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:
- 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.