Turn your Eyes upon Jesus

June 14, 2017 at 6:00 AM

Dr. Peter and Eleanor Boelens share a laugh at their cottage in Three Rivers, Mich., on June 6. Peter passed away just three days later.

Turn your Eyes upon Jesus

By Dan Breen

It’s hard to imagine it was just six days ago I was visiting Dr. Peter Boelens in his Fishers Lake cottage in Three Rivers, Mich.

Little did I know that three days later (Friday, June 9), Dr. Boelens would be in his new home — a forever, heavenly home.

About six weeks ago I made some initial plans to visit Peter, 83, and his wife, Eleanor, in Michigan. I had not met the first executive director nor the first “first lady” of the Luke Society in my two and a half years since becoming communications director.

Peter’s declining physical health was no secret. Before last May, he would’ve described himself as a spry man in his early 80s. But that all changed about this time last year when he started experiencing some dizziness and vision problems while attending a family graduation in Massachusetts.

He was eventually diagnosed with an uncommon form of prostate cancer.

Treatments were effective in controlling his symptoms in the early stages. He continued his work at Shalom Prayer Ministries in Vicksburg, Miss., while also spending significant time on a new study surrounding prayer changes in pregnant women.

But Peter’s health continued to decline. He told me in the last two months his cancer had become very aggressive. His mind was still strong, but his body had grown very weak. Breathing had become increasingly difficult. His appetite had declined to the point where he couldn’t even finish the third of a doughnut Eleanor had cut and placed in front of him. He told me he had lost more than 30 pounds. Getting from one place to the next — even short distances — was next to impossible.

Peter was keenly aware the end of his earthly journey was coming — though I doubt even he thought it would be just three days later. His goal was to make it to his daughter’s wedding in New Hampshire in September.

The Lord had different plans.

Peter shared with me that God had put three callings on his heart in his last days: “Love me; stay close to me; and continue to be a witness for me.”

He did all three.

Though I didn’t openly express this to them, my goal for being there was to glean as much Luke Society history as I could. Realistically, I had to do it before it was too late. I have a hunch Peter knew why I was there. And I think he appreciated it.

The three hours I spent with the Boelenses went by in the blink of an eye. We spent our time bouncing from topic to topic, covering everything from how he and Eleanor had met (he was her tennis instructor); to their five and a half years as missionaries in South Korea; the somewhat rocky transition in the early years of the Luke Society; the expansion of the ministry; and the Shalom Prayer Ministry which had been his passion since retiring as Luke Society executive director in 1999.

And of course, he shared what would end up being his final words to Luke Society supporters. (But You’ll have to wait until the July issue of the Luke Society News to read those.)

At the end of our time together, I asked Peter and Eleanor if they might be willing to share some words for me to record in video form. They agreed, and as they did, Eleanor shared a unique tradition she and Peter had done every morning for devotions. They sang hymns together — acapella only. Some of their favorites were: “He Giveth More Grace,” “God will Take Care of You,” and “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.”

That’s when Peter chimed in, “so shall we sing them the song?”

And that’s what they did. No inhibitions — just two earthly lovers and heavenly lovers breaking out in song.

Today, you’re the final audience for the final performance of the Boelenses Family Duo. One last musical testimony from a man whose calling to his final day was to “continue to be a witness for Me.”

He did that.

And now he’s turned his eyes upon Jesus.


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