Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How Do You Comfort?

I'm beginning to think that one of the toughest things in a first generation church is death.  How do you give comfort?  I've been dreading this in our own family.  My husband's parents are getting old and we have plans in place, funds laid aside so he could go at any minute.  The plans are easy, but the comfort is impossible.

We had a guest, a new member of our team - well, she's only partly with us.  I hope she joins us full-time soon.  Anyway, she was at our house and told us her dad is very sick, but she doesn't think she could go see him.  Remember those funds laid aside?  We thought that perhaps she could go.  She could use those, and later on we'll worry about repayment.  So we searched and found a way to get there, and phoned the family to see how he was doing.  He had just died.  Only hours before....

She sat in our living room crying.  She phoned other relatives around the world to let them know.  We sat with her.  There is nothing more we can do, just to be there.  We prayed with her.  We cried together.  She's been through six deaths in her extended family in the last three months.  It's been tough.  She's at the end of her emotions right now.

But as we sat, I thought this is the hardest thing to deal with in a first generation church.  When we lose a family member, even one we don't think was a believer, we try to hold out some hope.  We hope that at the last minute, they might have called out to God.  Of course they knew of the gospel, so we hope.  We hope even when we don't know.  But to these believers, it is totally different.  They face the deaths of their families knowing that there was little chance they even heard the gospel.  And the face of that grief is different.  Very different.  I grew up in a family where most of us are believers.  When we die, we mourn the loss of the person in our lives right now and we look forward to seeing them again.  To the first generation church, death is very different.  It is so final.  I dread the deaths of my husband's parents.  He lost an uncle and cousin last year in an accident, and that was tough.

So this Christmas, we have a mixed crowd in my house.  Part of our family here - the three new ones.  The family which just moved here.  Our friend who just lost her family.  And a new believer from nearby who dropped in and is staying for Christmas.  We have both joy in being together, and pain in facing death.  I am at loss as to how to comfort here.  All I can do is listen and learn from them.

Pray for me, too.  I've got a severe UTI and am in a reasonable amount of pain right now.  Trying to manage hosting Christmas through all this.  I've got help and it's going ok.  I'm on antibiotics and cranberry extract, and it is resolving, but it will take a day or two, and I am in pain.  Was up last night crying half the night, and am exhausted today.  I've got a great husband who took the kids out so I can rest and who helped clean, so I'm going to be ok.  Just I am really, really sore right now.

From last year to this year, I am amazed at the changes in our family.  Even from three months ago.  Something to give God thanks for.

Have a great Christmas!


Anonymous said...

Yes, me too, I am thankful for how things have changed at your end, even if I get only small glimpses. Even if you do not know at first how to comfort, I believe you have the necessary sensitivity to learn what helps people in this culture to feel comforted. Trust your hunches!
I don't know what UTI is but I wish you speedy recovery. I am sporting a Christmas flu and was unable to join my friends for Christmas. :-( So now I get the rest I did not allow myself for the last weeks.

Ellie said...

:) UTI - urinary tract infection. Bladder infection, but went up into kidneys. Thankfully, I am on the mend now!