Of Life and Death

If January is a harbinger for things to come in the year ahead, we’re in for a wild ride!

The month started with the heights of delight (having the kids home, celebrating the holidays with my folks and siblings in northern Virginia, and then having the 80th birthday gala for my mom in New Orleans), as well as shocking grief on a global level with the horrific earthquake in Haiti--and on a personal level as we received word that one of our extraordinary former family camp staffers, Jordan Crouch, passed away January 2.

Haiti’s devastation has touched us very deeply because we spent eight days in that incredibly impoverished country in 1999. It was our first family missions trip, and though several destinations were considered, our personal relationship with Marion Austin compelled us to serve with her “second half of life” ministry, Hope for the Children of Haiti (HFC.) Twenty-three of us prepared, collected food, and planned for the trip...but nothing prepared us for how our hearts would be changed by our experience there. It was truly a “as you’ve done to the least of these...” series of moments, from the second we deplaned on that hot tarmac and were immediately assaulted with the stench and squalor that characterizes places which have no systems for sanitation, trash removal, etc., to dedicating the 10 x 12 cinder block house we’d helped build during the week for a precious, previously homeless, fatherless family.

I remember being so aware of how far out of my comfort zone I was, and don’t forget that I’m very comfortable in a “roughing it” world (i.e., using outhouses, going without showers, and eating simply.) I remember looking into the desperate eyes of young mothers who were holding up infants to us to take, believing that their child would have better than a 50% chance of survival in our arms rather than theirs. I remember the HFC orphans who responded with such joy and childish delight to our team who with them played, sang, jumped rope, and snuggled. I remember admiring the “kids” on our team—Peter and Matthew Steele, Chris and Meg Woodworth, Missy and Kara Carmody, Spencer and Georgia Walle, Kari, Lisa, and Julie Friesen—who held back nothing and just loved on these ones so precious to Jesus. I remember being ashamed at my own tendency to recoil (at least internally) from little ones with crusty noses and oozing sores. I remember being acutely aware that all of my sensate perceptions were assaulted by the sights, smells, and sounds of this small country which met every “third world” requirement.

I also remember that none of those things I found so personally off-setting mattered by the end of our time. After working for a week, side by side with “our” family, building their house, we gathered to dedicate this humble domicile. Hand in hand—Haitian, “blanc,” Haitian, “blanc”—we prayed that God would bless their home and their family.

And then we sang “How Great Thou Art”— in beautiful harmony, in Creole French and English, with rich Haitian voices so resonant with timbre that eludes our voices, with tears streaming down our cheeks. Since “How Great Thou Art” is my favorite hymn, I’m easily inspired to sing it when observing the majesty of His creation, be it the sun dissolving into the Pacific Ocean, the full moon rising behind stately mountains, the snow falling gently as it blankets the earth, the sea turtles gracefully moving through the water. “How Great Thou Art” proclaims the song—obviously!

The paradox wasn’t lost on me at that moment. There were no beautiful sunsets, no majestic mountains, no lush forests, no cascading waterfalls that day in that mostly forgotten slum outside of Port-au-Prince. And yet, the words and meaning of “How Great Thou Art” were never truer, for the pinnacle of God’s creation—His image bearers, His children—were singing lustfully and powerfully, hand in hand, in praise of Him and His glory. It was a sacred moment of profound truth.

We left Haiti the next day changed. Some changes were short term, fortunately, like the effects of the dengue fever that Paul and I contracted while there, but most have been long term. In truth, our hearts were broken by some of the very things that break the heart of God and we experience some degree of healing as we serve these under-served. Over the years following our time in Haiti, all three of our daughters would write about their time in Haiti for the college entrance question “Describe an experience in your life that has profoundly changed you” and all of us have repeatedly returned to third world countries to serve. Our youngest daughter is preparing to be a career medical missionary to a third world country.

The January 12 quake, therefore, shook our hearts very personally. It’s impossible to get my mind around this morning’s statistic, that 150,000 have been officially confirmed dead, with many more still missing and presumed dead. We are so thankful that the children at the Hope for the Children of Haiti (www.hfchaiti.org) were all spared, along with Dr. Jacob and Claudette Bernard, who direct the work Marion Austin started, but the suffering shared by all, especially the survivors, is overwhelming.

