Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:00

Mission News

Written by Ken Herfst
I just attended a funeral, and while it is still fresh in my mind I would like to tell you about it. It was the funeral of FroilanÕs Father (Froilan and his wife, as well as his mother and some sisters, attend our services on Sundays). I have a weekly Bible study with his wife and one of his sisters. They live very close to us.

The Father had not been well for quite some time and was also, as far as I can understand from the stories, suffering from AlzheimerÕs disease. At least, he was very confused and could not be left alone. As far as I know he never attended church. When the family saw that he was dying they called the minister of one of the churches that some of the family members attend, who came over and baptized him. Apparently last night they had a service at the house in which the minister did say that baptism does not save you, but that the man had come to faith just before his death. Thankfully it is not for us to judge.

The service was to be at 8:00 am, I thought in the church, but when I arrived there the gate was locked. So I went to the home. There I was told it would be at 9:00 am at the cemetery and the people would go there in a procession, behind the casket. So they took me to the room where the casket was.

The room was quite dark, as it was cloudy outside, but there were several candles burning. They also had incense burning, which I presume was for the odour, as it was very warm. For that reason they have to do the burial within twenty-four hours. The casket was closed, but had a window in it, which they could open. Afterwards, one of the daughters came in. She apparently was the oldest daughter and as such seemed to be in charge. It looked as though Froilan did not have too much to say. She is a member of the Roman Catholic Church. For her the whole casket was opened and while the others held it open she spent a long time caressing and wailing loudly, continuously talking in Achi. There were not many people, perhaps thirty. People from all kinds of churches came in. Mostly no one spoke. In the corner of the room was a large bouquet of wild flowers. In the front of the room on the table was an image of Christ on the cross. A mixture of Christianity, Roman Catholicism and superstition! When they opened the casket, I noticed that they had several things in there, among other things a lot of candles and a container with a drink. It seems the candles are to give them light and the drink for when they are thirsty on the way to the other world.

Just a little before 9:00 am it was time to go to the cemetery. The casket was placed on a wooden frame and carried by six men. To go to the cemetery they went a long way around, past the church, which is a last farewell to the church. This again is a superstitious Roman Catholic idea, especially since he never even attended. Several people joined as we went along. Just before leaving, the wife went into a little building by herself and started crying audibly, which she continued to do for quite some time. No one comforted her, or even went close to her. She walked by herself. I am not sure if that perhaps too, is part of the procedure.

The cemetery is quite different from ours. The caskets are placed in a cement tomb, above the ground. They simply slide the casket in. It turned out, however that the opening was not large enough, so that had to pull it out again and make the ground more level. They had to do this three times. I was very thankful we do not have this problem at home. By this time it was very sunny and hot. Some one was continuously airing out the tomb with the incense container. Someone else was ready with freshly mixed cement to close up the tomb.

As soon as they had the casket in, which took about forty minutes, the minister led a short service. While he was doing that the tomb was being closed in. He read some verses from the Bible and gave a short message. I found it very sad; the people are living in darkness and they do not receive the full Gospel. He spoke about the fact that this man had now died, but one day he, as well as all the others in the tombs in that cemetery, would rise again when the Lord would return. However, there are two groups; those who have done good deeds will go to heaven and will receive eternal life, but those who did evil will go to hell. Several times he stressed the importance of doing good works, but unfortunately he did not preach our inability to do so and our need of Jesus Christ as our Saviour.

When the service was over I left. I presume that they went to the home for something to eat, although I am not sure if that is the custom here.

As I was there with these people I was once again struck with the fact how difficult it is to reach them. They have so many superstitious ideas and customs. Froilan and his wife and some of his sisters came to our services, but in the family situation there are so many different beliefs and customs. How much of what they hear in the Church and at Bible studies do they understand? It is only the Holy Spirit who can apply the Word to their hearts, and open their understanding. Please continue to pray much for them and for us, that we may receive the strength and the wisdom to bring them the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that they can understand.

May the Lord be with you and bless you all.

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