When we first arrived in Tarakan in the fall of 2001, we quickly became close friends with our MAF teammates, Dave and Linda Ringenberg. Their daughter, Hannah, was Carter's age and they played together often.
A year later, Hannah had some strange symptoms, and a trip to Singapore confirmed everyone's worst fears for sweet Hannah - an inoperable brain tumor. The Ringenbergs left for the U.S. where Hannah received treatment for several months before passing away in August of 2003.
After Hannah's death, Dave and Linda began serving at MAF's headquarters. We have kept in touch over the years, and I have been so blessed and encouraged by how Dave and Linda have trusted God through the worst possible circumstances for a parent.
A month ago, after being away for eight years, Dave and Linda along with their two boys C.J. and Ryan (ages 9 and 3) came back to Tarakan so Dave could help with some of the flying for six months. It has been so fun to have them back, though there's been a bit of a weird role reversal - when we were the newbies here, they were the ones showing us around. Now, it's the other way around, with us reintroducing them to life in Tarakan. Some things haven't changed in their eight year absence (the heat, mosquitoes, etc.), but many things in Tarakan have changed for the better - wonderful things like a really nice swimming pool, higher-speed internet, and fresh butter.
So today, August 2, marks the seven-year anniversary of Hannah's passing. Yesterday the Ringenbergs asked us to help them commemorate together.
We shared memories of Hannah, the kids drew pictures for Hannah - mostly of butterflies. During Hannah's illness, the butterfly became her symbol - to this day, I think of her every time I see one.
At sunset we released balloons and reflected on how Hannah is with the Lord in Heaven, and while we feel sad and miss her, we know we'll see her again one day.
Our lives were forever touched by knowing Hannah. She taught me some very important lessons - how I need to cherish my children and take the time to really enjoy them. I also learned that they are in God's hands - no matter how much I may try to protect them from harm, what happens to them is ultimately up to the Lord. And that is okay, because He is a good, loving God.