In God’s Big Picture
The evening of October 15, 2002, two police officers knocked on Gilbert & Laura Bekkatla’s door. The officers’ initial questions were puzzling. They asked the whereabouts of their daughter, Christina, who happened to be right there with them.
Laura & Gilbert Bekkatla: the Lord used Gilbert Jr. in his parents’ lives
Things soon became shockingly clearer. There had been a fatal collision earlier that day west of Meadow Lake (SK), with one vehicle burned. Gilbert Jr. had left Prince Albert that morning in his sister’s car on his way to start a new job in Yellowknife, NWT.
Gilbert tells of the tearful phone calls to their son, Ian, in Saskatoon and daughter, Patricia, across the city, with the devastating news. Laura soon after got on their home computer, sending emails to their supporters, telling of the accident and asking for prayer. A sleepless night followed. Still in disbelief in the morning, Gilbert tried to call his son’s cell phone. “I still hoped that maybe someone had stolen his car and that’s who was in the accident.”
Laura seemed strong, remembers Gilbert, and was able to prepare meals as their family gathered. Christina, too, was strong for her sister. “I was not,” he says. “Earlier I might have thought I was strong, but I was not prepared for losing my oldest son.”
Their local church and Mission coworkers rallied to comfort the Bekkatlas. NCEMer Tim Gradin planned a gathering that filled their church. Many friends and relatives stood up and shared memories of Gilbert Jr., from various stages of his life.
Gilbert Jr. had lived most of his earlier childhood in Buffalo Narrows (SK), then moved to Lac La Biche (AB) for three years, where his parents attended Key-Way-Tin Bible Institute. Gilbert & Laura then joined NCEM in 1988 and moved their family to Tadoule Lake (MB), with Gilbert Jr. finishing school at Caronport (SK) High. He then attended Nipawin Bible Institute, followed by training and employment in nature resource management.
The story that impressed the most in the days following his passing was how the Lord used Gilbert Jr. in his parents’ lives. Gilbert & Laura told how their son, at age four, went through a life-threatening bout with spinal meningitis. “That’s what it took for me to come to Christ,” says Gilbert. “Alcohol had dominated my life. Until then I’d lived with brokenness, loneliness and lostness. That’s also when Laura rededicated her life to the Lord.”
Gilbert & Laura thank the Lord for healing their son and giving him back to them for 25 more years.
Until after the funeral, Gilbert says he felt emotionally numb, “just going through the motions.” Then came a period of deep questioning and a feeling of helplessness. “I walked by myself in the middle of the night crying my heart out to God,” he recalls. “I didn’t want to cry in front of my wife and children. I didn’t want my grief to get in the way of helping them to heal.”
He remembers Romans 8:28 being quoted (“in all things God works for the good”) by people with good intentions, but that verse didn’t bring any comfort. In fact, the opposite. “At the time I was thinking, what could be worse than losing a son?”
The Bekkatlas appreciated all the phone calls they received from near and far. “When we were down, somebody would give us a call asking how we were doing. Or we’d get an email or card that encouraged us.” That’s what kept them going, they say, but something else has made a difference.
“It was our ministry,” Gilbert explains. “I didn’t take a break. Right after the funeral we went on with our missionary work. We kept visiting people in Prince Albert and up north. I kept visiting men in the jails. Even now, the more I see people in the state they’re in – their lostness without Christ – then I forget about myself and my problems.”
“We’ve been through darkness,” says Gilbert, “but we still need to help those less fortunate, those who don’t have the Gospel.”
There is still grief and questioning. Romans 8:28, though, has taken on new and deeper meaning. As Gilbert explains, “That verse is not just for this world, but also for the world to come. That’s how I now understand it. In God’s big picture, it will all work together for good.”