A Journey Through The Jungle For God

2 Comments

The Solar Powered Notebook Project – Pt. 1

Imagine that you would like to write a document on your computer.  You leave your home and drive to your office, sit down at the computer and start typing.  You print a copy of the document and take it over to your boss for him to look it over.  He says it is really good, but notices four places that you need to make some corrections.  So you go back to your office, sit down at the computer again, and within a few minutes you have made the corrections and can print out a revised form of the document.  In all, this takes perhaps as long as a few hours.  By the end of the day, you feel good about what you have accomplished and drive home to your house and relax for the evening.

Now imagine that you are a national Papua New Guinean who is involved in a Bible translation project.  You have heard that a few men in other projects have a laptop computer, but that is the exception rather than the norm.  It is now your time to leave your village house and slowly make your way towards Madang, where the main office is for Pioneer Bible Translators.  I say slowly, for it might take you anywhere from two to four days to reach the office.

    

First you will need to get up early, before the sun has begun to peek out over the mountains nearby.  You grab some cold food, left over from last night’s meal, and start your brisk walk through the lush tropical jungle that surrounds your village.  You are used to walking for many hours along the narrow jungle path, greeting friends in other villages along the way.  Some of them even help you by sharing a little bit of their starchy sago flat breads as you go along.

But then you pass the boundary of your tribal group and now you are walking through a neighbouring language group, one which has been hostile to yours for many years.  You do not feel safe, you pass through or around their villages as quickly as you can, and you keep on walking along the trail, slick and slippery from last night’s rain.  You even need to push through streams that are up to your waist, or find a fallen tree to ford some of the swollen rivers.

After many hours, you come to the larger river where you will have to wait for a ride to go downstream.  There is no “public” transportation out here.  You simply have to wait until a motorized canoe or dugout comes by which still has room in it for you and your backpack.  Sometimes you are very fortunate and only have to wait for a few hours.  Sometimes there are no rides available and you have to stay there by the river for one or two days.  This time there was no ride on the first day, and so you make a rough bed among the banana leaves and underbrush, praying that no snakes or wild pigs will disturb you at night.

Countryside  9

The next morning you dip in the river to clean off, but within an hour you are hot and sweaty once again as you swelter in the jungle heat.  The Lord answers your prayers though, and you only have to wait two hours to get a ride on a motorized canoe.  It glides along the crocodile infested river with only about two inches of the side of the canoe being above the water, but the gentle breeze feels good on your face and skin.

For five hours you sit in a cramped position in the canoe until you get to the connecting point of where a road had recently been made through this region.  There are vehicles that regularly come along this road on the way to Madang, but most of the vehicles are already full of people.  So once again, you wait on the side of the road until you can flag down a vehicle that has room to squeeze in one more person.  But it’s too late in the day, and you must make a place to sleep by the side of the road and hope that no robbers will come to steal your things as you sleep.

    

On the third morning, you watch as many vehicles go by.  Finally, a large flatbed lorry comes and stops at one point and you tell the driver you are going to Madang.  He sets a price, which you agree to pay, after of course you get some money from the PBT office in Madang.  You then hop up in the back of the flat bed and hang on to the side railing as you and about 25 other people stand face-to-face with another.

The ride only takes about three hours, but your legs are tired from standing for so long and enduring all the potholes which the vehicle hit.  You feel sure that the driver was making sure to hit every one of the potholes as you went down the highway.  And once you get off the flatbed, it is good breathing fresher air than the foul body odour of all the people crammed in beside you.

    

At long last, you make your way up to the front door of the Pioneer Bible Translators’ office.  They let you in and welcome you as you finish your three day journey to town.  You sign in to receive your bed sheet, towel, plate, cup and spoon, and get a small supply of food from the office, and then head back across town on a public transport van to go to the National Coworkers House to catch up on sleep.

