They say death is the ultimate statistic – it’ll happen to us all. But there is a time to die, the Bible says (Ecclesiastes 3.2), and in the case of my dear friend Martin Hall, there was a sense in which it was perfectly timed amidst an atmosphere of profound beauty, sweetness, glory and triumph, although of course tinged with the bitterness of loss, especially for Margaret, his wife of 41 years.
I now understand what the Bible means when it says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants.” (Psalm 116.15) As he struggled for breath in his last moments, you got the sense that he was about to breast the tape of a marathon of discipleship, serving Christ with such wholeheartedness and humility. And that he could say with St Paul: “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4.7f)
As a devoted supporter of Israel, the sweetness of the occasion became even more appropriate for Martin when his funeral took place at Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, associated as always with apples and honey.
There was never any pomp or circumstance about his endeavours for the Lord; he was just happy to mingle unnoticed with the crowd of faithful ‘joggers’, striving for that special medal. From a human perspective, you might easily have passed him off as just another runner in the field of gospel work, but you would have missed the unsung hero that he really was.
Because he never blew his own trumpet, you would not have known, for example, that he had probably saved countless Jewish lives through his generosity and support, both in prayer and finance, of projects dedicated to rescuing Jews from anti-Semitic environments in Europe and beyond by providing them with the necessary documents and safe passage to Israel.
Fred Wright, who is involved in this work, said at his funeral: “He would never let an opportunity go by without offering to help. In the last communication we had, he was asking how he could help Jewish people in Venezuela and Argentina.
“Martin was a great facilitator who embodied all the elements of what the Bible describes as a righteous man. The world is a sadder place for his absence and the kingdom has lost one of its greatest servants – a kind, gentle and humble man. Our loss is heaven’s gain.”
Martin loved the Jews because he loved Jesus, the Jew, and – though a smart high-flyer in the business world – he was sold out for the kingdom of God.
My wife Linda kept Margaret company during the long night leading up to his passing at the Doncaster Royal Infirmary. At one point she recalled a framed picture she had at home, by artist Lesley Hollingworth, of a beautiful gold-trimmed cup underscored with a verse from Isaiah 62.3, “You will be a crown of splendour in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.”
Linda picks up the story: “I went home to fetch it, removed it from its frame and tried to convey to Martin how God saw him that way: lots of bright colours, with the gold showing how precious and valuable he was.
“As soon as I finished, another friend, Ginnie White, joined me at his bedside – Margaret had gone home to change at this stage. Ginnie heads up an international dance ministry and had come straight to the hospital from the airport following a tour of Northern Ireland as she had a special song she wanted to sing over Martin. I was simply amazed as I heard her singing about a cup of many colours which, wherever it had cracked, God had filled with gold!
“Ginnie’s song; my picture,” I told him. “Such perfect symmetry… We continued singing, worshipping and reading the Scriptures (they say that hearing is the last thing to go).”
Then, some hours later as the end drew near, Margaret began to share a powerful dream she had once had of being on the cross with Jesus and seeing this wonderful view of a beautiful landscape. And just as she got to the point where Jesus urged her, “Come and join me!” Martin took his last breath. He joined the Lord Jesus at that very moment, dying peacefully amidst the tangible presence of God.
Some 36 hours earlier, when he was still managing to speak, though with great difficulty, we deciphered that he was telling us (Linda and Charles) to be family for Margaret (who no longer has any immediate blood family). It reminded us of some of Jesus’ last words – when he told John, his beloved disciple, to take his mother Mary as his own. It was a precious moment.
The haematology ward nurses, so caring and compassionate, were overcome with tears on his passing, especially on observing the couple’s devotion to one another. Yet Margaret was able to console them with the words, “It’s all about God’s love!”
And so, as at Rosh Hashanah, it is not the end for him, but a new beginning. A celebration of his life will be held at the Bessacarr Evangelical Church in Doncaster on what would have been his 70th birthday. Ironically, he didn’t want a fuss for his 70th, but he’s getting one now!
Most profoundly, Martin’s lifetime has mirrored the blossoming of Israel foretold by Jesus (Matthew 24.32), having come into the world just weeks before international recognition of the re-born Jewish state by the United Nations and then watching it bud and grow into the powerful political entity we see today. The spiritual re-birth is next, and we all await that with eager expectation.
Photo: Martin and Margaret Hall pictured at Qumran in 2013 during one of their many visits to Israel. Photo: Charles Gardner
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon, and Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com