Joshua Ahmed Ngombo
12th July 2003 - 17th June 2014
It is with great sadness that I tell you that Joshua Ngombo, aged 10, passed away yesterday. Joshua and his parents, Pastors Ahmed and Audrey, decided a month ago to return from India rather than undergo any further medical treatment, believing that after a year the time was right to trust in God's almighty sovereign will alone. He maintained a vibrant Christian faith throughout, and leaves behind a truly magnificent example of what it is to live out a faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 'I love maths!' Oh, Joshua, the world can ill-afford to lose budding mathematicians like you. I know the saints in heaven are rejoicing as you arrive to join them but, frankly, it is mighty difficult to be rejoicing with them just now, aware of so many opportunities that life offers which you will never now be able to experience.
God is good - all the time
And all the time - God is good.
Many times have I heard Pastor Ahmed lead the congregation at Dar es Salaam Pentecostal Church with this statement and response. So easy to believe in an almighty loving God when things are going well for us, not so easy when apparently random acts of suffering are inflicted on the innocent. Does it help to think of the pain parents will allow young children to suffer in order that they be innoculated against serious illnesses? That just as we cannot expect young children to understand what is going on here, so we cannot expect to understand how God's purposes are served by Joshua's untimely death. In Isaiah 55:8 we read, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” - there is a time to think, study, ponder, reflect, analyse and consider, and there is a time to let go and let God.
When I was at school I avoided any sporting activity as far as I could. When I became an undergraduate I had the chance to recreate myself and discovered rowing - a far more sensible team sport than football, in my humble opinion. I was never much good, and found my level at third college boat level, with no aspirations to join the 2nd or indeed the 1st crew, and as for the blues (University) boat - well, grains of sand and mountains come to mind. But I enjoyed it and my contribution and commitment were valued.
Twice a year we prepared for the bump races. I'll not go into detail here, suffice to say that races could last as little as 10 seconds or as much as 10 minutes, with boats crashing into each other with a huge amount of shouting coming from supporters of us and other crews. But in the middle of all this, the advice of one of our coaches preparing us sticks in my mind. If in doubt - pull harder. You think people are shouting to support you? Pull harder. You think they're shouting at the opposing team? Pull harder. You think you're gaining on the boat ahead? Pull harder. You think the boat ahead is getting away? Pull harder. You think the boat behind you is gaining on you? Pull harder. You have no idea what's going on? Pull harder? You really can't make out who's shouting what to whom? Pull harder.
So, Pastor Ahmed, Pastor Audrey, Ephraim, wider family members, friends at Dar es Salaam Pentecostal Church and beyond, in a similar vein let me say - draw nearer. Draw nearer to our Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour, Redeemer and Friend. You're feeling angry with God who allowed this to happen? Draw nearer. You're feeling confused and disheartened? Draw nearer. You sense Joshua joining the saints in heaven? Draw nearer. You really can't articulate how you are feeling? Draw nearer. You can't imagine a future in which you'll never see Joshua again in this life? Draw nearer. At all times, in all places, whatever is being said by whomever, draw nearer to our Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour, Redeemer and Friend.