Tomorrow you will return to the office and for 2-3 weeks you will work with a missionary advisor as you enter in the text of the Scriptures which you had translated while you were out in your village.  After doing all the computer work you can in town, you bring back the PBT supplies, head out across town to find a ride on a vehicle, and begin your three day journey back to your village.

Celebrating Christmas With Family

Leave a comment

Family Christmas 2012

It is quite natural for family members to get together and celebrate Christmas together.  And yet, we hear of so many families that are not able to do this either because of certain family dynamics, or simply because so many people are mobile and spread out to live in places that are far away from each other.

Less than two weeks ago, our family was spread out between Alberta, Ontario and Texas.  So I realize what a blessing it has been for all of us to be able to come together here in Calgary to be with each other.  It was so wonderful to come home on the 18th and be with my family after being away for two months.  And seeing the decorated tree encouraged my heart to know we had entered into the Christmas season.

001 (600x800)

This particular Christmas tree has special meaning for us. When we were in Papua New Guinea years ago, a church in America sent this artificial tree to us so that we could have a Christmas tree in the village way out in the jungles of PNG.  We decorated up the tree in the front lobby area of our house so children in the village could see it, and it became quite the center piece for many discussions with the people and the children.

We had kept many of our special ornaments with us that reminded us of previous Christmas times together.  What a treat though, for us to have a tree from back home to be able to hang all our special decorations.  And of course, as many parents do, we stayed up late on Christmas Eve to wrap up presents to surprise our boys the next morning.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Even with all the gifts that seemed to multiply around the tree each year, we still made sure we had taught our boys the true message of Christmas, of Jesus who was born as a baby, but who would one day die for us and be raised as our Lord and Savior.  We always tried to have special gifts for each other which we names as our “gold, frankincense and myrrh” gifts.

Now that our boys are young men (one is married and one is in the Canadian Army), we tend to buy less and less gifts and put the emphasis more on the message of Christmas and just being together.  It was still nice to give gifts to each other, (for the very spirit of Christmas is that of giving), and it’s amazing to see how creative we can all be after we said, “Let’s not spend much on gifts this year.”

005 (800x600)

One thing we got this year to add to our Christmas tree was a special ornament.  We had found this beautiful ornament of the nativity scene, placed within a small hand-crafted gourd.  It has the family scene of Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus, who are surrounded by the shepherds and the stable animals.

Just about any nativity scene touches my heart.  But when we saw this scene carved and placed within the little painted gourd, it reminded us of the fact that Jesus came to earth for men and women of every culture.  And gourds are something that we would associate with tropical countries, like that of Papua New Guinea, where this Christmas story needs to be shared with all the people who live on that tropical jungle island.

006 (800x599)

And that brings me back to my first thought, of how special it is to celebrate Christmas with one’s family.  I am so thankful that I was able to return from my time down in Texas, and that our son in the military was able to get three weeks off for the Christmas break to come home to be with us.

We never know in this life when we will all be able to be together like this, now that we are all adults and leading very diverse lives.  We have a very short time together, but we are trying to make the very most of these few weeks.  It is my prayer that you too have been able to be reunited with family members this Christmas.  And I pray that Jesus is the center of your family, just as He is the center of ours.

162 (800x600)

MERRY CHRISTMAS, AND MAY YOU HAVE A BLESSED AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Starting Our Mission Experience In PNG

2 Comments

Our Orientation To Papua New Guinea

Last week I shared a story about a young couple that had just started their missionary experience in East Africa.  I was very happy to hear how well their first six months went in their new country of residence.  They sounded like they got a good start to learning Swahili, making new friends, and beginning their time of ministry over there.

I also shared the fact that things did not go quite so well for us when our family went over in 2006.  One of the things that was taken for granted, both by ourselves and those with whom we would work, was that we would do well very quickly since we had already served as long-term missionaries in Papua New Guinea.

