Wednesday, October 26, 2011

at a funeral

Last Wednesday, I (Chase) went to my first Nicaraguan funeral. For obvious reasons, this wasn’t something I had really been hoping to experience as soon as possible. Culturally speaking, the biggest difference between it and an American funeral is its immediacy. The boy had died around 1am and the funeral was at about 4pm the same day. This is pretty common.

IMG_5714The boy was the brother of one of the youth kids at Camino de Vida, and was about 17 years old. There are a few stories circulating about how he died: some say he was walking drunk in the street and was hit by a car; others say that he was beaten and stabbed. From my experience with hearing about bad events secondhand, I recognize that at least one of these stories was fabricated to either add meaning to or subtract it from his death.

In any case, a group of us went to the funeral to support the family, and in doing so, I experienced a number of “firsts”.

For one thing, it was my first time to ever see people actually weeping and wailing. It is absolutely heartbreaking to hear a mother crying, “My son! My son!” and to think about how not even 24 hours before he was perfectly healthy, and now he is suddenly gone forever from her. But there were many women who were weeping. One girl—I think it was his little sister—even threw up from crying. The men mostly stood quietly looking around and occasionally sniffled in a subdued manner.

Secondly, it was my first time to see someone faint in real life. One was the boy’s grandmother, who I was standing near. As they were lowering the coffin into the grave, the rope broke, and the coffin fell freely; the grandmother fainted immediately. She had had about five family members surrounding her to console her and keep her from fainting. They had put mint leaves in her ears and were rubbing mint leaves in her hair, and when she fainted, they began crushing them under her nose and shaking her to wake her up. When she woke up, she wailed in anguish for the loss of her grandson. She fainted several times in grief, and each time they had to work harder to revive her.

It was also my first time to be called “pastor” by an adult (or really by anyone). It was by a “real” pastor, and he was only telling me that I was blocking the grandmother’s view, but for some reason it struck me as out of the ordinary; however, after a moment’s consideration, I decided that I am technically a pastor of sorts. It’s what I always put as my profession on the immigration form when I enter the country (I don’t write “missionary” since I’m not a traveling church planter), but I only do so since there isn’t another single word that better describes what I do. This is why it was a bit of a revelation to me.

All in all, this day stands out to me as dark. Dark in that a young man died and is bitterly mourned; darker still that he was not a believer. If it was truly murder, revenge will naturally follow, and this too is of darkness. At times I look at the darkness all around me—death, divorce, hypocrisy, jealousy, division, malice—and I lose heart and believe that this darkness is winning. I begin to despair of lives changing, but our job is to continue trusting in God, the Father of lights, for it is his power alone that defeats darkness, and his strength that forgives, redeems, and transforms.

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