Every life is extraordinary and that includes yours. Peter certainly thought so! To those that knew our young son Peter, that fact, established by God, might well have escaped them, for, as a youngster he was quiet, small in stature and somewhat overweight.
He came into the world, at Hastings hospital, New Zealand, in the afternoon of March 18, 1966, reluctantly, bottom first. He started life as a ten pounder, not at all a sign of his future physical stature. As he matured we glimpsed a thoughtful, bold, fit young man who ended up one of the biggest small men that we have ever known.
We had a pet cat called Millenary Muffet. We had been away from home for several weeks and Muffet was being looked after by a neighbour. Upon our return that cat was no where to be found and according to our neighbour had been gone for days. Peter took this particularly hard and had a hard talk with God. It probably went something like this: “If you expect me to believe you exist then I want Muffet back by 6 pm.” Dad had no idea that Pete had placed that ultimatum before God. Dad was concerned because he had envisioned the trip, that took the family away from home, hence felt responsible and Muffet was a particular favourite of Peter’s.
While Peter was in school, had spent a good portion of the day quizzing neighbours and walking the neighbourhood. It was late in the day and Dad was a considerable distance away from the house. Out of the bush walks Muffet bedraggled, confused and ready to run. He called, but the cat was spooked and not interested. Dad noticed an elderly man standing close to the cat and because the cat didn’t seem concerned about him, asked him if he could try and pick her up. It worked and Millenary Muffet was now curled up in Dad’s arms and heading, leisurely, home. “Look what I have here Pete!”, said Dad. Peter looked up at the cat and then to the clock. Exactly six pm!! “It’s a miracle!” announced Pete. Dad was puzzled at first and when informed of Pete’s ultimatum and considering the dedication he had exercised that day, with absolutely no positive signs, and then to locate Muffet when he did, he had to agree that something happened here that was very important. Peter often used this incident as a testimony of a turning point in his relationship with God.
Peter attended a small country primary school that catered to 13 students, one of which was his brother. His early years were that of a happy, chubby baby. He was very slow to speak, a conundrum, if ever there was one. In retrospect it had to be that he didn’t feel the need with his best friend, brother, close at hand. At one stage Dad actually feared that Peter might be a bit slow on the uptake. Dad was so wrong! He astounded us, when at the age of three, having said very little, and being brought to tears by the single egg which mom deposited on his plate, sobbed, “ I could eat that in one gulp!” At school Peter picked up his studies with enthusiasm. He completed High School passing his (UE) university entrance exam. At this point an accident presented an opportunity. Peter was about to make an unusual choice. Peter had his heart set on serving God. While checking possum traps with his brother Dennie, in an old Ford Ute, the suspension failed and the Ford veered suddenly and rolled into a gully. Peter crawled with his brother up the steep bank onto the road, dragging a compound fracture in his lower left leg. As a result his left leg ended up being a bit shorter than his right leg. A subsequent $3,500 payment from the Accident Compensation Corporation of New Zealand presented an option. He asked us what we thought of him joining youth With A Mission (yWAM) in Holland, rather than taking advantage of an acceptance, at no cost, to university. Peter was 18 years old!
That was the start of a life of service in mission work for 20 years, with the occasional visit home. After Peter had been with yWAM for six months and had had his training, Mum felt that would be the end of it and that he would come home and be like “everyone” else. ( Find a job, or go to University, get married, have children, etc. ) When Peter came home and announced that his intentions were to continue with missionary work and that he would be returning to Holland, Mum’s heart sank and she said, “Are you certain that the Lord wants this for you?” Peter had been fasting and praying for days and he said “YES”!! He then told Mum that she should pray, that the Lord would show her as well; she did, with tears and all.
That very same day as Peter and Dad left to work on the property, she turned on the Christian radio station and the first song that came on, brought more tears. Tears of joy as the Lord clearly answered her prayer. Peter was to go!! The song was called It’s Beginning to Rain. The first words are, “It’s beginning to rain, hear the voice of the Father; then it carries on, “A young man’s eyes start to shine as he tells of his vision.” A perfect description of Peter! Most people that knew him remarked about his smile and the “shine in his eyes.” That smile and shine in his eyes never left, not even during his last days.
