|From Death to Life|
A True Story About: Laura Costa
By Reid Callaway
July 17, 1996
Dear John and Sandy,
Grace to you. Your family has been in our prayers. Pray for us as we will continue to pray for you and others in the Body of Christ. I wrote this letter to about ten inmates that I write in prison. I wrote it as an encouragement and a Praise to Jesus. I know that every single fact may not be correct as written but my intentions were to Praise Jesus and to be as correct as my memory serves.
To God be the Glory !
From Death to Life
A True Story About: Laura Costa
Friday - June 28, 1996
I sat working in my office and at 11:00AM Friday, the phone rang. I thought it must be another customer calling to buy some bedspreads, sheets or one of the many other home textile products I offered. As an independent manufacturersí representative I had been busy that day and my mind was on my work. I picked up the phone and it was my youngest brother Sandy calling to tell me the bad news. Our good friends John and Sandy Costaís 15 year old daughter Laura had died suddenly. I was listening in shock and unbelief.
How in the world could this have happen to John and Sandy Costaís beautiful little daughter? John Costa serves as a deacon in our church and also owns a local dry cleaning business. He cleans my suits and shirts. Sandy helps John while raising three children, Anthony, Laura and Philip. They love the Lord and have served as faithful witnesses for Christ for many years and all of their kids are born again Christians. I met John through my brother Sandy about five years ago at a Full Gospel Businessmenís Advance in Rock Eagle, GA. I later joined the church where he and my brother worship. John was out of town on business when all of this started with Laura.
Laura was so young(15) and beautiful. Laura had been in the hospital for about a week with colitis and then she was released. The next day, John, thinking she was now fine, had to leave town on a business trip to Louisiana. This left Sandy, Laura and Philip in the house alone. Anthony the oldest son was in south Georgia. That night Laura slept with her mother. Sandy, her mother, woke up in the middle of the night and reached to turn on the light and felt that Laura was cold. Turning on the light to her shock Laura was blue and not breathing. Sandy called 911 and started CPR on Laura. By the time the EMTís arrive, Sandy had revived* her daughter. Laura sat up and told her mother how very much she loved her and that Jesus had healed her. Laura then said, she had seen Jesus holding out His hands for her . She turned to her little brother and told him how much she loved him too. The EMTís arrived and checked Laura out and found that all of her vital signs were fine. Giving Sandy the option of taking Laura back to the hospital or staying home, Sandy would keep Laura home because she said Jesus had healed her. The EMTís then left. Sandy then gets on the phone and calls Big John Perkins, the families prayer warrior. Sandy tells Big John what has happened and asks him to pray because she feels that demonic forces are around the house. They begin to pray while Laura and Philip had begun singing praise songs to Jesus. Suddenly Philip interrupts his mothers call and says that Laura has fallen out again. Sandy tells Big John to call 911 and get the EMTís back out there and she is returns to do CPR on Laura, again. Sandyís efforts are in vain and Laura returns to the open arms of her Savior. Laura is dead now and the arriving EMTís can not get her back, although they tried.
Poor John, Lauraís Dad, had to ride home on a flight from Louisiana with no one to comfort him. My brother Sandy and two other close friends of John met him at the airport in Atlanta. They wept and mourned the 70 miles back to Watkinsville, GA and Johnís house. Sandy canít even get out of the bed she is suffering so. My brother's call was to ask for prayer for Sandy and the family. We prayed there on the phone. Now my whole day has changed. What sorrow that mother, father and brothers must be feeling. The shock of it all was still settling in on me and I had to answer incoming business calls as well.
I finished my day at the office and was trying to, some how, run from the pain I knew was at the Costa home. The kids had left with my wife Kathy to go swimming and I was alone for the first time that day. Then the pain and sorrow that John and Sandy Costa must be feeling hit me as I went to my knees to pray for them again. The tears flowed as I wept loudly before the Lord. The Lord spoke to me and said to go and weep with John and Sandy as Jesus wept (John 11:35 NIV) with Mary and Martha in their loss. I dressed and went at once.
I arrived at Johnís house and hugged his neck and wept with him. That is all I could do. You could tell he had suffered much and I know Satan was making him feel guilty about being away from home. Sandy, Lauraís mother, I was told by my brother Sandy, was in bed and still unable to get up. The pain and sorrow in that place was almost more than I could bear. Yes, they knew Laura was saved with the Lord but that did not lessen the pain and sorrow of the loss. Laura would never go to collage, marry or have children. The look on her brothers faces were blank. They must have been thinking, "this must be a dream-wonít someone please wake me up." But this was the real world. My heart was broken for Lauraís mother. I saw her for a few minutes just before I left that night. All I could do was cry and hug her neck.