What we all neglected to realize was that there are huge differences between life in PNG and life in Africa.  In PNG, our family lived in a remote jungle village of about 200 people and learned a Papuan language slowly over the first couple of years.  Whereas in Africa, we were in a city of about 200,000 people and had to start communicating in Swahili within the first few days we were there.  That is why an orientation to the mission field is so important.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

I am very thankful then for the training that our family got in 1997 at the Pacific Orientation Course up on Nobnob Hill near the town of Madang, Papua New Guinea.  Following their advice, we landed in Madang (after 52 hours of travel) and were immediately whisked off to the training center on the hill.  They believed it was best to go straight to the training center so that we did not “learn any bad habits” by being in the country on our own first.

It was certainly a culture shock for us seeing as we left a frigid Canada behind that February and then came into PNG where it is almost always above 90 F year-round on the coast.  The funniest thing happened though when we first entered PNG at the Port Moresby airport.  Jill saw no reason to keep a winter coat, so she stuffed it under the seat ahead on the plane.  In the customs line, they called her name out (oh no!!) and said, “I think this is your coat, Ma’am.”  🙂

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Once we got to the training center, we had more surprises to adjust to.  Back then, when emails and cell phones were just really beginning to take off, we were told that there would be no communication with family or friends except by letter.  (Really??)  The idea then was that if we were to get posted to a remote area that had no contact with the outside world (except by snail mail), then it was important to start practicing what that would be like while in our orientation course.

The other big challenge for some was that they didn’t even want us to bring any soft drink cans into the center.  (That was hard for Jill who liked Coke so much back then, but more in a minute.)  What was more important, was that they helped introduce us slowly week by week into more of the culture of PNG and the trade language Tok Pisin (a pidginized form of English).

Not only did we learn to speak with the local Papuans, we spent time with some of the families that lived around the center.  We were assigned to one family and we were to visit them once a week and begin developing a relationship with them and learn how the average Papuan lived.  We built fires to cook our food, hiked the jungle trails, and constantly worked at language learning.

The big “test” for all of us at this orientation course was to go live in a village with local people for five weeks.  We lived in thatched roof houses just like they did, built fires to cook on, and lived and worked right alongside of the people.  This was definitely a huge challenge, but after preparing for nine weeks at the center, we felt ready to live just like the Papuans.

Now back to Coke.  I knew what a big thing it was for Jill to have to give up Coke for the 3 1/2 months.  Right in the middle of our village living experience we were going to have our “midway visit and evaluation” by the center directors, which just happened to coincide with our wedding anniversary.

So I had prearranged with the directors to spring a surprise on Jill.  We had a very nice visit with them when they came to our village.  We showed them around.  They talked with the people to see how we were doing.  We had our interview with them.  And then we all relaxed when they said we were doing fine.  Then just before the main director got back in his car, he said to Jill that he had a surprise for her in the car, via my request.  She went over and lo and behold, he pulled out an ICE COLD COKE!!  (I got triple stars in her books for that anniversary surprise.)

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Well, if I haven’t been able to get the main point across yet through my stories, here it is: to be able to enter into a cross-cultural environment and have the most effective ministry possible among the people, you really need to have a good orientation period into the local language and culture.  That is not to say that someone cannot minister to people of another culture without any training.

But to really be effective in reaching the people, we need to learn to “live where they live and walk where they walk”.  And how much better it is if we are carefully trained and eased into that environment.  I pray this article will be of help and encouragement to new and aspiring young missionaries.

Sunday School In The Jungle

2 Comments

Transforming Lives In Papua New Guinea

[Editor’s Note:  The following story just arrived in my email Inbox a few days ago, and I wanted to pass it along to my readers right away.  Not only is it fascinating to see how God has used a good friend of mine over the years in a remote area of Papua New Guinea to bring the translated Word of God to the people there, but recently, Martha has been able to help bring Literacy to them as well.

As she has now been able to combine literacy with Scripture translation, via the avenue of the Sunday School program for local villages, slowly but surely a transformation of the people is happening, especially among the children.  Please pray for Martha and the people over there in PNG as you read this story.]

