Tobias Henry Shackelford

When news of his anticipated arrival began to circulate in November of 2007, little Tobias Henry was twelve weeks old and, though imperceptible to his parents, he was already clearly a boy and beginning to exercise arms, legs, and tiny fingers. From his mother's first recognition of a flutter ten weeks later until Tobias's first photograph at thirty-two weeks, Tobias distinguished himself as a particularly active child, but his being a boy was a secret Sarah kept as a surprise for John-Mason and the children. While Tobias's first ultrasound did indicate a possible abnormality in Tobias's umbilical cord, he appeared to be healthy and strong. Unknown to all was that early in his life his activity had lead to the formation of a true knot in his umbilical cord which would gradually tighten and restrict the flow of blood and nutrients to his growing body. While there was no sign of distress at Tobias's routine check-up on Thursday, May 15; sometime during the weekend of May 16-19 perhaps while Helen and John-Mason were hiking the Sac & Fox trail on their first backpacking trip or perhaps on the Sunday John-Mason gave the morning message, Love Hopes All Things at Hope Evangelical Church in North Liberty, the knot in Tobias's cord had become so severe that he could not survive. Tobias lived 37 weeks. His parents learned of his passing at his second ultrasound appointment on Thursday, May 22 and Sarah delivered him the following day.

Tobias is a Hebrew name popular in Germany, Austria and Scandinavia meaning God is good. John-Mason and Sarah chose the name as a reminder that though God's providences are sometimes painful and bewildering, He withholds no good thing from his people and is working all to the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes. His ways are unsearchable, but His goodness, wisdom and power are beyond doubt.

Tobias takes his middle name from Pastor Ron Henry, who ministered to John-Mason and Sarah while they were at Hillsdale College. Ron Henry and his family would invite all the students at morning worship to their home for a Sunday afternoon meal every week and often had twenty or more fill their living and dining room. Pastor Henry loved His God, the Scriptures—particularly the Old Testament—and the people of His congregation and served them faithfully, in addition to other full-time employment, until his family lost him to cancer in November, 2003. That Tobias and Pastor Henry are together free to worship without the distractions and difficulties of a world marred by sin and death, a world which will one day be completely redeemed and renewed by Christ its Creator, is a joy and a comfort to us.

Many Thanks

The love shown us by all those who are here today, by those who have called or written, is an amazing thing to see at work and we are grateful for it. In particular we would like to thank Bible Presbyterian Church for all of their help in arranging the service, for donating a cemetery plot and contacting New Melleray Abbey in Dubuque on our behalf. We thank the monks of the monastery for their generous gift of Tobias's casket. Doctors Tammy O'Brien and Lisa Hess served us with skill and showed us great compassion as did all of the staff of Mercy Hospital in Cedar Rapids, particularity the nurses Chelsea, Stacey, Cassia, Nan, and Julie for whom we are profoundly grateful. Through the understanding of Chris Skapyak and George Slusher, Pearson has granted John-Mason leave and a flexible schedule to allow him to care for his family during this difficult time. Thank you, men. We give thanks for our church family at Hope Evangelical in North Liberty for looking in on us, providing meals and words of encouragement.

New Hope Uganda

In lieu of flowers we welcome gifts to a memorial fund to benefit Kasana Children's Center.

Our friends Jay and Vicki Dangers established New Hope Uganda's Kasana Children's Centre in the heart of Uganda's former Luweero Triangle war zone in 1986. Originally, its purpose was to care for orphans created during this internal political war. This area had been the hot spot of the war, and hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children had lost their lives on and around New Hope's current property.

Well over a thousand orphaned and abandoned children have received love and care from New Hope’s staff. There are hundreds of thousands of orphans that AIDS, death, and abandonment consistently create; NHU seeks to reach as many as possible. The leadership of NHU works diligently to love these kids while teaching appropriate dependence on God and strong family and life skills that make healthy and skilled Ugandan citizens.

The physical and spiritual needs of the fatherless in Uganda are enormous. We hope that through the generous gifts of those who wish to honor Tobias's short life, his life and death may benefit these children who will live without the care and comfort of their own parents.

Update: As of August 1, the generous gifts given in Tobias name and designated for NHU total $715!

Funeral Service & Burial

Services for Tobias were held Friday, May 23, 2008 at Bible Presbyterian Church in Walker, Iowa. Pastor Eric Duble spoke on Psalm 103, a passage helpful to Sarah during her delivery. Jeff De Boer spoke on Psalm 63 the text for the sermon John-Mason had planned to deliver at Hope Evangelical Church the following Sunday. The funeral program is available for download.

John-Mason Shackelford,
Dec 19, 2008, 2:24 PM