HOLDREGE – For Richard and Ashley Eng, Ashley’s miscarriage in 2021 was a time of great sorrow. “It’s like grieving your future. It was a roller coaster for us, ”Richard said.
Not long after that, as he sat thinking about the loss in his office at Trinity eFree Church in Holdrege, where he is the pastor of family ministries, “I started having a conversation with my unborn child about what Heaven is like,” he said .
Suddenly, unexpectedly, he turned to his computer. Words began to pour out of him. They flowed so fast that it was as if he were merely the vessel through which the story was passing.
When he showed the story to Ashley, she said, “You should do something with this.” So did several other close friends.
That rush of words became his first book, “What is Heaven Like?” It was published on Jan. 31 and is available at The Solid Rock in Kearney and online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target and other sites.
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“I wrote the book because I was in a time of great grief. I was just along for the ride, ”he said.
Writing is a new path for Eng, who has been overseeing children and youth ministries at Trinity eFree since 2014.
“As Ashley and I went through the miscarriage, we noticed that nobody wanted to talk about it. I do not know if talking about a miscarriage is taboo, but they say one in three pregnancies ends in miscarriage. It’s very sad, ”he said. “I felt like God was leading me to write the book, for whatever reason.”
In the book, a father and son are fishing on a foggy day. Eng said, “When we are in Heaven, we may remember our lives on earth as if it were foggy, difficult to see, but Heaven will be like a clear, bright day. Heaven is clarity and sight. In Heaven, we might see the real sun rising on a clear day. Heaven is, ‘I see now. My eyes are opened fully. ‘”
The father casts his line and then tells his son what life will be like in Heaven. It will not be just an eternal vacation, Eng said.
“If it was just a vacation, we’d get bored pretty quickly,” Eng said. “The Scriptures talk about Heaven as work, like the creative work of God. He created the Garden of Eden and put Adam and Eve there to build, form and nurture creation. That’s what we’ll be doing in the new Heaven and earth, ”he said.
Also, after death, humans will be reunited with their families and Jesus. “At one point, the book says it would not be Heaven if Jesus was not there,” Eng said.
The little boy asks his father, “Am I going to be bored in Heaven?” His father assures him that he will be given work in Heaven that is “eternally satisfying. What we do there will always satisfy us, ”Eng said.
He wrote the book to help children process the idea of going to Heaven. He said he hopes children and their parents have an “appropriate” longing for Heaven, but not in a destructive way. The life here on Earth has a purpose, too. ”
Also, the boy in the book tells his father that he wants to explore Mars when he grows up. “That same longing to explore and start something new is inside all of us. That longing will be fulfilled in Heaven, ”Eng said.
The book also includes a list of recommended reading and related Scripture passages, discussion questions for parents and refers to more devotional material on his website, richardreng.com.
Not surprisingly, finding a publisher was challenging. Eng searched online for a good self-publishing company, but the cost was prohibitive. Then a church member offered to pay that cost.
Eng was responsible for his own marketing, so he invited a team of friends to read the book and write “honest reviews” to post online. “It’s been well-received. I have 55 reviews on Amazon, ”he said. He will also do local radio and TV appearances in the next few weeks.
Eng, son of a pastor, grew up primarily in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. His family then moved to Fremont. He never expected to become a pastor; as a preacher’s kid, he swore he’d never choose the ministry. He was a business major at Grace University in Omaha.
But one summer during his college years, he worked with youth at a church camp, and he loved it. He called his father and said, “Dad, I think I’m going to be a pastor.”
His father replied, “Are you sure? If you do not feel called, do not do it. ” But Eng was sure. He served as a youth pastor for two years at a church in Glenwood, Iowa, and has been at Trinity eFree for eight years. He also earned a master’s degree in cultural apologetics online through Houston Baptist University in 2020.
Earlier this month, he took 24 teens to a Kansas City conference with 3,500 other teenagers. They talked, sang, prayed, did service projects and more.
He and Ashley have a daughter Ella, nearly 4, and a son Athan, 2. Their third child is due in two weeks.
Eng said that while his book was written for children, parents are connecting with it, too. Some have told him, “I never imagined Heaven like that.”
Eng just signed with a literary agent and hopes to publish his second book the end of 2023. “I do not feel like this is happening to me. I’m just rolling with it, ”he said.
“I stumbled into this, but now my imagination is filled with stories. I do not know why this happened, but I keep jiggling handles, and if the door keeps opening, I will keep walking through it. People have said, ‘Keep going,’ so I will. “