It was a privilege and an honour to join Joshua's family and friends for the funeral on Friday. My thanks to the mathematics education group for agreeing to start at 7am. so that I could both teach the class and also get there.
Joshua first became ill in November 2012, initially misdiagnosed as dengue fever, only two months after I arrived in the country, so it's Pastor Ahmed whom I've got to know and have been keeping in touch with rather than Joshua himself. So it was wonderful hearing his teacher, family members and others who knew him well. I particularly enjoyed the story of the 5 year old Joshua starting school who, in a reversal to normal, ran into the building on the first day in huge excitement, then to be in floods of tears as he was taken home, having to leave the fun behind.
Wonderful also to hear more about his faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, his concern for other people and the ministry he had. It is the nature of being a child cancer sufferer that he met other child cancer sufferers, some who are making good recoveries, others not clear, with others again also called home. One particular friend was Ivor from India, Pastor Ahmed is continuing to stay in touch, and I've been praying for him, Joshua's passing must be hard on him too.
I came away with a thought which I am finding very helpful, although I must emphasise this is a very loose interpretation of what was actually said. Joshua achieved the purposes God sent him to earth for in less than 11 years. Those of us who are rather more spiritually obtuse need considerably longer....
Joshua was praying for a miraculous healing, and even in the last couple of weeks was making plans for when he was better. Of course, in a literal sense this did not happen, but I have come to believe that when people of faith pray with good intentions for things which are not in God's purposes, He redirects those prayers. Does Joshua's life constitute a miracle? Yes, I think it does. The church they attended whilst in India has grown as a result of Joshua's presence and ministry. Many people's lives have been touched, enriched by knowing him.
At the end of the service the congregation filed out past the open coffin. When my turn came, there was Joshua, apparently asleep, with a teddy bear by his side. Sleep well Joshua,, see you in heaven - and when we meet, I hope you'll tell me the name of your teddy bear, I'd love to know.