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?

Hitch-hiker deja vu

A month or so ago, on my way to Chisinau with Daniel to work on applying for Ana’s birth certificate and passport, we had picked up an Orthodox priest who was alongside the road trying to hail a ride to the capital.  You can imagine the interesting chemistry that a Baptist missionary and an Orthodox priest can have.  He was not interested in talking about Scripture once he found out who I was.  I was able to get some conversation going with him and learn more about the priests here.  We separated amiably that day.

Wednesday evening, while driving back home with Daniel from Chisinau, having picked up our renewed green cards and Ana’s passport, we passed an Orthodox priest along-side the road trying to hail a ride (hitch-hiking is everyday life here).  It was dark and below freezing at the time.  Once he thankfully hopped inside the warm car, I found out that this priest has been trying to get someone to stop and give him a ride for the past hour.  Both he and I also quickly found out…..that it was deja vu, he was the same priest I had picked up last time!  I couldn’t tell if he was happy to know the driver or not 🙂  I offered to drive him to his house (which I was not expecting to be off the beaten path and add 50 minutes to our trek home).  We were able to talk some more.

I told him that I bought an Orthodox Bible in order to read to our neighbor and am interested in reading through the added deutero-canonical (apocryphal) books that are not in our Bible.  He said that if I read through the Orthodox Bible I will find “the truth.”  He was not convinced that, outside of the 10 additional OT books, our Bible and theirs says about the same thing.  He was still not interested in talking about Scripture.

He took a phone call and explained to a lady that the price of the icons had increased due to the devaluation of the Moldovan currency.  One of the icons was now being sold for 700 lei (about $40).  It was sad to know that some Moldovans will spend money for a picture of a saint or Mary, truly believing that it will help answer prayers or enrich their spiritual life.

I then asked for his input in regards to a situation with our neighbor, Varvara.  I told him how she is up in years and unable to do the good works that she used to and is worried about making it to heaven due to her decreased abilities.  I then asked him what he would tell her?  His response, “No one knows where they go after they die.  Only God knows.”  He was taken back when he heard me say that the Bible says we are not saved by our works and that we can know where we go after we die.  He then told me some three-fold system for salvation that included faith, works, and I didn’t catch the third.  He did not know about what Paul had written in the New Testament.  After 4 years of “seminary” and 4 more years of practicum (total of 8 years to become a priest), he showed very little familiarity with the Bible.  I encouraged him to read Ephesians 2 to start with.  He reluctantly took my contact info when we arrived at his gate.  My heart longs for him to pull off the vale of church tradition in order to see the light of God’s Word and beauty of salvation by grace through faith in Christ.  Providentially, we have now met twice…. and maybe we can again one day.  Please pray for Valeri to search the Scriptures and find true salvation through Christ.

Why missionaries need prayer in learning (an)other language(s)

Here’s an example of why missionaries need prayer while studying foreign languages.  We are spoiled.  For the 24 characters and 10 syllables in the Russian words, “изобразительное искусство,” we have 7 characters and 2 syllables in the equivalent English words, “fine art.”  If you know someone who speaks Russian, you owe them a lot of respect for learning the language 🙂