Saturday, October 27, 2007

Heading to the Burial

I didn't need my alarm to go off to wake me up at 4:40am, as I had slept wrestlessly and was up by 4:30. I quickly dressed and poured some coffee from my flask (where I had put it the night before incase the power was off) to my Starbucks travel mug. Clothes, shoes, bananas, water bottle, camera, pillow, ready to go. I reached the "coasters" at 5 sharp and they were already packed with people. My seat was on the trundle (folding) seat near the front of the bus. The goal was to reach Kampala before 6:30 so as to beat the jam that ALWAYS occurs at Bwaise, just before town. In typical Ugandan fashion, we left a half hour late, drove incredibly SLOW over the bumpy dirt road to Luwero, and then burned 30 minutes in Wobulenzi getting fuel and using the local fascilities. Needless to say, we arrived at Bwaise at 7:30, right in the thick of traffic. I was beginning to get car sick, so my friend Paul (who I was so blessed to sit next to) and I got out and walked ahead to a Shell so I could regain my stomach. After making it through Bwaise and after making a number of funny and unnecessary stops, we were off to Ft. Portal. Paul and I spent the trip "dreaming" about future ministry to pastors and churches in the village (Paul himself has planted a church in a small village called Kiruli). After a quick stop for lunch at the "in your face chicken place" (this is where people come to your car with meat on a stick, waving it at your widow- at times the meat touching the glass!). Paul and I had goat, fried bananas, and chapatis. We made it to Ft. Portal around 1:30, just in time for the viewing.
I have been to a number of burials here in Uganda, but I have never participated in the common practice of entering the house where the body is being kept and looking at the body, but I went in to have one last look at my friend Emma. The room was full of women sitting on the ground. The coffin was long (Emma was around 6'7") and covered. The group of around 60 that I had arrived with stood around just looking at the coffin, until one bold man charged up to the coffin and uncovered the face. Immediately it was like a wave had hit as everyone rushed up to look in. Crying broke out as we looked on the face of our beloved Emma- so loved by so many.
The total attendence was around 200 people, with only around 10 from Ft. Portal itself, quite a testimony to Emma and those who know and love the Ruyondo family. After a few minutes the coffin was brought out into the center of the three canapies outside the house for general viewing.
Then the speeches began. Representatives from family, Emma's schools, work, and New Hope all spoke. The sister of Emma's deceased mother spoke, informing us that their mother had given birth to 14 children, of which only 3 are alive today. Her son, Emma's cousin, spoke with great faith and hope in Jesus. Yet one statement he made stuck with me- "Death is becoming more real to me than life." What a commentary on life here in Uganda. Yet he was quick to speak of the eternal that that death points to and continually draws our thoughts to.
Emma's Dad and my good friend Joseph then gave a speech. He narrated the entire situation of how Emma had died. We were all awaiting the sister, Esther, to arrive as she was having to take government exams for her end of school year. As Joseph ended his speech Esther pulled up. She was able to see her brother one last time. We then headed to the burial sight with much singing along the way.
At the gravesite I stood next to my friend Joseph and put my arm around him. I could hardly look at him throughout the day without crying, feeling the pain (really for the first time) of a father who had lost his son. Flowers were passed out to everyone to throw onto the coffin before covering it. As we sang and looked on, I couldn't help but notice Joseph with his arm around his two sons, Joel and Dan. I know that Joseph wanted to protect them and comfort them, just as he longed to have been able to protect Emma but was unable to. We sang, prayed, and cast our flowers just as the rain came in and forced us all to leave the grave quite suddenly.
We arrived back to an enormous meal of matoke, rice, millet bread, chapati, meat and chicken before heading back here to Kasana.
I recognize that this email is more "newsy" then heart. It's not that heart isn't there, it's just the drain from the emotion packed days that we have all been through. My heart is with Joseph as he leads his family through this journey of grief, one that he knows all too well.
I have been encouraged by the glory given to God and the hope of the Gospel proclaimed throughout all of this. It is tragedy and at death we rail in anger and pain. Yet it is not the end, but is the beginning. Emma is not the focus, it is Jesus, the one who made Emma and made him the young man he was. It is Emma's God that is the focus and to His wisdom we submit. The Gospel enters into the sufferers pain and cries out, "It is that the works of God might be desplayed". Thank you my Jesus for standing as our suffering high priest and for interceeding on behalf of our weaknesses. You are our only hope.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

keith, the details in your writing are amazing. thanks for doing what you do and keeping us up to date. becky