Sunday, March 19, 2006

Heaven's Huge Heart

Heaven just got a little, no make that a lot, more love. My dear friend Dave Milani finished the race last night. I received a call from a former student and forever brother, Seth Friebertshauser at 2:32am (CST) that Dave had suffered a massive stroke earlier in the evening and within hours. I have no words to describe the void this man will leave.

At over 6'8" tall, Dave towered most everyone and was one of the few guys whom I looked up to physically. If I had been taller than him, I still would have looked up to him spiritually. Dave and his sweet wife, Silvia were perhaps our best volunteers and closest friends during our time in California. While you could say that I discipled Dave in youth ministry, the real truth of the matter is that Dave taught me more about life than I taught him. This guy loved people. He was the definition of the word servant. And his devotion to his family was stronger than his grip (which was vice-like).

Kim had just written the Milanis a letter a week or so ago and Silvia had quickly responded with a card that we received this Thursday. Kim and told her how much we valued their friendship and how proud we were of their leadership of Uturn (the youth ministry at Redwood Church). Within minutes of hearing the shocking news, Kim called Silvia and expected to leave word on her voicemail that we were so sad and were praying without ceasing for her and Anthony. Silvia answered and Kim was able to cry with her for a while. Listening to them cry and contemplating the terrible reality that I won't get to see Dave this side of heaven was like a nightmare. I just kept hoping I would wake up and it would all be a bad dream. It wasn't. Dave's gone.

While I don't have time to share all that my heart is feeling about my good friend crossing into eternity, I do want to beg your prayers for Dave's family. Besides his wife, Dave's sole son, Anthony, witnessed his collapse and subsequent death and this will be nothing short of hell on earth for this junior high boy to deal with through out his life. Dave had watched his dad die of a heart attack when he was a teen and now history has cruelly dealt Anthony that hand.

I don't know why bad things happen to amazingly good people like the Milanis.

I do know that Dave and his huge heart are in home in heaven.

He is with his dad and with his Father.

And I can't wait to see him again.

Please pray for Silvia and Anthony.


Josh Bubniak said...

That hurts my heart to read. Even when I know that we'll see them all again, it's still a bit hard.

Lauren said...

The Milanis will be in my prayers. This truly is tragic. How awful to have a father's middle-school aged son witness his death. I will pray hard for this family. Thank you, Joel, for being an expression and extension of Christ's love to them in this hard season.

Lauren Cunningham

Anonymous said...

Dear Joel,
I can directly relate to the loitering tears you mentioned. I wanted to commend you for your truly..heartfelt words you spoke at his funeral. The Holy Spirit spoke through you.
I also wanted to tell you something powerful, that perhaps you did not get a chance to see, since you were in the front. Unfortunately I had to leave before the service was over, and I walked through the lobby. It was packed, not full. PACKED. As in, it was nearly impossible for me to get through because there was nowhere for people to move. I'm talking a hundred people.
Then, I got to the steps of the church, and more stood outside. Then as I was leaving the driveway, more people were at the side entrances.
These people could not see. They could not even HEAR anything of the service. They were standing, in silence, for hours, mourning our friend.
This may be the most powerful thing I have ever seen.
And since you and Kim love him so much, I wanted to share that powerful image with you.

Do you think the saints all crowded like that to see Dave enter Heaven? I imagine Noah and Joseph and Samson (who do you think was bigger-Dave or Samson??)and Dave's dad all squishing in to see him show up in Heaven. And unlike Thursday night, nobody was crying. I bet they were cheering.

much love,
Shannon Linderman