A letter from Kay Day in Malawi
Christ is risen! He has risen, indeed!
Eastertide greetings, dear family and friends. I pray that you have experienced a joyful resurrection celebration.
Our joy because of the resurrection was driven home to me powerfully on Good Friday. When I was serving a congregation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, some years ago, one of the sons of the congregation was killed during Holy Week in an accident. It was sudden and sad, especially as he left a widow and two young children, but the funeral service was a celebration of his life and the hope we held in his resurrection with Christ. The joy of the Easter message was real to all who attended that funeral. This Good Friday, the message was real, too, but that reality was much more sobering. After celebrating the Good Friday service with the Limbe congregation, the senior minister and I went with several members of the congregation to the funeral service of the brother of one of our most active elders. The man had been killed in an automobile accident the day before. His brother was devastated, but his grief was intensified by the fact that the young man was not a Christian. He had shunned Christianity and anything that had to do with church.
According to the practices of the church and culture here, that meant that we from the church were not to participate in his service. We went to attend to support our elder. The women’s guild members did not wear their uniforms; the pastor and I did not robe; there were no prayers at the home with the family, nor hymns sung during the vigil. The pastor and I sat with the men of the village (yes, I’m “one of the guys” when at official functions), and the women sat silently waiting for the casket to be brought out of the house. Those from the family and the village were invited into the house to pass by the casket before it was closed. This is not a practice of the church. The women who went in mournfully wailed. Their sorrow and despair were chilling. The service was conducted by the village headman, the local government official. He remembered the man’s accomplishments, read the memorial gifts given and offered sympathy to the family. There were no words of hope, no comfort of the resurrection. These were not the realities of this man’s life. At the grave the village headman offered a few words of encouragement to the family, and then he broke with tradition and said a prayer. He prayed for mercy. In silence the casket was lowered and the grave filled. The laying of wreaths was not accompanied with women guild’s singing but by the wailing of the women of the family.
As I walked away from the grave, I thought of the sorrow and despair of Jesus’ disciples on that first Good Friday, when they had no hope of his resurrection, despite Jesus’ teaching on it. But they were joyfully surprised on that first Easter morning. Resurrection was real! He was alive!
Only God knows what the young man thought or prayed in the final seconds of his life as his car rolled from the crash. I hope he called out to God for his mercy, the mercy prayed for at the grave. But the Easter message is that we can live and die in hope and grace. We can have eternal life. My Good Friday experience made that message urgent. There are many around the world, many in our own circle of family and friends, who live without that hope. It is not just for “missionaries” to share the message of Easter, but for all of us who believe. I pray that your Easter joy is so great that you want to share it with those who do not know it.
Yours in Easter joy,
The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 67