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

“Just teach the little kids to pray like you teach your own kids to pray,” I quickly said in response to a question from the leader of another village. In response he said, “My kids don’t pray!  I pray!” His response left me at a bit of a loss and I looked at the couple from another village, who had also come for the Sunday School Teacher Training Course, but they also said, “Our kids don’t pray, we pray.”  

Internally I was thinking, “And these are the people who are supposed to be teaching the kids?” But, externally I said, “This is how we do it here.  I put my hand on the child’s head or shoulder to keep him quiet, and then I tell him to close his eyes and say the exact words that I say.  I say very short sentences like, ‘Big Father, we lift up your name [praise you]. Give us long ears [wisdom]. That is all of my little talk.'”

On Sunday evening when no one had shown up for the Sunday School Course, I had assumed it was cancelled.  No one came on Monday so I worked on translation preparation work and basically didn’t think anything more about the course. Courses normally “lose” people through the week so if you start with “zero”, there is no hope of a course running, but this week was different.”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

“The first leader had started hiking over on Monday, but rain stopped him.  He completed the 4 hour hike on Tuesday morning and said he was ready to start the course.  Teaching one person wasn’t much of an option so I walked to the school to see if two of the teenaged boys would want to attend the course.  

While up there waiting for a school break, the couple hiked in from another village. As they walked by me, the wife said, “My husband just got back yesterday from town, but I got him to come with me today.”  They had hiked over 2 hours to come to the course.  We started that afternoon when the two boys got out of school and then spent another 3 full days going over the material I had prepared.  

A woman from this village joined us on Wednesday and on Thursday, a lady from another distant village happened to come through the village, and decided to join us on Friday.  All of these adults have been Christian leaders in their villages for decades. On Friday morning, I had the teacher trainees explain to the new person each part of the Sunday School routine.  Having them do the “teaching” proved to be a good thing for them and allowed me to give some corrective teaching on parts they had not understood well.”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

“On Wednesday and Thursday we had periodically gathered kids from the village to allow the teachers to teach the lesson that they had just learned.  Then on Friday we “hid” away from the kids in my house and had some serious study time.  They chose a final lesson to teach, prepared their parts and then I went to collect the students.  

I wish I could have recorded the shouts of joy from all the kids when they heard that they were going to have another Sunday School lesson.  They came running from all directions and yelled to their friends to join them. At the end of a fun lesson, the older leader said to the other teachers, “Now don’t you expect it to be like that back in our own villages.  It won’t be. These kids have had years of Sunday School. It won’t go well for us.”  

My first thought was “What a negative thing to say,” but it probably was the truth.  I did, however, encourage them and said, “When we started things here, kids didn’t know anything about the Bible either, but look at them now.” Praise God for Sunday School and for kids who learn so quickly.”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

“Praise God for my sister-in-law, who years ago picked out the lessons to go with our translated material, bought the pictures and reproducible coloring pictures, organized them all and sent them over with all kinds of other helpful supplies such as crayons.  We have been using the materials here for years because I could teach without a written lesson plan, but this year, three more villages will be able to use the beautiful pictures that caught the interest of the adults as well as the kids.

I did have to laugh though when one of the teachers thought a camel was a donkey.  They don’t have those kinds of critters here.  Pray that I can write even better lesson plans for the lessons from Genesis and Exodus. Currently the teachers only have 13 lessons about Jesus’ birth and about his death and resurrection.

God’s Rainbow Colored Children

1 Comment

God’s Rainbow Colored Children

[Editor’s Note: The story below was written in 2010 by one of our missionaries who works with Pioneer Bible Translators while living and working in an unstable area in North Africa.]

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

“A few months ago, before the rains had graced us with their presence, we took our 500 liter tank to a nearby borehole one morning to fill up with water. While my husband worked the hose and pump, I sat in the shade across the road and chatted with a handful of curious neighborhood kids who had gathered around. It didn’t take long for their initial shyness to wear off and I was soon engaged in an Arabic ver-sion of 20 Questions.

