Saturday, November 24, 2007

Answered prayer

I often wonder how people without a relationship with the Lord manage to weather the storms of life. Of course we know many who turn to drugs, alcohol and rampant hedonism to escape the realities of life, but here we see people just plugging away, stoically accepting whatever comes.

I almost had another very sad post, but God is good and has answered our prayers.

A few days ago, I heard from my friend (P) whose daughter died a few months ago. She had been called unexpectedly to another daughter's home because her granddaughter was missing. The child and her mother were visiting relatives because the mother was sick and seeking medical treatment. The evening that they arrived, the child (about 5) went with her cousins and other kids from the neighborhood to watch TV at a nearby compound. The child never came home. The family made announcements on radio and TV, searched the neighborhood, went to all the police stations in the area, but nothing. I didn't hear about it until the child had already been missing for 10 days. My friend called to make sure that I had heard. She was also concerned because she had heard that her daughter-in-law here in the village was sick. P was feeling pulled apart as she tried to support her daughter whose child was lost and also care for her son's wife who was trying to handle the responsibilities at home.

We were horrified at the fact that this child had been missing for so long and of course, we thought the worst. I was also very concerned for P because she was still struggling with the death of her daughter and was now dealing with an emotional pain that might not ever be resolved. We prayed hard for the child to be found and two days later, P called me and said that the child had been found. She seemed to be okay. The circumstances that led to her recovery are truly miraculous. Another child who was being held in the same compound, escaped and told the police where she had been held and that there was another child there. Of course when the police came and told them to produce the other child, the people denied everything. After the police left, the people got nervous and moved P's granddaughter to another compound. They were too nervous to keep her, so they moved her to someone else. Several compounds later, someone finally decided to take her to an orphanage and leave her there. Meanwhile, her family decided to check the police stations and that orphanage again and there she was. God is so good.

I am looking forward to seeing P again when she returns home and rejoicing in the way that God answered prayer.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


One of the hardest things for me to get used to here is death. Now it seems like death would be the same everywhere, doesn’t it? However, people all over the world respond to this universal experience in different ways. Here in The Gambia, when a person dies people initially wail loudly until all the friends and neighbors hear it and come running. After that initial outburst though, fatalism takes over as you hear people telling the grieving family that it was God’s will and they just need to endure it.

In the past few months I have attended 3 funerals of young adults. Somehow those are always the hardest. As we chatted with the family of one young man, they were comforting each other with accounts of how faithful he was in doing his prayers and how no one had anything bad to say about him. I had to bite my tongue not to cry out at the vanity of putting your hope of eternity on your good works or good character.

A good friend of mine lost her daughter a few months ago too. I sat in her house as people came to pay their respects. If she cried, they told her, “Just endure it. All we can do now is pray for her. Don’t cry. Endure it.” My friend still comes to my office regularly when she needs to talk or cry, because I provide a listening ear and I don't scold her for crying. Her daughter was a recently married young adult and no one really knows what she died from. My friend's account of their days in the hospital are heart wrenching as both of them knew that she was dying. All I can do sometime is cry with her because there is absolutely no hope I offer her.

I struggle with death in this culture because I believe that people who die without trusting in Jesus Christ as their Saviour are eternally lost. Are Americans who die without Christ also eternally lost? Yes, of course, but since most Americans have heard the gospel many times, you have some hope that perhaps the person accepted Christ as Saviour before he died. Here people talk about having hope, but they are putting their hope in good works instead of the blood of Christ that paid the penalty for the sins of the world. Their hope is in vain.

Just a few days ago though, we experienced a different kind of loss as one of the believers passed away. Unfortunately, we are still not a strong enough group to have a Christian funeral and a plot of land to bury believers. Her husband is obviously struggling with his loss, but he told me just today that he believes that she was truly trusting Christ. At her funeral, her relatives wanted him to go with them to the gravesite and pray for her to get into heaven as they do at Muslim funerals. He refused and as he told me today, "She has already gone where she is going to go." This death, although painful, leaves us rejoicing that she came to know the Lord before she died. What a difference that makes!