November 14, 2012

Loving Kirsten

A few months ago I watched two well-dressed parents walk into a large auditorium for a graduation service, joining hundreds of other parents. Hollis and Karen Wolcott had traveled from Virginia to Tennessee to watch their daughter Kirsten’s graduating class celebrate their big day. The only difference was that Kirsten herself wouldn’t be there.

Three years ago, in November 2009, 20-year-old student missionary Kirsten Wolcott lost her life on the Micronesian island of Yap. While jogging, Kirsten was attacked and murdered—shocking and devastating her fellow student missionaries, her second-grade students, the Yapese people, and her friends and family back home.

.What can compare to losing a child: the loss that no parent prepares for—or is supposed to experience? The Wolcotts had planned to fly to Yap to celebrate Christmas with Kirsten. Instead they found themselves planning her memorial service.

2012 1532 page30Below is the letter Hollis read at his daughter’s funeral. Read it alone or together with others. Let it cleanse your heart, lift your sights, and draw you closer to one another as we await the reunion of Kirsten and her family—of all those who love the Lord.

“My precious Kirsten,

“Thank you for all the wonderful years you gave me the opportunity to be your father. What a joy and wonder it was to watch you grow and mature. I was always your favorite love until another Man stole your heart. But I was overjoyed at that also, because He was tall and gentle, and had the kindest eyes, and His name was Jesus. You spent lots of time each day reading His love letters and talking with Him and writing letters back. Your relationship grew and grew and it was wonderful to watch. . . .

“I thank you for the walks we took together through our woods. They are beautiful today with the sun shining on the beautiful golden autumn leaves. You can see the river clearly from the overlook point, and it is beautiful. I remember that is where you always wanted me to build your house when you got married. I will build that house in my imagination for you, and you will live there, and I will visit you and your husband often. It will be only a temporary home, because the real home you wanted to build is the one in heaven that our Lord promised you could build. I know you wanted to build the rooms with vines that had flowers, since you loved flowers so much. . . .

“I remember the day you and I stopped at a house with a handwritten sign that said “Puppies—free to a good home” and picked out that little ball of whimpering fur. I remember how you held her so carefully in your lap all the way home. I remember calling your mom and telling her we had a new family member. Yesterday when each loving guest came to our home, Sandy barked as usual. She seemed to know something was wrong, because every time I petted her she whined and softly cried. I will take wonderful care of Sandy for you, I promise.

“Thank you for giving your mother and me 20 wonderful years. Most know you by Kirsten, but you will always be my little “Peeper”—my special name for you. To others of your friends you were “Keke.” I do not know what special name Jesus has for you, but I do know He has one, and I look forward to that day when I will find out what it is. . . .

“Oh, Peeper, what a wonderful meeting that will be. The stories everyone will tell will be simply wonderful. You will play your golden harp for special music, and again I will be so proud of you. Jesus will thank you for your special music and call you by your special name. Then He will stand and spread His arms in blessing to us all, and we will see the nail scars. But He will read our minds and assure us that the pain was nothing compared to the friends before Him. He will assure us all that we will be with Him and the Father and the Holy Spirit forever, where there is no more pain or sorrow or crying. So, Peeper, goodbye for now till I see you again very soon.

“With all my love,


Andy Nash is a professor at Southern Adventist University. One of his students, Rainey Park, wrote Love, Kirsten: The True Story of the Student Missionary Who Gave Her All. This article was published November 15, 2012.