Editor's note: The following is the Rev. Kevin Raddatz's eulogy at the funeral of Dora Betancourt. The text has been edited to remove the name of Dora's half-sister. The Daily Herald is not publishing Dora's half-sister's name out of respect for court instructions that she not be identified.
When you think of Dora, what sticks with you? Her smile, her joy with art, her drawing, her rubberband, her clay creations. Our teachers mentioned her caring heart, how she wanted to share what she had made. When we had our Talent Show, I think she was one of the first to sign up -- she had a cheer she wanted to show us. When you think of Dora, what sticks with you?
Let me tell you something that stuck with Dora. Jesus in John 3:16 -- "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." At school we memorize certain passages so they stick with us for when we need them. We call them Memory Treasures. For some children they stick quick; for some of us they take more work. John 3:16 stuck with Dora.
When Jesus said "God so loved the world," what did Jesus see in the world? When God so loved the world, what did he see in the world? He saw children like Dora and (her half-sister) and you and me ... children he loves. He saw moms and dads trying to do all those things moms and dads try to do. He saw hearts hurting and broken by sin. And he saw people with hurting, broken hearts hurting others, doing awful things in their broken-ness. In other words, he saw me and you and Dora and (her half-sister).
He saw us in our hurting broken-ness, and in spite of the way we hurt each other, he loved us. He so loved the world so much he gave his Son for us. He didn't send his Son to sweep us away to get our broken-ness out of his sight. He didn't send his Son to make us pay for hurting the ones he loves. No, he gave his Son to do what we don't, what we can't do. He gave his Son to live an unbroken life, a perfect life, a life of perfect love. Not to show us how it's done, but he gave his Son with his perfect life of love to use that perfect life of love to pay for the ways that we have sinned against him and the children he loves. With Jesus' death on the cross, our debt to God is paid; our sins are forgiven; you are forgiven; all our shoulda, woulda, coulda guilt is covered and erased. With Jesus' perfect life of love, we are covered, clothed, dressed, and fit for heaven ... " ... so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
That promise stuck with Dora. Today Dora is with Jesus. She is in heaven, surrounded by the perfect love of God. Today we are sad, but Dora isn't; she's in heaven where there is no more death or mourning or crying or pain. Today our hearts feel heavy, but not Dora's; her heart is light and alive with the joy of heaven. You may know how Dora loved to cheer; no, I get to say it this way -- you may know how Dora loves to cheer. In heaven she sees the angels cheer as they cheer God's wins. In heaven she cheers with the angels as they cheer the way we win with Jesus, the way we share God's love and peace. You may know how Dora loved arts, crafts, fashion and design. In heaven she is surrounded by the beauty, the handiwork of God. You may know how Dora loves to sing; today and forever she will sing with the saints and the angels in heaven.
Why? In baptism God stuck his promise on her. In baptism he put his name on her, claimed her as his own, made her alive with a promise that couldn't be taken from her -- "with Jesus, you are mine, and I am yours." God stuck his promise on Dora, and that promise stuck with Dora.
What does that mean for us? Today, we hurt, but we don't have to stay stuck in our hurt. Today we have our memories, but we don't need to stay stuck on past memories. Dora lives with the Jesus who broke the power of death. Dora lives with the Jesus who promises peace. Dora lives with the Jesus who promises life. And what does she want you to know? A promise that stuck with her -- "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal