It has been a heartbreaking weekend. Ruth and I spent the week working from our home in Grants Pass. We were traveling back to Newberg on Saturday so that we could be home for Father’s Day. Driving through the mountains near Canyonville a voicemail popped up on my phone. It was from Brad Lau and simply said, “Please call me.” Brad and I have worked together for a long time, and I immediately knew that something was seriously wrong. We quickly found a place to stop and called. It was then that we learned of the tragic death of our friend and colleague, Dr. Javier Garcia.
Although it is two days later, we still know very little about his death other than he was surfing on the Oregon Coast with friends and suffered an accident that led to his death. Many of us are in shock. We have lost a friend and unexpectedly so. For those in the community who did not know him, I have asked one of his dear friends to write a brief reflection that might provide some insight into his life.
A Reflection on Javier Garcia
By Brian Doak
Javier Garcia had a face that radiated light. His smile could turn your day around. His laughter, listening ear, and friendship changed my life – and those of us who loved him will be spending the rest of our lives wondering why this happened. Lord, have mercy.
Javier was an adventurer. He lived in at least six or seven countries, spoke four languages, and traveled broadly across North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa in his 34 years on earth. Earlier this June, he spent a week at a surfing camp in Costa Rica, where he honed his skills in the ocean doing what he loved. He was a strong swimmer and an experienced surfer. Whether on land or sea or mountain, Javier was up for almost anything. On hikes from the Oregon coastal range to the Columbia River Gorge to Mount St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and the Three Sisters Wilderness, Javier trekked through snow and ice and rock. He told stories, listened, laughed. He agonized about serious issues, and cared deeply for his students and their work. His humor was simply wild, ranging from goofy puns – he named his Toyota RAV4 “Ravier Carcia” – to sophisticated sarcasm, always with a smile, always with a desire for connection and exuding warmth. Students constantly sought him out for companionship.
Javier’s theological research specialized in the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who resisted the Nazis during World War II and was martyred in a concentration camp at the age of 39. His PhD dissertation from Cambridge was published as a book, Recovering the Ecumenical Bonhoeffer, and won praise in reviews from his colleagues in the field of Bonhoeffer studies. As a Christian and brother in faith, Javier offered grace, prayer, and love to those around him.
Only four months ago, he delivered a rich, beautiful lecture on the problem of Christian suffering during the pandemic. He drew upon the words of Psalm 22, the famous lament poem that begins with desolation – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – but ends in the proclamation that future generations “shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that [God] has done it.”
Here is the final paragraph of that lecture; it was almost as if Javier were encouraging us in advance of this moment we now must bear, without him:
Behold, this is the Christ who has entered our pandemic, who is infected with the virus, who bears within himself the loneliness of quarantine, the loss of physical touch, the yearning of the elderly and the poor, the endless waiting for a cure. And yet, in that suffering, he is our only hope, God with us. When this is all over – not only the pandemic, but all of our suffering, not only our personal laments but the hardship of the whole world throughout history – we will truly say with the psalmist of our Lord Jesus Christ: “He has done it.”
Jesus Mourns with Us
As if one tragedy was not enough, we also learned over the weekend that the son of Nadine Kincaid, one of our dear former employees, was killed in a motorcycle accident. She shared about Kyle: “We know that he is in heaven, as Jesus was indeed his Lord and Savior. Please pray for his wife Kristin and their 5-year-old son Colton and 11-day-old son Drake as we process this tremendous loss.” It certainly makes us want to ask the Lord why such suffering must exist in our world.
This is a week of mourning, and we can be assured that Jesus mourns with us. In these tragic moments I am often reminded of C.S. Lewis’ great sermon delivered during the suffering of World War II he entitled the “Weight of Glory.” In one section he ended his theme this way:
“At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of the morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so.”
As followers of Christ, we know that this world is only a temporary place. We are being prepared and are actually made for another. While it does not make our suffering less, it should make our longing more. We are destined to be with Christ. Dr. Garcia and Kyle Kincaid have joined Jesus and the throngs of those who followed him. We must mourn, but not without hope of what is to come.
In the midst of suffering we pray, “Come Lord Jesus.”
Services for Javier Garcia
Tuesday, June 22, 7 p.m.
Bauman Auditorium, George Fox
Wednesday, June 23, 1 p.m.
Employees are encouraged to attend. Campus offices will be closed during the service.
The university pastors will be available throughout the summer for confidential pastoral support and prayer for employees and students (Location: Barclay House, firstname.lastname@example.org and 503-554-2320).
Three years ago, Dr. Garcia shared his journey to becoming a “teacher-dad.”