The places that Pete experienced made coming home a very special time, reliving the things he enjoyed as a youth, like swimming in the Pelorus river, hunting, fishing and tramping. “Dad,” he would say, “there is no place like this anywhere in the world and if there was it would be unaffordable.” When Peter was home he would quickly assess what he could do to be helpful: cabinet making, wood panelling our unfinished house, building a rock fireplace and chimney, digging foundations, planting trees, cutting firewood. He would put his hand to anything no matter how mundane or technical with enthusiasm. There was no slackness and his time was always well spent and the work that got done, here at home, was amazing.
As we look around we can see Peter’s handiwork and it is a constant reminder of a loving son who grasped life with enthusiasm and managed to fit in at least 2 years for every one of his 38 years of life. Peter was a man who taught by example. We learned from Peter. Dad who would become frustrated with a project, would express himself and Peter would put the situation in perspective where Dad could grasp a more Godly approach. Thank you Peter! Pete didn’t share much about his work with Operation Mobilization. Perhaps that was best considering how Mums can worry. We believe he had our parental concerns at heart. He joined the organization after 5 years with yWAM. His time in Holland allowed him to master the language and he spoke Dutch with such skill a Dutchman wouldn’t have been able to pick him as any other than a resident of Holland. He worked initially as a carpenter, but was soon doing “Line-up” work which required his going ahead of the ship’s visit, helping to organize programs, decide what projects were to be done and complete official requirements that accompany a ship’s visit. He was asked to do or may well have requested difficult places, where there was an element of adventure. Those places required a cool head, intelligence and a totally non abrasive personality. We as parents were not privy to those adventures until long after they had become history.
In Yemen, just weeks before some Americans were beheaded, Pete had an armed fellow sit down opposite him, in the lounge, where he was staying and from under the table, push the barrel of an AK47 into his stomach. He asked if Pete would like to be on CNN. “I’m going to kidnap you.” he said. Pete ignored the gun but told us that his mind was on the thought of being shot in the stomach, which wouldn’t be nice. He smiled at the guy and good naturedly suggested that perhaps he needed to find an American as New Zealanders wouldn’t fetch much. He then continued with friendly chit chat and finished off by saying: “Look, its been nice talking with you! I’ve had a busy day and need some rest. Perhaps I’ll see you tomorrow?” With that said he got up and left. According to Pete when his hotel door was closed and locked his legs gave way to a posture, I would describe, of thoughtful reflection. No one disliked Peter and he loved everyone. He told his wife, Hasmig, while walking together in town: “you know, I love people!” Peter really meant those words. When asked about the possibility of his finding a wife, Peter argued that that possibility was left in the hands of God. He didn’t have time to pursue that issue. Peter waited for a wife, one that the Lord had chosen for him!! He knew that the Lord would clearly show His choice for him. When we were finally introduced to a young lady who he was considering, we were surprised and very excited for him. Little did we know that Peter would soon have to face the prospect that we all have to face sooner or later.
A small lump on the top of his head, which had been assessed by several doctors as a sebaceous cyst, was in fact Melanoma cancer. Peter brought his wife home to the country of his youth. He immediately began working around the property preparing a woodworking room so he could do the joinery work for a small house he wanted to build. He was very excited for he and his wife, Hasmig, were going to be parents. Hasmig was definitely the perfect wife for Peter. Although they were only given a short time together, Hasmig loved and looked after him extremely well. Mum often says that she could never have given the care that Hasmig gave. She was by his side constantly. Even while he was in the hospital, she stayed with him (the nursing staff found a stretcher for her) and we felt that the staff were so obliging because she was pregnant and didn’t need anymore upsets. When Peter suggested that she go out and do things, as she must get tired of sitting with him all day, she said that it didn’t bother her at all . God had given her special grace and being with him was a joy.
On November 3, 2004, five days before Peter died, he met their lovely baby daughter, Keziah Miracle. In his very weak and frail state, Peter surprised the nurse and Dad by praying strong prayers, not knowing that it was the exact time his daughter was entering this world. Peter’s life was one that constantly showed the blessing of God through adversity. His attitude, no matter what, was one of expectancy. He was amazing.
Mum & Dad Capell