About half a dozen six-year olds jumped on the opportunity to ask me everything they had ever wondered about ‘khawajas’ (referring to us as western white people). Though some questions were hilarious (“Does your husband sleep in that little car?”) others were more endearing. “Where is your baby?” they asked. “I don’t have a baby.” I replied.

They pondered the plausibility of this response for a moment then one piped up. “Well, when you do have babies, do you want black ones like me or red ones like you?” That afternoon I stifled laughter and truthfully told them I would be happy with whatever kind of baby God chooses to give us – red, yellow, black or white.”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

“Today I am still smiling as I wonder about the colors God is knitting together inside of me now. We were so honored and thankful to find out we are pregnant a few weeks ago. We have been praying for God’s grace and wisdom in this matter for many months now and we feel like He has answered our prayers. We are so excited about the many ways we believe this new life will prove to be such a rich blessing. We are eager to learn more about unconditional love and to grow in the knowledge “that life is simple after all”, as one wise friend described parenthood.

We are looking forward to yet another reason to learn to trust more fully and freely in God. We are excited to see how a baby will draw us into more authentic relationships with parents and families here in North Africa. And we are joyfully anticipating meeting this new person and witnessing the incredible ways he or she will be shaped by the experiences, peoples and languages of this place over the years to come.

Our deep hope is that this pregnancy will be a testimony to the faithfulness of God and bring Him great glory in the months and years ahead. We are not without trepidation as we enter unknown territory yet again, but we are filled with peace and the memories of God’s faithfulness demonstrated over and over again in our lives. Please join us in prayer throughout the months ahead as we anticipate the arrival of the newest member of our team.”

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦          ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

In the following year, on April 16, this couple was blessed by God to have a beautiful baby girl born to them while living in East Africa.  The unstable elements of North Africa exploded wide open which resulted in many people, including all of our PBT missionaries, needing to evacuate to another country in Africa.  No doubt there was sorrow in having to leave newly made friends, and also some fear as battles raged closer to where they lived.  But for this couple, there was joy at the end as they welcomed their newborn daughter into their lives.

Thankfully, it has not been very often that our missionary families have had to evacuate their homes and flee out of country due to civil unrest or outbreaks of violence.  One of the questions that many people have asked our family has been, “Was it safe for you to live by yourselves in that remote village in Papua New Guinea?”  We quickly responded that we always felt safe.  And whenever there was even the hint of trouble coming our way, we would have some of our men from the village patrol around our house throughout the night to make sure no harm ever came to us.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

What caught my attention in the story told above was the comment from the one child about how there are some babies who are “black” and some are “red”.  The children see there is a difference in the color of the skin, but in reality, they do not see any difference between the actual person of the child, they are all babies sent by the hand of God into our lives.

I have a couple of cute stories to tell which point out how wonderfully innocent children can be in their perspectives, and also how wonderfully creative our God is in how He has made us all.  One day in the village we asked our older son to go get our younger son who was playing at the end of the grass airstrip.  There were a bunch of kids playing down there, and so our son said, “How can I tell which one is Glen?”  We laughed as we pointed and told him, “Glen is the one with blond hair!”

The other cute story comes from another missionary family who were back home in the States to visit family, friends and churches.  They brought out photo albums of their time in Papua New Guinea.  When the young boy of this family showed pictures of his friends to others (some Papuan and some American) he would say, “Now these are my chocolate friends, and these are my vanilla friends.”  God bless our children who have such love and acceptance of others, no matter where they were originally born.

Death Is Just The Beginning – Pt. 2

Leave a comment

“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 12

At the end of Max Lucado’s book, “GOD’S STORY, your story“, there are study questions and activities to consider that relate to each chapter.  I invite you to read the book, and look over the entire question and application section.  In my articles, I will usually only pick up on two or three questions and relate them to my own experiences.

