From Eric's keyboard...
Yesterday I attended a burial in Kaiti – a 7 year old girl had died. She was the daughter of one of the elders in Kaiti OPCU. Burials here are typically done on the compound of the person who died. So when we arrived at the girl’s home, there were many people gathered, the women in bright traditional dresses. Since I was giving the funeral message, I was seated in the ‘front’ – although at these funerals there really is no front, since people surround you in all directions. There was a small space where the casket would be placed. Women were singing songs of praise. Unlike funerals in America, funerals here are not somber, hushed affairs. There is mourning, but also joy, at least in the Christian funerals I have been to.
But I was not prepared for when the body was brought out. There was no casket. The family was too poor to afford one. So the girl’s body was carried out wrapped tightly in a sheet. You could clearly discern the outline of her head, her shoulders, and her feet. She seemed so very alive, like it could have been any one of my own children. Her body was laid on a reed mat on the ground just 2 feet from where I sat. And the entire service, there was her body lying at my feet.
I spoke to the gathered crowds, which included Muslims, about how Jesus welcomed children into His kingdom, in Mark 10. I spoke of how children are saved by simple faith, and received to eternal glory. I spoke of how we all must be ready. There were many boys and girls standing right by me, who were listening very closely – I've never seen children listen so well.
Then after the message, we walked about 100 feet to the burial site, at the edge of a small field. A small hole had already been prepared. The body was laid in the hole, wrapped in a white sheet, while hymns were sung. The many children were standing there watching the body of their friend. Scripture was read, prayer was offered – words of hope in Christ. Then the men laid some sticks and a metal sheet over the body (to protect it from animals, I think). Then while we all stood, the dirt was shoveled back over the body, into a neat mound. The burial was finished. I was thinking about the symbolism of burying a seed, waiting for the harvest when Christ will raise the bodies of His people from the dead.
I also kept thinking of the great poverty of this family, and so many like them. If they had more money, could her death have been prevented? Almost certainly. So many more children die here in Uganda, from causes so preventable if there is money, but so hopeless if there is no money. This girl had chronic sickle cell and died of “vomiting”. Wikipedia says that it is now possible (with the help of modern medicine) for a child in America with sickle cell to live to age 80. And with the body of this girl lying in front of me on the ground, it was impressed on me all the more clearly that we have a moral obligation to love and help those who are so much more poor.
Please pray for the family of this girl. Ruth was the 4th child. She has a 14 year old brother who also has sickle cell. Her mother is very small and weak. Her father looked so defeated. Yet their hope is in Christ.