Peter. Oddly enough, it grew with very little effort and in the over all scheme of things, with very little time together. We were apart more than we were together.
When Peter was diagnosed with cancer, my business was beginning to fall apart although I didn’t know it at the time. He suffered with pain and itching and I suffered all the emotional devastation that comes with failure and the constant worry about money. We suffered for 5 years together, he with cancer and I with money problems. We questioned God together, we learned to trust God more together and in the end, Peter went to his well earned reward. Sometimes I wonder if he didn’t get the better result.
When Peter died, my first reaction was total disbelief. I fully expected him to be healed and then he and I would do life together. Lo and I providing the resources that God has called us to provide to His servants on the front lines of bringing the Gospel to the world and they letting us tag along on the adventure of a lifetime once in a while. My next reaction was anger at God for taking my friend from me. Never mind about Peter’s suffering being over or His joy at calling home His special child. I wanted my friend back. It was only after some time had passed that I was able to rejoice for my friend. Yes sadness is still comes when I think about him every day, but I know joy will come.
Its been a month or so since he passed. I had no desire to communicate with Shanie or the kids. I’ve not known what to say. My grief while deep, can in no way compare with theirs. I’m rarely at a loss of what to say. But this time, I had no words. I didn’t want to think about it, talk about it nor write about it. It was to much. So at the risk of seeming like I was callous or disinterested, I just didn’t. I feel bad about not sending some sort of brief empty message to Shanie and the girls, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I hope they understand.
I owe much to Peter, about how to live but more importantly, what to live for. His dedication to Jesus was never in question, his passion for ministry always evident. When pain wracked his body, he still said God was good. In many many conversations, he and I talked about trust. Trust that says, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him”. We talked about his kids and how much they needed their daddy around. About how much he loved his wife and how unfair his sickness was to her. But mostly we talked about trust and how much God loved us. Through his suffering, I to learned to trust Him more. That He is always good.
I know there were many very dark days. There were monumental personal failures that had extreme consequences. I know Peter struggled with sin the same way all of us struggle with sin. That battle that will never be completely won until we step into the heavenly realm. And yet, through all that, God still saw fit to use Peter, to bring fruit from his life. Both in ministry and in his family. Peter’s life is a testament to His goodness and grace toward us.
Peter was one of those guys that you just feel comfortable with. He was easy to know even though most of the time he would rather just be by himself or with just his family. And yet, he managed to live outside that comfort zone and allow God to use him.
A few days ago, it dawned on me that Peter was actually younger than me. At that exact same moment, I realized that my life expectancy is about 80 years, plus or minus a few. That means its about half over. Then I started thinking about all the things Peter had done with his 43 years on earth and I felt small and insignificant. My contribution to the Kingdom was nothing compared to his. My accomplishments while decent, meant nothing in light of how and why he lived his life. So at that moment, I resolved to live a life Peter would be proud of. A life that if at all possible, in some way, enables his ministry and legacy to continue. Not to live out his calling but to live out mine in a way that honors his.
That meant to love more, to laugh more, to spend and be spent in the pursuit of His Kingdom. To trust to the end. What this will bring is anyone’s guess but I am totally open to whatever He has for us. I want the next 43 years to be a wild roller coaster of adventure in His service.
Peter, I have to say, I wish we had more time together. I wish the future included us walking out our visions together. I even had a dream once of you and I riding in a train across some desolate landscape together on our way to some ministry opportunity. I was looking forward to that train ride. But that is not going to happen. Instead, I need to fulfill what God has called me to on my own. I know He will provide and I know it will be beyond my wildest imagination, but I sure wish you were here to share it with.
Life is short. To short but in light of eternity, the troubles of this present world are but a trifle. Peter, you are done with your trifles. I’m am looking forward to seeing you again soon……can’t wait to tell you all about the adventure……