                                          

Chapter 6: When God’s Story Becomes Yours….
YOUR FINAL CHAPTER BECOMES A PREFACE

Question #2: What experiences have most influenced your view of your own mortality?  When have you grappled with your own death or the deaths of those you know and love?

In some of my articles, I have shared about how frequently there were deaths among the people in the village where we lived and worked in Papua New Guinea.  The average age span for a Papuan is about 46 years.  And there were quite a number of children who died at birth or within the first two years.  Even mothers were dying due to retained placentas.  So death was all around us.  All of these deaths made us quite aware of our mortality.

Interestingly, there was a death of a different kind that shook up our family and brought about a transformation in the life of one of our sons, Glen.  He was only 6 years old and we had just been in PNG for a couple of months.  He was playing with a kitten and didn’t think anything of it when he threw the kitten up in the air and then caught it.  But the one time he missed catching the kitten, it fell and broke its neck and died.

Needless to say, we had a long talk that day, my son and I.  Then we went out to the jungle and buried it.  Glen then asked questions about life in general and what happens when a person dies.  That led to a long discussion about life after death, and the need to believe in Jesus who grants eternal life.  He already knew a lot about the Bible.  But now he had to grapple with the question of eternal life after death.  Praise God, eight months later Glen accepted Jesus into his life and had his name written in God’s Book of Life.

Question #3: What would you say to someone who claims to be spiritual but doesn’t believe in the resurrection?  How would you describe the role the resurrection plays in your own life?  What difference does it make?

It would seem to me that if a person said that they were “spiritually-minded” but did not believe in the resurrection of Jesus, then in reality that person would be either performing humanitarian acts of charity and calling that “spiritual”, or they are trapped in the concept of “doing good deeds” in the hope that their “goodness” would be sufficient to save them from Hell and God’s punishment against the sinfulness of man.

As a Christian, I recognize that there would never be enough good deeds that I could do that would make up for or “pay” for my sins.  My goodness could never wipe out my bad deeds I have done in life.  My only hope would be if there was someone else who was perfect and without sin who could agree to take my punishment from God for my sins that I would be free from the penalty of sin.

That is what Jesus did on the cross.  That takes care of my sin.  But if that is all, then we can only see death as the final act of life.  But by Jesus rising from the grave, He proved that He had power over the most powerful thing we know in this life, and that is Death.  Jesus’ resurrection proved His power and His authority to give life to those who die.  And since our sins are forgiven, then we can rise in this resurrection life as perfect, sinless people who will live with God forever.

Question #4: Do Christians today act more like the disciples behaved before or after the resurrection?  What could we do to be “resurrection people” in the way we worship, serve, and relate to one another?

I am very concerned for Christians today, especially those who live in the affluent democratic countries of the world.  Life for most people, including Christians, so easily becomes one of materialism.  Jesus warns us to not build our treasures here on earth.  Those who do, so often they work so hard to get them, and then they worry about losing them, and life is all about material possessions instead of seeing life and others around through the eyes of God.

What we must remember is that all these things will pass away and be destroyed.  We cannot take these earthly treasures to heaven.  And those who do not follow after God in this life, will not live with Him in the next life.  We must put a high priority on helping our family members, friends and neighbors to come to know Jesus.  Bigger homes, nicer cars, and even beautiful church buildings will mean nothing if we are not telling others about Jesus.

I’m not saying we have to become preachers, evangelists or missionaries.  But we must put God and others first in our lives.  And people must see that our words and our actions are consistent and spiritually attractive so that they might turn to us when they find that they are in a time of real need in their lives.  As the saying goes, “We may be the only Bible that people ever read.”  So let’s let our lives shine the truth and love of God to others for the sake of their eternal destiny.

                                          

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

Death Is Just The Beginning – Pt. 1

Leave a comment

“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 11

Death!  It seems so final.  A Person is born, lives a number of years – perhaps as much as 100 years – and then dies.  That’s it, lights out!  Into the grave or the crematorium goes the body.  All that is left is the ashes or a slowly rotting body in the ground until there is nothing left of that person except a few bones.  The only way to identify who lay there is a name etched on stone, and perhaps teeth that can be matched to a dental record.

