'She went home uninvited but received a warm welcome'
We had almost completed our one
month lecture tour of England and over 150 dear souls stood
publicly to confess their receiving of Jesus Christ as their
Saviour and Lord.
On Sunday morning, September 27,
1998, we received the news from New Zealand that our youngest
daughter, Debbie, was dead. We flew home immediately and arrived
in Auckland at 6am and went on to arrive in Blenheim at 9.30am on
Tuesday, September 29.
We were met by the rest of our
family and that morning visited the funeral parlour to view
Debbie’s body. We then put the casket on the back of our
truck and took her home with us to remain on view until Friday,
the day of the burial.
Debbie’s death has shocked
many people all over the world and so, as a family, we have
decided to provide some background information to help people
understand what happened.
When she was three years old she
was bitten by mosquitoes in the islands of Samoa while we were
there on a lecture tour. From this, although we did not get a
diagnosis for another 17 years or so, she contracted a terrible
sickness called filiariasis.
The mosquito infects the host with
larvae which eventually blocks the lymph glands. She would scream
with pain as the glands blocked and large sacs of lymph fluid
After the age of 17, our dear
daughter had a room permanently on call at the local hospital in
Blenheim where the doctors would operate to remove the infected
fluid and then inject her with morphine and other painkillers.
Still she would cry out in agony.
We fasted, we prayed, we took her
to clinics worldwide looking for an answer and finally, with the
aid of tropical disease units and doctors who had practised
overseas, we found that she had filiariasis. Because of this
diagnosis, we could then give her the strong drugs that killed
off three generations of worms in three stages of treatment.
Sadly, because of the time it had
taken for diagnosis, her lymph system never fully recovered and
she would still have a cycle of very similar manifestations to
the original disease.
Richard Boyce, a fine young
Christian man from Blenheim, fell in love with Debbie and they
were married. She had to discharge herself from hospital for her
wedding and was so full of painkillers that I almost had to carry
her down the aisle and later she remembered nothing of the
She became pregnant and her doctor
did not know how her body was going to react but the Lord was
gracious and ever since the day she delivered young Edward, she
has never been sick from filiariasis again.
She was then able to carry on life
as a wife and mother with her husband, and adopted son Rylie and
little Teddie. We did not know then that she was struggling with
post-natal depression, as even she didn’t know what the
problem was – she just thought she was tired and struggling
to recover from birth.
Tragedy struck at Christmas time.
We, as a family, headed down the Marlborough Sounds for a holiday
on a large fishing boat. The day after their wedding anniversary,
Richard and three other boys went diving for crayfish. Four went
down but only three came up again.
As her husband’s spirit left
his body 70 feet down, Debbie was dancing on the deck of the boat
and singing “The Power of Your Love”.
Nearly three years later, she had
recovered and was laughing once again when she was overtaken by a
malady which, we now know, affects tens of thousands around the
world today – depression.
We prayed and fasted again and she
went on medication and after eight or so months, appeared to have
come out of it. Her recovery was aided by another lovely young
man, a farmer from the nearby town of Rai Valley. He would pick
her up and take her out on the farm in the fresh air and her
interest in life slowly came back. She and Ian were married
shortly afterwards and friends and family came from all over to
celebrate the fact that she would not be alone anymore. However,
part way through their honeymoon, depression struck again and the
holiday had to be cut short.
She became steadily worse and when
we were in Zambia a telephone call advised us that she had been
committed to a psychiatric hospital in Nelson.
Ian sat nearby and the rest of the
family regularly drove the two hours backwards and forwards to
visit her. After nearly a month in the hospital, she came home
again but would continue to tap her head and say, “My head,
All through her battle with
depression, she spent a lot of time reading the Bible, trying to
find comfort and healing in its pages.
On Sunday morning, September 28,
1998, she attended church with Ian and Teddy and after Ian had
left to pick young Teddy up from playing with his cousins, she
put an end to her life in a nearby woodshed.
At her feet were notes for all of
us, cards from those who loved her, a picture that Teddy had made
for her and her blue Bible. There were passages clearly marked
showing the great aims she had for her life.
As we boarded the plane at
Heathrow, I said to May, “Wait and judge nothing before the
time” and as it turned out, it was good advise.
Our son Andy, ably took the
funeral service, with our eldest daughter, Becky, giving the
eulogy. Andy began this way: “Many of you will have
theological problems with what has taken place. I ask you to just
let God be God and us to continue on being us and let the Lord
work it out.”
As for us, we as a family have
each made our personal decision for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Debbie’s decision card was glued in the front page of her
Bible and we as a family believe the Scripture which tells us,
“For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of
works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9.
Some readers will know that I am
Debbie’s father and full-time lecturer on biblical
subjects. Where do I stand on the question of suicide for a
Over the years I have taken note
of powerful preachers allowing their own personalities to
dominate their belief, which in many cases prove to be a humbling
experience when one of their own family falls or gets into
Although the Bible does not state
what happens to the souls of suicide victims, it pays to be very
careful before condemning all to the fires of Hell. When an event
like this hits one’s family, it is time for quiet
reflection on the nature of our God.
As Andrew said so aptly in his
opening remarks, “If performance was the criteria for
getting us into Heaven, then the majority of Christians would
fare rather badly. ‘For by grace are ye
In all this introspection and
discussion about our Father’s nature, it is obviously
important to dwell on His outstanding qualities of grace, mercy
On September 24 I did the
unthinkable. I was so impressed by a verse in the Daily
Light reading that I underlined it. I have never done this
before – I underline my Bible but not the Daily
‘Therefore, will the Lord
wait that He may be gracious unto you” Isaiah 30:18.
But listen, I did the same thing
again on September 26, the day before Debbie’s death.
“Mercy rejoiceth against
judgement” James 2:13.
I can boldly say that the Lord
himself was preparing us.
What Debbie did was obviously
wrong. It was a sin – but wasn’t that why Jesus died?
To save sinners?
Some readers will at this point
get angry and say, “He’s gone soft because it is his
A lovely quote from Billy
Graham’s wife, Ruth was a great help. “She went home
uninvited but received a warm welcome.”
Where did I, as a gospel preacher,
stand in the midst of all this confusion? How could I be sure of
where our daughter had gone?
We lost Debbie about two years
before her death. The lovely girl that we knew and loved seemed
to leave us and in her place was this other Debbie that would
listen to our declarations of love and pride in her abilities but
who could not accept them.
She would respond,
“I’m too tired. My head, my head.”
And then in October the Lord sent
two beautiful friends to us, Andy and Leone Forsgren, all the way
from American Samoa.
They sat with us in our lounge at
Pelorus Bridge. The fire was dying down as midnight came and
went. Andy spoke so simply and clearly and all our doubts
disappeared once and for all.
“The reason we do not
baptise babies is because they do not understand. As Jesus hung
on the cross, didn’t he pray ‘Father forgive them for
they know not what they do’? (Luke 23:34). I know that the
Father always answers Jesus’ prayers.”
Because of this, we release Debbie
to join the family in Heaven while we continue on down here with
the rest of the earthly family. Please don’t become bitter
over this – just keep thanking the Lord for His marvellous