I am sorry for not having written. It’s been a crazy too weeks AND I’m just lazy. Those two together are dangerous.
On the first day of the year I got a call from Suffian about 4 pm right as my wife and I were getting ready to go on our first night out more than two months. “I am going to Meshi to see my dad.” he told me in a voice I knew meant something was wrong. “Is he ok?” I queried. “No. He died.” was the somber response. Suffian was at work at his construction job when he called so I informed my wife of what was going on and went to pick him up. He cried in the car and I’ve never seen him cry before. “He wouldn’t listen”. He kept saying. “He wouldn’t listen to God’s Word and now he’s in hell.” I didn’t have a lot of comfort for him except to begin to pray for his family who had not yet accepted the Gospel of Christ.
Suffian, Morad, El Che (I can’t remember my Latin Coworker’s Arabic Alias so I made up a new one), and I were packed in my car and on our way out the city in less than an hour. We drove four hours to Meshi with just a few words the majority of which were prayers for his family. We ended up spending the next two days with his mourning family. We went to the hospital with him, the morgue, followed the hearse (a beat up ambulance with the Muslim Shahada”There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet” written on the side of it) to his small village another two hours away, went to the burial, and sat with his family for two days. The family usually sits together for three days minimum while the mourn the loss of a loved one. Suffian has been rejected by much of his family and our small church has become his family so we desired to show him that this was not just words but we were his brothers in truth.
The experiences are too deep to know how to begin to write them down. My ears heard these Berber women wail and shake as if they were without hope, which in fact they are. I’ll never forget the noise. Suffian’s arrival into his village in my car was met by about 50 mourning women. One sister fell on his neck and wept, screaming for many minutes, “Hiban! Hiban! Hiban!” (My Father, my father, my father!) She yelled in groups of three as did all the women. It is a custom to make all this noise.
After wading through the crowd of women with myself and our two friends in tow, we made our way down the hill to the burial site where more than 100 men were gathered around. Each one came up to Suffian and greeted him somberly. The body had just been covered with dirt when we arrived. They burry the body on it’s side facing Mecca. I was the only white face around and thus felt very uncomfortable until I saw some of Suffian’s family that I recognized. Everyone in the town knows that Suffian is a Christian and they suppose it is my “fault” so I was a little apprehensive about what they might so or do.
After the body was completely covered the Imam (Muslim preacher) began to chant and the men formed a large circle around the grave holding their hands in a cupped position. As they chanted asking for forgiveness for Suffian’s Dad’s sins, Suffian, “El Che”, Morad, and I stood outside of the circle conspicuously making the statement that we were not participating. We bowed our heads and prayed. It seemed like a perfect day for a burial of a man without hope: overcast, cold, and drizzling.
After the burial the whole town crowded into and around Suffian’s home. We were ushered into the main room (it is a three room mud based house) and had a front row seat. Suffian’s uncle collapsed with grief. “El Che” helped him to the wall where he sat in a trance crying. Suffian’s sister wept so much it even seemed like it was too much for them. The rest of the day was passed by a lot of sitting, staring, some eating, and intermittent wailing as a new family member would arrive from far away.
The Lord gave us many opportunities to share the gospel with Suffian’s family. It’s now a week later and he’s still there. He wrote and said he believes God is working in the hearts of his family as he continues to witness to them. I know this is a jumbled mess of thoughts but…it is what it is.