This is the ending that every person who has lived on this earth has to look forward to.  There is no escaping it.  As our author (Max Lucado) quotes on page 96 from Fred Carl Kuechner:

“Death is the most democratic institution on earth….It allows no discrimination, tolerates no exceptions.  The mortality rate of mankind is the same the world over:  one death per person.”

Looking at it this way, it would be easy to become either very depressed about life, or to value it so much as to try to get everything you can before the end comes.  And the worst part is that none of us know the future, so we really don’t know how many more days or years we have left to live.  No wonder there are so many people today who follow the saying, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”

    

As a missionary who lived in a remote village of Papua New Guinea for five years, death took on a whole new reality for me.  The only people who were close to me and died before going to PNG were my grandmother and my sister.  My grandmother was 88 years old and the funeral was a celebration of a believer in Christ and a life well lived.  My sister died while in Jamaica in her 30’s and we held a memorial service for her.  Death hit our family, but I never really saw it up close.

This changed quickly when we went and lived in our little village in the jungle.  In those five years, there were quite a number of deaths: some people died of old age; some children died from cerebral malaria and some from eating rotten food which led to fatal food poisoning; and some women died in child-bearing due to retained placenta.  The worst experience was watching one of my best friends and a co-translator suffer over a six month period and finally die due to a brain tumour.

    

What made these deaths so hard to witness was watching the despair and the fear that everyone else displayed at the time of these deaths.  There is nothing else I know that is so piercing of a sound that cuts deeply into your heart and soul as when the shrieking death wail went up when someone died.  That piercing cry is started by a family member as soon as the person dies, and then it is joined by other family members and friends when they come to the hut to share in the sorrow.

Day and night this wailing can be heard across the village for days.  But even as the death wail continues, rumours and murmuring go on among the people, for everyone is asking the question, “What evil spirits were involved, and who among the village is responsible for these deaths.  These are the natural questions that are asked by people who live in an animistic culture.  They live in fear of all the evil spirits that surround them, and they fear death most of all.

    

 The Bible on the other hand, speaks to us about the victory that we can have over death.  Up until the time that Jesus lived, the world did lie under the curse of disease, destruction, despair and finally death.  Bur Jesus broke that power of death by rising Himself back from the dead.  He was then able to say along with the Psalmist, “O death, where is thy sting; O grave, where is thy victory?”

Jesus told His disciples in advance that He would die, but also that after three days in the grave He would rise again and be alive.  The promise Jesus gave was that just as He would conquer the grave and live again, so also would the people who put their trust in Him.  It is at this very point, this claim of resurrection life, that the whole of Christian faith stands.  If Jesus claims (as He did) to grant life after death, but He Himself never rose physically from the grave, then all His promises are not worthy to be accepted as true.

    

 Now some people still think today that Jesus’ claims were outrageous and couldn’t be true.  The most obvious alternative would be to say that the disciples invented this hoax, or at least created this myth about Jesus and the “risen Christ”.  But I challenge any person to read the last few chapters of all the gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).  The Bible presents terrified disciples, and women who went to the tomb expecting to find a dead body there.

But instead, we see very quickly a faith story burst out after very serious misgivings and denials of the resurrection.  And those men all went on to become martyrs for their faith.  Only a true and real resurrection can account for this change.  And so, if Jesus did rise from the dead, then death is no longer the end of the story for all of us.  Therefore, we do not need to be afraid of death anymore.

Rather then an ending, death can be seen to be a beginning, a new start to an eternal life with God.  In fact, I see death as simply a doorway that all of us must go through one day.  Or perhaps an even better picture is that death becomes a graduation from this limited life to the unlimited life in the next one.  Hallelujah, He is risen.  And one day, so will we.

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Older Entries