A Moldovan Funeral

We arrived at the house in the village of Zgurița an hour before the funeral was to begin. A group of people from town were waiting outside the house and at the street for the funeral to begin. After taking off my shoes, I walked back to the room of the family’s house where the parents’ were weeping while stroking the head and hair of their almost 5 year old son who had drowned and now lay in a small casket. The once full of life and active boy, now pale, lay there with empty eyes gazing towards the ceiling. The father whispered a “thank you” when I told him that I am so sorry and that we are praying for them. Though an Orthodox family, the priest was nowhere present, having refused to do the funeral since the boy was not baptized as a baby. Instead, there was an Adventist pastor, a Pentecostal pastor, another Christian friend from our city, and myself to carry out the funeral plans.

We sang in Russian, prayed, and had a message before carrying the boy’s body in the casket outside where the crowd awaited us. There was more singing and more preaching. My Christian friend preached the Gospel and I am not sure about all that the Adventist preacher said. Since the Pentecostal pastor was of the opinion that schedules and programs hinder the free leading of the Spirit, I did not know when my turn would be to give my message. The messages up to this point, though, included several parts of what I had already prepared, leading me to an edited message.

The casket was then loaded on the flatbed truck, along with the weeping mother and sister, who was about 5 or 6 years old. The father and his two older sons followed behind with hands on the back of the truck’s bed. The rest of the crowd followed behind on foot with us as we sang hymns off and on for half an hour in route to the cemetery.

When we arrived to the freshly hand-dug grave, the casket was set beside it with the two straps for hand lowering it into the hole rest underneath. I was then told it was my turn to speak. With everything thus far in Russian, I did not know what to expect from them once they heard Romanian. Maybe it was due to the switch in language or the fact that I have an accent that is quickly noticeable that people seemed very attentive. God gave such wonderful grace. My mind often wandered back to January of 2013 when we lost Enoch since I received the phone call last night asking for me to come and participate in the funeral. The Lord helped me with my emotions during the message. I mainly stayed in 1 Corinthians 15, talked about the Gospel, Christ’s resurrection, and the hope of the resurrection for those who repent and believe in Christ. I encouraged the family to not be afraid to weep, to not be angry towards God since He’s not the enemy (and that they need to look to Him through this time), and to thank God for the time they did have with their son. Afterwards, I thought of how the message could have been different or better, but I can’t change that now.

We sang some more and had another message from the Adventist pastor. The young sister crying next to the casket made me think of Abby when we buried Enoch and the struggle she had for a year and a half of being angry towards God for it. It hurt to see such a young girl hurting so. We sang more while the casket was nailed shut, lowered into the grave, and the grave filled in with dirt.

The family seemed to show a different emotion by this time. A sense of another step of closure was completed. Their bleeding hearts received a dose of treatment in the grieving process. The father, mother, and remaining three children huddled together.

We walked back to their house and the family who had just buried their son worked to fill the line of tables in their driveway with food for friends, family, and those involved in the funeral. Though in America the tradition has friends and family bringing food to the grieving family, the Moldovan tradition is the inverse. Which tradition is better? Watching the grieving family immediately turn their focus to serving food created a temporary distraction. Maybe it was not a bad thing at all, if they did not have to go into debt to provide it, as many do here. We ate delicious Moldovan food. Though the table was filled with food on plates, no one has a plate to eat off of… just a fork, slice or two of bread, napkin, and cup. The father’s friend who was drunk before the funeral kept asking me questions once he found out I was American. People began to talk. It truly seemed medicinal to the emotions of the human heart.

While it was the end of what will be remembered of the short life of this little boy, I pray that it will be the beginning for this family to seek out the truth of the Gospel. Would you please pray for this family to seek God through this seemingly tragic event in their lives? Would you please pray that what was done today would bring Christ glory and stand out positively in stark contrast to the hopeless religion of the Orthodox Church? Would you pray that we would have further opportunity to meet with and minister to this family? Would you pray that God would use this to bring this family to faith in Christ? Would you pray that I would not take my children for granted and remember that I have no guarantee of tomorrow with them? Would you consider what God would teach you through the events of today in a small village here in Moldova?