It all started around 11 PM on Monday night. We were sleeping soundly when Sarah Glover shined a light on our window calling to us that Lena had a patient. We dressed quickly and went to the clinic, finding a large crowd carrying a patient in a sling. The injured boy was the son of our church’s song leader. As Sarah went to get Rachel Schellenberger, Lena began to assess the child’s head wound. It seems he was sitting in a family garden when a rotten tree fell and struck him on top of the head. The two nurses agreed: He was not going to make it.
We had the men place his body on the floor (as is custom) so the family could gather around him. The missionaries were crying, the family was crying. I asked Pastor James to pray. In a few minutes, this young boy passed from death to life. Then the “haus krai” (house cry, the PNG style of mourning) began. The family and friends, most of them church members, soon gathered up their son’s body and went across the trail to their home. And the crying increased.
In the dark of the midnight, the missionaries all sat on the clinic veranda. We cried, we contemplated, and we all wondered what God would do. Andrew Schellenberger prayed. We sat together a while longer, and went home.
At dawn, the haus krai resumed. Early on we went to sit with the family. These young converts are facing new beliefs in a loving God as they struggle with the old ways of their ancestors. Some family members were looking for the reason the boy had died; in PNG traditional beliefs, no one dies without a cause. Even accidents are brought on by sorcery or unsettled disputes. The boy’s father was dismissing such talk, as were many of the believers. He maintained that God was in control.
When I went to bed the night before, I never thought that I’d help build a coffin box the next day. I never thought I’d be at a haus krai at the start of my day. And I never thought something more could happen. But it did.
While we were building the boy’s coffin, one of our preacher’s wives came to tell us that a new convert at our church plant in Ipaiyu had also died overnight. This young father had trusted Christ a few months ago, along with his wife. About three months later he contracted a mysterious illness that left him nearly paralyzed and brain damaged. Though it looked like he might get better, he suddenly died.
This was a new believer in a new church. The people of the community already give our believers a hard time for believing God’s word. Any little bad thing that happens is blamed on these believers. What new accusation will arise now?
Some things I just don’t know. I know this: We had two haus krais the same day, both for young men. The Gospel was preached, in word and in deed. And in the days that followed, the effect of the Gospel on the lives of new believers showed the might of the Resurrection. A young widow stood faithful. A young father and mother not only stayed faithful, they grew in the Lord. Grief is very real to each of them, but God’s word has been more real. The Gospel is real.