Saturday, May 27, 2006

You Never Know What to Expect in Missions

Day of the Dead 3
Originally uploaded by Brazil Bean Brewed.

There were 2 things I had not done in ministry. A wedding and a funeral. Well I can strike the funeral off the list. It is not a happy occassion and the circumstances surrounding were quite wild. The other day I got a call from one of the youth that I am studying the Bible with (George). He told me his uncle had died. It was a surprise for all, although not completely unexpected. Bernardo unfortunately struggled like so many others in Latin A with serious alcoholism. I knew Bernardo for almost the entire time I have lived here, as he is my Port. teacher's brother. I do a small group Bible study in the home where 5 different family units of the same family live. One thing was for certain when I would arive at the house, Bernardo and at least 5 other alcoholic friends would greet me at the front gate. Bernardo was a great guy, always happy to see you and friendly. But he had a deadly disease that he could not shake. At the Bible study just one week earlier, Bernardo came up the stairs for the first time to join us. Despite stinking of alcohol, no one was upset that Bernardo was there, as everyone knew how badly he needed help. Mary Virginia had suggested we do an intervention and we had just started talking to the family about what that is and how it can work. All of those thoughts of change for Bernardo came to an end, as we heard of his passing. Very sad.

When I went to the funeral, I got there 5 minutes early and walked around the cemetary looking for the room where the funeral would be. This was the first funeral I was to witness in Brazil, and was ready to take mental notes of the cultural traditions. As I finally found the family I was surprised to see George come running up to me. He told me that the priest that was to do the funeral had not shown and that the family did not believe he would show. That's when he dropped the unexpected bomb on me, when he asked if I would do the funeral in 5 minutes. What are you supposed to say. So for the next 5 minutes I ran out to the street where all the flower vendors are, asking if any of them had a Bible I could borrow. Fortunately one of them did, although it was written in old Portuguese. I decided to read from Psalm 91 at the suggestion of a family member. The family called in all the guests and I was shocked at how many people had come. It was short and sweet as I simply did not know the vocab used for funerals, like "rest in peace." It was also hard because of the sad story of the life of Bernardo. There were so many people crying that it made it even harder because I wanted to say something that would encourage them. Half-way through I looked closely into the open casket that was full of petals and realized I could see Bernard's face. That freaked me out. After a few friends said some final words the casket was closed. The tradition then is for all to form a procession to walk through the cemetary to the 2x2 place in the wall that he was burried in. What a day. I was reminded that in this job you just never know what you will do when you get up in the morning. Please pray for this family and the opportunities that I will have to talk to the living about the importance of life.


Craig & Leah in Korea said...

Whoa. Trav, what a situation to be called to! that really touched me. How crazy that you had 5 minutes to prepare, and how awesome that you were able to be there in such a powerful way for that family. No wonder they are starting to trust you and God's teachings.
Praying with you in this!

Lenardo Jaoa said...

That was awesome for God to use you in that sitution. I'm sure they were very apreciative for that. You are becoming very close to that family. Did I meet him? Was he the white guy drinking beer with Josie's sister and apologizing to us for not coming to the Bible study or the thin dark guy who lived downstairs?