On Sunday afternoon several of us were in Rhino Refugee Settlement, my friend Curt Iles and I were invited to go and meet with a widow who was burying her son. These are common invitations for us, but I had no idea how profoundly the next hour would affect me.
Martha is from the Murle tribe in South Sudan, she and her 3 children set out to find refuge in Uganda from the ongoing war and conflict in South Sudan. She had already lost her Husband and her son in the last 3 months. She was hoping to find peace and hope in Uganda.
When She arrived in Rhino, her young son Sabbit was very sick. After 2 days in the clinic, 2-year-old Sabbit died, and Martha found herself burying another loved one.
When we arrived at the clinic, it was packed with people. We greeted Martha, we prayed with her and watched as they prepared the boy to be buried. My voice caught as I prayed, I thought of the senseless death of this child. I remembered how Jesus wept for his friend, Lazarus. I remembered how he taught us about hope and resurrection, but more than anything I felt a room full of pain and trauma.
When we arrived at the burial site, and I watched Martha and prayed for her silently as the pastor gave a beautiful message full of hope. As they began to take the boy to the small hole in the ground, two church leaders took off their shoes and got down into the hole to gently receive the body of little Sabbit. They tenderly placed his body in the ground and began putting soil on his lifeless body. There was a crowd of about 40 people there gathered. All of them were believers from 2 churches who didn’t know Martha or her family 2 days earlier, but they were there to minister to her and sing songs of hope and eternity in her time of need.
My head was bowed, and I was praying for this sweet family, considering the pain and trauma that they were experiencing, a phrase came to mind that I think adequately describes this terrible scene:
sorrow upon sorrow.
As I opened my eyes and looked up one of Sabbit’s sister was standing near me, her whole face was wet with the tears of uncontrollable mourning. She locked eyes with me, and I could see in her eyes the question that we were all asking “Why has this happened?”
It broke me.
Children should run and play, they should laugh and joke. There are too many little tear-stained faces in these refugee settlements. They are victims of this senseless war, they bear witness to the depravity of man and to those who profit off of the suffering of the weak, it infuriates me. And it infuriates God, but this is the path the human race has chosen.
But there is hope.
The pastor shared the message about how Naomi lost her husband, and both of her sons while she was seeking refuge in a foreign land. All seemed lost, but in Matthew, we learn that she became the grandmother to King David and the ancestor of Jesus Christ. Life seemed impossible, but God redeemed her suffering and through it brought a blessing to all people.
When we were nearing the end of the funeral, I saw about 6 Godly men tapping down the soil of the grave, while 30+ women sang songs to a stranger who was suffering. As one of the pastors stood to pray his shirt was soaked with sweat from digging in 100-degree heat and I saw that the hope in this darkness is the church, we are the hands and feet of Christ.
We are to bind up the wounds of the hurting and stand by those who are mourning. I am proud to be a part of the Body of Christ, the hope for the world.
Please pray for Martha, and her two daughters Rhoda and Sabbath.