I arrived at home close to 8:00 PM on Friday (Oct. 16), Japan time. After a shower, I went to visit Chris’ widow and children. My son drove. We arrived a little after 10:00 PM. I don’t really know what I expected. With jet-lag and the inherent emotion of the situation, I suppose I was myself still too confused to have any clear idea of what the situation might be. I only knew that I had to visit as soon as I could.

At the young age of 48, Chris had been killed in an accident about 36 hours before. Riding his bicycle, he was hit by a truck and died not long afterwards.

Upon arrival I was greeted at the door by Hiroko-san, Chris’ wife. Some of the girls were standing there also. What was most immediately and strikingly apparent was that her face and demeanor were peaceful. Peace in grief. The peace of God which passes all understanding was guarding her heart and the hearts of Chris’ children.

Entering the main room, I saw a number of young people, four or five, from the church sitting with the Witmer girls. They had been talking about Chris and how God had led and blessed the family through him. Again, on every face, peace. Seven girls, ranging from 8 to 21, all gloriously robed in the inheritance their earthy father bequeathed them — simple and sincere faith in Christ their Savior.

Chris was a very intelligent man, highly gifted in language ability, an excellent writer who could write Japanese as well as, and sometimes better than, native Japanese.

Chris Witmer, the proud father of seven sweet daughters and the hard-working husband of a godly wife, left this world a richer place because he raised his children to trust in the absolute goodness of the Triune God. Their peace and hope in the face of so great a loss testifies to the faith of a father who led them and taught them, a father who guided them all to a greater Father, in whom they trust with childlike devotion.

Chris read, thought, and studied seriously. We had long talks about any and every subject. He was conversant in theology, history, business, economics, computer technology, and science. He studied the Bible earnestly and had an ear for intertextual echoes, often asking me questions or making suggestions that I myself had not noticed or thought of. He loved music, especially his daughters’ singing and playing, was well acquainted with Bach, and understood the broad outlines of musical history. When I had to speak about Bach’s theology to a choir that regularly performed his music, Chris loaned me books to help me prepare for the lectures and gave me good advice and guidance on some of the basic issues.

But it would be wrong to give the impression that Chris was simply intelligent, hard-working, and a serious Christian thinker, though he was all that. With all of his study, with all the intensity of his work — long hours at a desk banging away at his computer to meet strict deadlines set without mercy by companies that themselves were under the pressure of a competitive market — with his back pain from the physical stress of his work, with the responsibility of rearing his daughters to follow God, with all of this and more, Chris was always laughing. At church, he played with the children, making ridiculous faces and equally strange voices. In a Sunday-school class situation, for every serious question he posed — and there were many — he offered three puns or maybe four. Few Japanese could compete with his ability to concoct the most absurd and hilarious word associations. It was his linguistic genius combined with his basic and genuine, regenerated and sanctified, utter craziness. In short, Chris was a living, walking, laughing riot. At church, just saying his name brought a smile, if not laughter.

We lost this precious brother because God in His good and sovereign wisdom decided to take him home at a time that is most inconvenient for us. We did not want to lose him and were not ready to let him go. If he could only have lived to see his oldest daughter, Kristen, get her graduate degree in vocal performance. If he had only lived to see all his daughters grow and marry. If he had only stayed with us long enough to help our church grow and increase. But our heavenly Father took him from us. We cannot now comprehend the reasons, but He is wise and good. He knows what we do not. And so, we praise Him for His kindness and trust in His covenant love to Chris, to Chris’ wife and children, to His own church.

Pray with us that Chris’ untimely death might be, by the grace of God, the timely cause of others coming to Christ. Non-Christians that Chris worked with will be coming to the funeral. Some have already contacted me. Chris was loved by those he worked with and in a land which is always talking about the problem of people living too long and the burden of the care of the elderly, his death was a rude awaking about the frailty of life, the fact that we are all but one step from eternity. Pray with us that this might shock and jolt men and women into faith, that the testimony Chris leaves behind would be used of God to bring life out of his death, to the glory of Christ.