Ed.’s Note: The thoughts and prayers of the Ichthus go out to Andy Sun and his family. He was a beloved member of our community as a business team member in Spring 2013. — S.G.M.
Last week, a dear brother in Christ and friend of mine fell from a building and passed away. Last week, I experienced grief in a newly profound and awful way, and I was in the midst of more pain and anguish than I had been in a long, long while. Last week, I saw tears in the eyes of people I love more than ever before. But last week was also probably my best week at Harvard thus far.
Two Sundays ago, I received a call from a friend in the afternoon asking if I had heard “about Andy”. When I asked what about, he replied, “okay — that means you haven’t heard”. He then told me what had happened to my friend, and within an hour, we were on our way to the hospital with some other guys. I was stunned, and shocked — no one saw this coming; no one thought it was that bad. The rest of the day was a whirlwind of emotions and prayer, and the next day, we learned that he had passed away. I struggled with the realization that I wouldn’t see him around Harvard anymore, and that his life had ended just like that. I attended some classes, but content that usually excited me seemed frivolous and meaningless at best, in the wake of the reality of my friend’s death. There was an unbelievable amount of pain and confusion all around as well, and people struggled to come to terms with grief, loss, guilt, and other things from the past that this incident brought to the fore. Harvard College Faith and Action (HCFA), the community that Andy and I and many others are part of, was suddenly thrown into the depths of sorrow like never before.
However, out of this sorrow arose an incredible force of good, and God. In my brothers and sisters, I saw the beauty of Christian community, and of Christ, at its finest. Friends of mine (who were usually so busy with school and activities that scheduling meetings was always hit-or-miss) took entire days out to be with each other, to sleep over in the rooms of friends they knew were grieving painfully to make sure that they were okay, to pray with each other, and to check on each other. Some people began taking note of people they saw in the community who seemed to be hit especially hard, making lists to continually keep them in prayer. Friends whom I did not usually have personal conversations with suddenly began to open up, and we began to share our feelings and lives freely and honestly and meaningfully. People were making sacrifices of their time and energy for each other without a second thought, and all the while, there was so much fervent and unceasing prayer around me. Our community in HCFA was enveloped in a web of prayer.
Outside of HCFA, besides the many messages from friends and administrators in the college sending their condolences and encouragement, I received (literally) dozens of emails from the leaders of many other Christian fellowships both within and without Harvard — even some of whom we did not yet have close relationships with — letting me know that they were praying fervently for Andy’s family and for our community, and that they were gathering together to lift us up to the Lord for strength and hope. Friends in Christian fellowships from the area traveled to Harvard to be at the vigil and memorial service, to pray with us, fast with us, and to be with us, asking if they could help in anything from listening to buying groceries for us. We were inundated with care and love and prayer like I never expected.
And majestically, out of all of this prayer and seeking the Lord arose a taste of heaven that was sweeter than anything I had known before. It is one thing to encounter God through personal experience, worship and prayer; it is something else entirely to encounter Him in the full force of His Church. A philosophy professor at Harvard once said, “if Christians really understood and took the resurrection of Jesus seriously, everything would be different” — indeed, especially in light of Andy’s death, everything was different. Sorrow was quickly replaced by hopeful expectancy, as we knew that we would see Andy again one day in new life, in a place without pain or death. Out of the sorrow that pervaded our community, unity and peace and joy in the Spirit flourished more quickly and powerfully than we could have ever imagined. I saw strongholds of despair quickly shattered and replaced with a firm refuge in peace, and true, almost incongruous, joy took hold of my heart, and the hearts of those around me. God had somehow taken a horrible and tragic situation and, in a way that only He knows how, transformed it into a beautiful and magnificent thing.
I remember the first time I saw cells undergoing mitosis under a microscope in high school — as I observed the metaphase plate and saw the sister chromatids actually being pulled apart by the spindle microtubules, I was struck in awe. Sure, I had learned about mitosis years ago, and I could accurately describe, in molecular detail, what each step of the process entails. But seeing it in full and vivid life was something else entirely. I marveled at how real science actually was; it was the glorious reward to everything that I had hitherto just taken by faith from my teachers and science textbooks.
Christians often hear statements about the Church that can sometimes sound awfully like platitudes. We hear and read that the church is the body of Christ, that Christians are the vessels through which God moves in the world; often, we quote Jesus’ teaching, “where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Mt 18:20) in meetings and assemblies without actually appreciating what it means. But this past week, I truly experienced what this meant, in a little foretaste of its heavenly glory. I wish that this didn’t happen, that Andy was still here, and that we would not have had to come together in this way. But this was his legacy in Christ. Andy was a beautiful presence in our community while he was here, and as he left us, by the grace of our Lord, he left only radical beauty in his wake.