|From the Winter 2011 issue of Knowing & Doing|
by Joel S. Woodruff, Ed.D.
With the help of a friend, she dyed her wedding dress black, the color of mourning, to wear that afternoon at her young husband’s funeral. The date was July 4, 1925, and their baby son, Charles, was only seven weeks old.
Just over a year earlier, Edith was radiant as a bride in her stunning, white wedding dress. Her adoring sweetheart, V. Raymond Edman, had eagerly awaited the wedding at mission headquarters in Quito, Ecuador. But then Ray, whom Edith affectionately called “Friend Prexy,” had contracted typhus fever. Dr. Herbert Parker, an expert in tropical diseases, had to break the hard news to her that Ray’s feet were already cold; he wasn’t long for this earth. A friend, Will Reed, ordered a native coffin made of wood, covered in black cloth, to be ready for the burial. The climate of the tropics demands a quick interment. The funeral service was planned and scheduled for 3:00 p.m.
Ray and Edith met at Park Street Church in Boston through a mutual friend and mentor, E. Joseph Evans, otherwise known as “Uncle Joe.” Prior to meeting they had each heard God’s still small voice calling them to serve in missions, specifically in South America. As they grew in love for each other, “They prayed together and agreed to separate for a time to test the sincerity of their love and to determine the will of God fully. By spring 1923, they were convinced it was God’s will for them to become engaged, to get married later and finally to serve together in South America.”1
Their mutual calling led them to the Quechua Indians in Ecuador. They were married, welcomed their first child, and things were looking bright. God was blessing their work, and they were developing good relationships with the Indians. Then suddenly, death was lurking on their doorstep.
Ray knew that he was dying, though he was unaware that people were busy preparing for his funeral. He recalled what his mother had told him as a child—that often when people are about to die, their life plays out before their eyes; they remember the people and events that shaped them. This happened to Ray as he thought of his childhood home in Illinois, his grade school teachers, friends from school, his days serving in the army in World War I. Ray wrote, “It was something like the unfolding of a newsreel, and with it there came the clear consciousness, ‘Now I have come to die.’”2
At this point Ray became aware of what he described as a “Presence” that slowly entered the room, rising from the ground up to the level of his bed; soon it completely filled the room. At first Ray wondered what this surrounding influence or “Presence” might be. He wrote, “Then I knew what it was, for in those moments I experienced a sweet sense of the love of God in Christ such as I had never known before in all the years of my life… It is sufficient to say that I have no fear of dying. Heaven is home to the believer, to that one who has become a child of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”3
Ray, like Lazarus in John 11, had faced death. But unlike Lazarus, Ray was never buried in that black coffin. Edith didn’t have to wear her blackened wedding dress that day. About a week later, Ray was able to recognize his wife and was gradually restored to health, a testimony of Jesus’ resurrection power.
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