We’ve had many burials this year: Relatives of students and staff; the daughter of our taxi driver; an uncle of the ranch carpenter; the 24 year-old son of Pastor Bosco - in a country with such limited medical facilities, small problems can quickly become deadly. The pastor’s son had malaria (probably for the several-dozenth time in his life) and just let it go too long before going for treatment. And we’ve had many close calls, especially with Jesca’s baby Benjamin, as he was repeatedly sick and near death for months. Praise Jesus he’s been healthy and growing well since autumn!
And then, of course, there’s AIDS. Our new friend Kade (who was here all summer) befriended a young teenage girl in a village up the road. She was a sponsored student of ACM and had become very sick. Since she was so young, her AIDS was probably the result of rape. Kade visited her over a couple months, took her to church, tried to get her help, but she was wasting away. The last straw came when her parents had managed to get medication sent up from a hospital in Luweero, but the boda-driver charged with delivering it decided to blackmail them, demanding 10,000/UgSH ($4) to hand it over. They couldn’t afford it. Kade caught wind of it, found out who the boda-driver was, and went after him, nearly getting in a fight, but to no avail. At least the guy’s name was spread around so he probably won’t be getting much business from anyone else… The parents managed to scrape together enough to send for more medicine, but by that time it was too late and the girl died.
Sometimes it’s easy to close your eyes to these realities around you, simply because they’re so abundant. It hit closer to home, though, when I attended the burial, a few months ago, of Sylvia’s brother. Maggie arranged for a taxi-bus to transport anyone from the staff and students who wanted to go, and we drove North about 40 minutes to her family’s compound in the woods. Once there, we sat around for about an hour as hundreds of people filtered in. The whole affair was pretty quiet and subdued, as speeches were given and the men said prayers over the body. But as they took him away to inter in a cave, Sylvia flung herself across the courtyard, keening violently, and fell on to the porch, as it seemed like she realized at that moment that she’d never be seeing her Muslim brother again. It was one of the saddest sounds I’ve ever heard.
“A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping. Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.” - Jeremiah 31:15All these thoughts were brought up again last week, as Moses, a former student who is the head cook at CLA, came to visit us. As the conversation progressed, we found out that in the 2 weeks of Christmas holiday, a man in his village (Kitwe, just about the primary school) had been killed by a falling tree, and at least 9 in Ntuuti had died, including a 9 year old boy who was hit by a boda. Whew. This is in a village of at most a couple hundred people. Patrick and Heidi went into Ntuuti a few days ago, and they said you could feel the sadness in the air. David Baekwaso, our bike mechanic, said the churches are all praying hard but many in the village are turning to the witch-doctors for dealing with this huge tragedy.
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he [Jesus] too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” - Hebrews 2:14-15Because we know in our hearts that in creation God intended man to be an eternal being free of death, I think it’s in our human nature to do everything we can to ignore the darkness around us. Especially in our 1st World lives, where we often have the technology and money to manipulate our surroundings, we look for comfort and safety. And yet the effects of sin are still there, hidden just under the surface. Here that surface is stripped away, the hidden darkness brought to light, and the truth of this verse becomes reality:
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned....” - Romans 5:12At this point, you may be wondering why I’m writing such a depressing post. I wasn't sure either, except that the beginnings of these thoughts have been rolling around in my head for quite a while. As I've been praying about it, this is what has come to mind: I think it’s about jarring me, and perhaps you, out of our self-constructed bubble of attempting to control the world around us, making it comfortable, safe, etc. It’s not. Because of the Fall, “the creation was subjected to frustration” (Rom. 8:20), and if left to ourselves, eventually all we have to look forward to is death and destruction.
Oh wait! There’s good news!
“On this mountain the Lord Almighty will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. In that day they will say ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.” - Isaiah 25:7-9
“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" - 1 Corinthians 15:54-55
“For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:17I need to be reminded, often, of the seriousness of the war we are fighting in this world, against evil and death. And that in the end, God is victorious.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” - Revelation 21:3-4