It’s been very heartening to see the response of the world to this tragedy of epic proportions. Everyone should respond. In the words of Paul’s dad, Mel Friesen, “you should either send or you should go.” We’re encouraged by the work of some missions organizations known for their integrity, including The Cure, International (www.helpcurenow.org/haitirelief), Compassion International (www.compassion.org), and Hope for the Children of Haiti (HFC Facebook Page, HFC Website)
to name just a few, and would encourage you to get involved and stay involved.


Whether death takes tens of thousands, or one, it’s never easy. We’re reminded that we weren’t designed for death and therefore it’s painful and grievous. That aptly describes our hearts as we received word that Jordan Crouch, 28, died very suddenly and unexpectedly as the first day of the new year came to a close. A blood clot is suspected to have taken Jordan's life, leaving his wife Staci, a very young widow, and his only child, 6-month-old Jackson, fatherless.

Jordan served at Campus by the Sea in 2000 and 2001. As a mentee of another former CBS staffer, Scott Paulson, Jordan and his pal Drew Johnson journeyed from the Pacific Northwest to this little known island in the Pacific to spend two summers serving and being discipled in Christian community. “Jordo” was one of the best—he had a great balance of depth and life. He served well and he played hard. He was loved by staff and family campers alike. He never seemed short of energy, and after putting in long days as a program staffer, he could often be found in the nursery, practicing swing dancing as a charter member of the “CBS Swing Dance Club.” He also traveled to New England to help staff the Grace Chapel Family Camp held at Geneva Point Conference Center on Lake Winnipesaukee.

His mother forwarded me this article on Jordan’s death, as well as a note in which she said, “Jordan loved your family and very much enjoyed his service at Campus by the Sea. He spoke of you often.”

December 18, 1981~January 2, 2010

Jordan Lane Crouch, “Jordo,” arrived on earth December 18, 1981 in Vancouver, Washington. He was the firstborn son of Jeff and Sharon Crouch and older brother of Jared and Jessica.
Jordan was a 1st Dan Black Belt, a 2000 graduate of Skyview High School, and a 2004 graduate of Seattle Pacific University. It was at SPU that Jordan met his best friend, Sean Haney, and his future wife, Staci Goerz.

Jordan worked as a Financial Analyst at Norris, Beggs & Simpson in Seattle from 2004 to 2009. In April 2009, Jordan accepted a position as the Mid-Hi Director for Aurora Church in Shoreline.

Jordan had a heart for the Lord and his love was evident as he spent time with “his” students.

On July 6, 2009, Jordan became the proud father of Jackson Charles Crouch. Never was a son more loved. From the time of Jackson’s birth, Jordan started every day with a special father-son bonding time. He often took Jackson to mid-hi events and Jordan was looking forward to sharing his love of the Lord with his son.

Jordan lived a lifetime and touched more people in his 28 years than most people do in an entire lifetime. Jordan departed this earth in the early morning hours of January 2, 2010 and leaves behind a broken-hearted family: his beloved wife, Staci; and infant son, Jackson; parents, Jeff and Sharon; brother, Jared; sister, Jessica; and grandparents, Carol Hogan, Del and Sherrie Fredrickson and Larry and Mary Crouch; as well as numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, and many life-long friends.

In lieu of flowers, a fund has been set up for Staci and Jackson. The family will also be establishing a scholarship at SPU in Jordan’s name at a future date. Memorial contributions may be sent in care of Sean Haney, 1144 N 198th St #E-101, Shoreline, WA 98133.


Contemplating the Haiti earthquake and Jordan’s death, I was struck by the “unexpected” nature of both. When Jordan turned the calendar page on January 1, 2010, he had no idea that he would not be turning page two. And surely, January 12 began as any other day on the island of Haiti—with no thought that by day’s end, a significant number of Haitians would be entombed by the very buildings which seemingly promised protection from the elements.

These are sobering reminders that nothing is promised beyond the moment we have right now. It’s caused me to do more than a little thinking: am I ready? Of those things in my life that would be left undone, which have eternal significance?

Ponderous, deep, and important thoughts to consider as we make our way, too quickly, through the days belonging to evaporating January.