The title of this post were the words of the sister of the late Laura Van Ryn who was one of five Taylor University students tragically killed in an accident back in March, 2006. The Van Ryn, and Cerak families told their stories on NBC Dateline and also have book about this case–Mistaken Identity. What a wonderful story of God’s people setting straight a terrible mistake and the pain that one goes through trying to sort the circumstances in order to arrive at the truth.
It seems this mistake occured on the side of the road after the accident and was further exacerbated by the trustworthiness of both families. This speaks more of the families faith than it does to their naivety. These families trusted the people that told them of these tragedies. In listening to the stories one can grasp how these various situations kept building until it was discovered by one that questioned enough to cause doubt. While the Van Ryn family is to be commended because they looked after and treated as one of their own someone they had never met before. They also should be commended for their compassion and their exuberance to do, as Lisa Van Ryn said, “the right thing”.
For the purpose of this post I want to focus on these two families, and in Part II I will make an application using this example. I want to call attention to a couple of Christian families that faithfully and fervently serve our Lord. These two families were united by something that was beyond anyone’s comprehension. They also handled the entire situation with Grace and compassion. Lisa Van Ryn asked the lady she thought to be her sister Laura, to say her name. This young lady said “Whitney”. She then asked her to say her parent’s names. Whitney responded “Newell and Colleen”, which there was no way that Laura would know that. However, Lisa responded by encouraging her and telling her she was doing well. She did not make an issue out of it with Whitney because she did not want Whitney to be upset any further. Notice the exchange during the Dateline story;
Matt Lauer: When I read that, Lisa, it knocked the wind out of me. But you know what else I thought? What a fabulous response you had. What a moment of generosity that was to Whitney. You didn’t get up and run screaming down the hall and create more trauma for her.
Lisa Van Ryn: Well, I loved her. We loved her.
Lisa Van Ryn: We—
Don Van Ryn: And still do.
Lisa Van Ryn: Yeah. I mean why would I do that to her? She had become a dear friend and basically a sister.
Susie Van Ryn: She was a sister.
Lisa Van Ryn: Yeah.
Notice Susie Van Ryn’s statement. “She was a sister.” She is speaking of the relationship that born again believers enjoy in Christ. A sister, that is what she was to them. That was not some foreign person that we could abandon in a time of need. She was a sister. What an act of grace and humility.
The story then moves to the hurt and pain that it took to right the wrong. What a heart wrenching job it must have been to actually dig up a daughter someone else buried. While the Cerak family moved from horror to hope to hallelujah to hope, the Van Ryn family moved from hope to hallelujah to horror to hope. These families have lived an unimaginable tragedy and I pray for God’s grace in their lives as they move forward. I believe the book will be a great closure for both families as they move forward with their lives. But, oh, what a powerful testimony of faithfulness to God and His sovereignty.
As Gail and I watched this story I had a thought of the similarity for another situation. That thought will be shared later. Right now, I just ask that we all take time with our Lord and lift up these two families.
Oh, I am also going to purchase the book.