Patty and Frances, my brothers children, were very close to their children and were weeping bitterly. My brothers wife Becky was weeping and heart broken at the pain suffered by Lauraís mother. Patty and Frances were weeping at their own mothersí tears for her friend. They wept not knowing how to help in their mothersí pain. Sandyís parents, Lauraís grandparents, were weeping bitterly because their daughter was hurting so. My dear Grandmother Callaway couldnít hardly wait to get to heaven to see her son that was killed in World War II. She always said that Godís plan was for the old to die before the young. She really never got over the loss of her son.
By Friday afternoon the food, drinks and help with everything from housekeeping to laundry were being poured out from many different directions. Late Friday afternoon, John took some of the men on a tour of where he would bury Laura. Johnís log cabin home sits on a hill and behind the house, there is a pasture and some woods. John said there was a man coming with a tractor in the morning to mow the field. We stepped through a barbed wire fence and started into the thick woods. We walked down a small path and up ahead of us I could see a clearing in the trees of about a half of an acre. There in the woods was a cemetery that had been there since 1919. It was beautiful, just beautiful. John wanted to cut the fence and clear the path. The cars from the funeral would park in the field. Some of us came back that next day(Saturday) and cut the path clean and wide and raked the leaves for the ladies. Everybody would walk that widened path through the woods to the cemetery. That is where the family would lay Laura to rest.
Saturday - June 29, 1996
After the Saturday morning clean-up crews had finished the field, path and cemetery were beautifully trimmed and pretty as a picture. By Saturday night the news of Lauraís death had spread and all of the Costa family and many of the church family gathered at the funeral home. I heard it said by one of the family members, "Who are all these people?" Lauraís mother Sandy said, "This is my family(the Body of Christ)." They had never seen so many caring Christian people before in their life. What a testimony to the love of Christ. God was beginning a great work.
Sunday - June 30, 1996
The alarm rang at 5:30AM. I had asked God all week what he wanted me to say to the guys at Millageville Youth Detention Center that morning. I needed to leave by 7:00AM for my service at 8:00AM. Now I knew I was to preach about Laura, the victory she knew in Jesus, and the need to be born again of the Spirit of God. Laura didnít expect to die that day. If we knew when we were going to die, a lot of folks would do things differently. But donít cry for Laura for she is with Jesus and yes, Jesus did heal her. "For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."(1 Corin. 15:53-54 NIV)". Well, I preached all I have written here up to this point and everything else God gave me to say. God moved and 35 boys gave their lives to Jesus. Godís grace is without limit. I had no idea that God was just getting started that day. I couldnít have known what God was planning for the church and funeral service but I knew John Costa. And I knew he would let Godís will be done.
I made it back to church from YDC in time for services and met Kathy and the girls there. I went to Pastor Mikeís office and told him what happened at YDC. We prayed for God to move in the up-coming service. Pastor Mike, by the Spirit, could feel the heavy hearts of the body of Christ in church that day. Mike preached about Laura, the victory she knew in Jesus, and the need to be born again. God moved and 5 people stood in church before everyone to give their life to Christ.
Praise You, Jesus !
I told Kathy to take Faith, our youngest daughter, home and I would keep Sarah and Katy with me. I wanted the girls to see Laura and see death at fifteen. We went to lunch and arrived back at church around 2:00PM for the 2:30PM service. The place was already packed. No room was left in the church that day approx. 600-800 people were there, maybe more. People were seated in the choir area behind the preacher. I let the kids go forward with me to look death in the face. "She was so pretty", Katy said and she went back twice. The service was starting and the coffin was closed, never again to be opened. The family comes in and sits in the reserved seating down front, center pews, about five or six rows deep. People are having to stand now to get in. Chairs are brought out in the isles and in the back. It is time to start. I have never been to a funeral like this in my life. We sang praise songs for a long time, just worshipping Jesus in Victory. Pastor Mike spoke and told some in the audience that they just didnít understand what was going on but this was what the whole Christian walk was all about. Victory over death.
Two groups of singers sang wonderfully, with one of the groups being young girls about Lauraís own age. John Costa was the first to clap after the first song, putting all of us at ease to show our approval. John, Lauraís father spoke and told us about the miracle. Do you see the miracle* in the middle of the calamity? God had allowed Laura Costa to return (be revived) long enough to tell her mother Sandy and her little brother Philip, how very much she loved them. WOW ! How gracious it was of God to let that mother and brother see Laura again before she was called home. Lauraís older brother, Anthony, spoke also. Sandy read a poem Laura had written a few months before. John, Sandy and Anthony all let everyone know, that all this was being done so that others might know Christ and come to a saving knowledge of Him. Pastor Mike then let everybody know he had been given permission to move as the Spirit of God was leading him. Mike preached about Laura, the victory she knew in Jesus, and the need to be born again. Scripture says in, 2 Peter 3:9 "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance". It was wonderful.
