Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Letter from a Friend, or I have Nothing to Whine About

This is long but oh so worth reading.

Today wasn’t the typical (but then again I don’t know what day is while living and ministering in this part of the world).

Just thought I’d share a day in the life…

I woke up this morning at 4 am, had my devotions, did some wash and hung the clothes inside to dry since the possibility of rain is high during the monsoon season. (Yes, the monsoons have begun – evidenced by my yard that looks literally like a jungle. The weeds and grasses have grown tall – a good hiding place for snakes.)

I left my house around 6 am the second time this week for the closest ATM, which is about an hour and a half drive from the land. By the time I returned I quickly showered, grabbed something not quite dry off the clothes line and was ready for devotions with the children and staff by 8 am.

Pastor Paul called at 8:30 and said the funeral for one of the believers in the local church would start at 9 instead of 10 so we drove promptly to the home of the deceased person. When we arrived, it was obvious that the time of prayer and funeral observance was not going to start anytime soon. The men were only just beginning to put the box together. They cut and hammered while my friend and I went inside to see the deceased lying on the floor with an old bright orange and white sheet covering his body. His nose and mouth had been stuffed with white cotton and his face looked yellow (probably due to the overworked liver that had been partly responsible for his death).

His wife sat on the bare cement floor waving a small evergreen branch back and forth over her husband’s face in order to keep the flies away. Several women were sitting on small stools in the tiny room around the body. Someone offered me a stool.

I sat quietly but prayerfully as the grieving woman began to cry and speak of her fear of the future – the uncertainty of it. Mostly I think it was the fear of not being able to feed her children. She had just spent her last 800 rupees ($20) to help care for her dying husband.

From behind the dingy, bluish curtain which was used to divide the small room into two smaller rooms, a small boy of maybe 7 or 8 years old appeared. This was his father lying on the floor.

Another woman, very petite but with fat, almost chipmunk looking cheeks also came from the other side of the curtain. This was the boy’s grandma who lived with them. Looking behind the curtain I noticed two single beds (not twin). Each bed was originally (by western standards) intended to sleep one person, but with no spare space. I realized that the entire family – father mother, grandmother, older sister and this boy – his name means “blessing”—shared these beds and living space.

The woman on the floor continued crying and making clear to everyone in the room her dire situation. She also explained that only one year earlier her middle child had drowned in the river. As none of the other women in the room had anything to say, I asked my friend to translate for me. Together we tried to comfort and encourage her in the Lord.

After about an hour the wooden box was ready. The corpse was placed into the plain, roughly-milled wooden box and then carried outside. All the relatives of the deceased man were Hindu. I prayed that they would come to know the hope and joy we have in Christ, even in death. I was reminded of Paul's words from the book of Philippians 1:21 "For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain."

The sun was beating down. The air was humid and still. Perspiration was quickly becoming large drops of sweat dripping from every pore. As the minutes passed and people were asked to pray, the pastor read some Scripture. I continued trying to dry the sweat from my neck and face and soon realized the heat was beginning to affect my body poorly. I felt as if I would faint.

After an hour I finally went inside the neighbor’s home where I had a chance to cool down and take an aspirin.

It was time to take the body to the burial site.

The coffin was loaded in a vehicle similar to a pick-up truck. Most the people who were going also got in the truck and stood around and held the sides while the coffin sat in the middle. I opted not to go as it was already getting late.

There was a blind woman at the funeral service who sang with the most beautiful voice. We stayed back for a little while to talk with her. As it turned out the blind woman could speak English (it's rare I meet someone in this area who can speak English!) and she had heard about me sometime ago. She was so excited to finally meet. We had a delightful conversation and in the end she agreed to come and teach some of the children of Beracha House the guitar.

My friend and I departed around 12:30 and needed to stop at the local market for vegetables before returning to the land. We made it home around 1:30, ate lunch and from there I had to go into town to make a payment to the hardware store where we purchase all our building supplies.

After that I decided instead of going early tomorrow morning to the ATM (we owe everyone money this week and I can only take out a certain amount of rupees each visit to the ATM) I would go this afternoon since the day was almost gone anyway. I made the drive to the ATM and the attendant notified me that there was no electricity. I asked him how long it had been out. “About 45 minutes.” Well I sure didn’t want to go all the way back without making a withdrawal so I waited and waited. Finally after about an hour the electricity was working again.

Class 6 has a math exam tomorrow. It was suppose to be today but because of the funeral we didn’t have classes. Unfortunately, I still haven’t had time to even make the exam. And why you may ask have I used my time this evening writing to tell you what my day was like?

Because out of the 12 to 15 red flags in my mailbox every day, all of them are junk mail! And I wanted you to know I’m thinking about you and praying for you as well!

One more thing…The last few weeks before I returned to India I was thinking and praying about something in particular. A home for widows and/or old folks. Would you pray with me about this?

His grace. His amazing grace. How sweet it is.

alex

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