When prayers for resurrection first began pouring out of Redding, California, last month, many wondered how it would end if 2-year-old Olive, who had been declared dead, didn’t come back to life.
The prayers and pleas that began in earnest in mid-December went unfulfilled in the way Bethel worship leader Kalley Heiligenthal and her husband had hoped. At the end of the month, the couple held a funeral for their young daughter.
Stepping into 2020, Heiligenthal opened up about how she is feeling as the new year begins without Olive by her side.
It’s easy, she admitted, to dwell on the “searing shock” of losing her daughter so unexpectedly. But despite the nightmarish tragedy, Heiligenthal said 2019 was also “overwhelmingly saturated with treasured memories I would never trade and will fight to cherish.”
“I choose tender thankfulness,” she wrote. “As for the future, as I feel the noble aching lack of her not with us for a lifetime, the better truth is I can look just beyond and know so vividly that this life is only a breath, and for all eternity, we’ll be close again. Jesus bought that for us. So I choose triumphant thankfulness. And the more I do it the more I feel it.”
“There is a Heaven that is more real and vivid than what we have here and it’s pressing in on us,” the worship leader added. “Jesus is alive, Olive is alive in Him, so we press back and live fully alive too.”
What’s the backstory?
Bethel Church, headquartered in Redding, held a series of worship services after Olive was pronounced dead on Dec. 14, when she stopped breathing inexplicably. During the services, Heiligenthal called for her daughter’s resurrection — a bold request backed by church leadership.
Though Olive didn’t come back to life, Bethel pastor Bill Johnson elaborated on the radical prayer in a sermon in December, emphasizing the fact the Christian faith is built around the resurrection of Jesus.
“Resurrection is at the heart of Jesus’ behavior, but it is also in His command to those who follow Him,” said Johnson, referring to Matthew 10:8, in which Jesus told his disciples, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give freely as you have received.”
Following the decision to move forward with a memorial service for Olive, the church released a statement, saying, “It is normal for us to ask, trust Him, and then glorify His name regardless of the outcome.”
As for Heiligenthal, she described the entire situation as “a victory story.”
“Olive, we miss you, love you so much and we’ll see you soon,” she wrote. “We know now more than ever that King Jesus is good and His every word is worth believing and following at any cost.”