The Spirit of God was so strong in that place you could feel the wind. God moved. As the invitation was given people began to stand and give their lives to Christ. First two young girls weeping to my right. The church is applauding loudly now. Iím shouting - Praise You... Jesus! Praise You... Jesus! Then a young boy and his brother stand. Praise You... Jesus! The angels are rejoicing and leaning over in heaven to see who is next. Pastor Mike will not let up. The Spirit of God is moving. Others stood, two in the choir seating area behind Mike. Praise You... Jesus! The applauding continues. Then a mother and daughter stand. Praise You... Jesus! Then what John and Sandy had prayed about, for a long time - Sandyís twin sister stood among the family members to ask Jesus into her heart. John and Sandy and the family rush her to hug, cry and welcome her into the Kingdom. Tears of joy flow from many faces including my own. Praise You... Jesus! The church is really praising God now and those who are visiting are a little overwhelmed. Still others stand, another family member and a young girl near us to the left. Praise You... Jesus! Eleven or twelve in all stood during the funeral service. From Death To Life. From the death of Laura, God was bringing Life. This is the Victory we preach so everyone might see and believe in Godís Glory, Power, Mercy and Grace.
Pastor Mike led all those standing in a prayer for salvation as those stand around them laying their hands on in support. A man stood up later that night in Prince Avenue Baptist Church in Athens, GA to say he had never seen anything like the funeral at Church of the Nations earlier that day. He too wanted to give his life to Christ.
We go from the church to lay Laura to rest in that wonderful clearing in the woods that I spoke about earlier in my story. Parking in the field, walking the beautiful path cut for this special day and saying good-bye to Laura. We will see you again Laura, one day. For the scripture says, 1 John 3:1-2 "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."
The story does not end there. I went to Rockdale County Jail a week later on Sunday the 7th of July and God gave me a message for them. Not the same words. They never are. But I was to preach about Laura, the victory she knew in Jesus, and the need to be born again. God moved by His Spirit. Seven(7) more men gave their lives to Jesus, some in tears. I donít know what area of their life God was dealing with but to Him be the Glory. Praise You... Jesus!
I didnít know it at that time but John Costaís Dad, Jimmy, had died the week after Laura died. I was out of town on vacation and didnít get back until Sunday afternoon. Jimmy Costaís home going was due to a heart attack he suffered on July 4th. God allowed me to see Jimmyís smiling face on the 3rd of July as I picked up my laundry. He loved the Lord with all his heart. I was there in the FGBFI meeting the night Jimmy, (who is Baptist) was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. I understand the family had a similar service in his church, as we had for Laura at ours. And God moved. Four (4) people gave their lives to Jesus at his funeral service. Praise You... Jesus !
I must close for now and will write again later. I love you brother and pray for you. Keep the faith. Be strong. Read the Word. Preach the Word. God has allowed me to shed a lot of tears in the writing of this letter. Why? Because there are so many who are not listening to our message and are far from Christ. Paul said "For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things." Philippians 3:18-19. I weep because I know their end - Iíve seen it in a vision from God. And itís horrible. I weep for the lost and cry out to God to allow whatever I say for Him, to fall on good ground.
Godís purposes are not always our purposes. The sisters, Mary and Martha, here in John 11 had to suffer much so that those weeping with them might be saved. Praise You... Jesus! If God sent His own Son to the Cross, what might we have to suffer for Kingdom purposes?
John 11:43-45 "When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go." Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him."
Warrior For Christ,
Prison Evangelist Reid Callaway
PS An Update:
Sunday July 21, 1996
I went again this passed Sunday to Milledgeville YDC to preach "The rest of the story". They had not heard about Lauraís funeral or about Jimmyís death. I had 64 present in Chapel that day and 21 more boys gave their lives to Jesus.
To God be the Glory !
Also: I was given the opportunity to go to Putnam County Boot Camp on August 2nd, and 39 young boys were present. I shared Lauraís story, God moved and 22 young men accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. One young man began weeping toward the end of the service and that night wrote me a powerful testimony about how he had felt the presence of God as it saved him and lifted a great burden from his back. He just couldnít stop crying, even the guard ask him what was the matter.
Praise You, Jesus!
Praise You Jesus, for Laura !