When we began our missionary service in 2000 we could not imagine the twists and turns of the journey we were undertaking. Since our mission society encourages a more relational support system, as a family we fully embraced the new way of being closer to our siblings in Christ and the congregations where they serve. Through our many visits in the Garden State, we were blessed to meet Pastor Jim Berger, his family, and the congregation he pastored. We were very sad to learn of Jim’s unexpected passing earlier this month. Indeed, our friend Jim Berger has been promoted! We were so blessed in each of our visits with Jim in Cape Island Baptist Church (2007, 2009, and 2012) and his sweet spirit was always an encouragement. We would talk about EBTS and Israel, we would talk about the struggles to see the church thrive and the blessings of what was working, we would talk about health and he would shy away not wanting to draw attention to himself. Sitting at the table with Jim and Sarah, Catherine and Dorothy, was always a blessing! On our last visit, we just popped in as it was the after-Sandy era and we just wanted to make sure that our congregations were doing well. It wasn’t a planned visit, so Jim was surprised that we had driven all the way to Cape May just to make sure they were ok. He was the only one from the congregation we saw that morning. He mentioned that it had been a while since he was last ill and he was grateful for that. His constant health challenges were draining and he was grateful for a break from them.
We certainly weren’t expecting that this un-informal visit of ours in Cape Island BC would be the last time we were to see Jim Berger. We’re glad we did and we will continue to pray for his wife Sarah, for their daughters Catherine and Dorothy, and for all in the congregation at this time of grief and mourning. There is hope in Christ for the ultimate reunion, but the physical separation is always painful.
May God’s peace that surpasses all understanding comfort us all as we say farewell together to a friend who has been promoted! As the song keeps playing in the church’s website, “I can only imagine”; Jim already knows and enjoys what the Lord promised him. Jim already enjoys his heavenly mansion. Jim is already pain free. Let us continue serving together, as Jim did, in God’s spirit as we serve the Lord where each of us is (you in ABCNJ and us in Nicaragua and beyond as each of our missionary colleague serves).