the Vernon Journal

Serving the Kingdom in Southeast Asia

Filtering by Tag: funerals

Green leaves also fall

We've been to many funerals in 9 years serving as missionaries with the Akha people. Some of those early funerals were shocking experiences, like the time when I was awoken, placed on a motorcycle and driven to a neighboring village without any understanding what was happening until I came into a hut and saw the body of a woman who had died from AIDS on the floor, a casket beside her, and a family of mourners looking for a pastor. Other funerals were almost comical experiences, like the time when Lori and I tried to walk with two 60-year old women to a funeral during rainy season, only to arrive an hour later covered head-to-toe in mud and the butt of every joke that the mourners told that day.

But as the years went on and our Akha family grew, we have gone from being outsiders observing a funeral to mourners attending one. But nothing has been like this past month.

We have been to Maesalong three times in this past month. We have taken part in a funeral each time.

It has been very hard. Not for those who have gone on to peace, but for those of us who remain behind and who feel their absence.

We lost an Akha mother, who has cared for us and for teams that have visited our village. Who loved and served the church, her family, her people and even strangers until she succumbed to her battle with kidney failure.

We lost an Akha grandmother, who invested her life into her grandchildren and held tightly to Akha traditions, never removing her headdress, even as she held tightly to her Saviour until her advanced years took her peacefully.

We lost an Akha brother. A young man, and one of our first and greatest village friends. One whose massive frame held a gentle spirit, and who always would put others ahead of himself. He was taken from us shockingly, when his poor decisions and the irresponsibility of another driver took him from us suddenly.

It is in these events that we know we have become knitted together with our family here. When our tears fall alongside theirs, when we question "why?" together.

And we answer the "Why?" together as well, by sharing peace from the Author of peace; by the life of the community that goes on; through the Word that brings hope; and through the truth woven into the fabric of Akha culture through their proverbs:

Falling is not solely for yellow leaves, green leaves also fall

- Akha proverb -

To every thing there is a season.

Please join us in prayer for our Akha friends and family in Maesalong as we walk through this season of loss together.

[gallery link="file"]

To Everything there is a Season

Prayer at the SiteAbout three weeks ago we heard of an Akha woman in a village near our home who was very ill and had not eaten in seven days. We went to her home to pray for her and were shocked at what we found. We had never seen anything like it before, except in a National Geographic or war documentary. She was very small and very cold. We prayed for her, encouraged the family to keep trying to get any kind of sustenance into her body and left. It was most probably the very end effects of AIDS. On Monday afternoon she died. One of her sons came to our village and communicated that his mother had died and he wanted me to come to his house... immediately. There followed such a sequence of events as I have never seen. Most of them are flashes of memories, moments that I seem to remember apart from the hours we have spent with the family since. I arrived in the home to find a casket and a body. It became obvious that they thought I knew how to conduct a preparation for burial. I could only pray and be a presence as mourners came to mourn and villagers came to see what had happened.

In America, hospitals and funeral homes have so separated us from death that it has become surreal. In an Akha village death is part of life, and however difficult it might be it must be dealt with by the hands of those who love the deceased.

Most of the next 48 hours were spent sitting beside the closed casket in the home of the family whose mother had died. Many times conversation was disturbingly light, or villagers would laugh at crying family members. There are so many coping mechanisms and cultural differences that we often felt like we were just in the way. However, we have begun to realize that because the Akha have such a great fear of death, they really just wanted us there to show them we were not afraid. And the truth is we weren't. As it is written, Where, o death, is your sting? This woman had given her life to Christ, and has entered into a life where pain no longer plays a part.

For those of us who remain, however, there is great loss. I have not yet begun to feel the pains that life throws in our way, but I have just begun to see the peace that comes when our final pain has been suffered.

Yesterday many Akha from many villages gathered and we walked to the top of a mountain for the burial service. Whether there were tears or jokes being made, everyone suffered except the guest of honor, for she was free.

All content Copyright 2014, humblethorn designs