In Kasai, visiting people, especially at the time of a birth or a death, is very important. The physical presence with the person or family speaks of your care for them and your sharing in the joy or sorrow of the occasion. If you fail to visit a friend or family member during one of those occasions, it can be taken as a serious offence. We try, as best as we can, to honor that value in the culture among our friends and colleagues here. It sure does seem like there is an abundance of both births and deaths!
The neighborhood cell group we are part of is committed to visiting and supporting people during these significant life events. Last week, Mamu Esther, a member of the cell group came to our offices one afternoon. She said that a member of the church had given birth, and was waiting for the members of cell group to come and escort her home from the health center with her new baby. She was planning to come home that afternoon, and Mamu Esther explained that it was important for a pastor to be there to pray for the child. The pastor of the church was not available, so could we go? We adjusted our plans and committed to go with the other cell group members. We had forgotten what a celebration that time often is. The baby was received with shouts of joy, and then Bob had the privilege of praying for God’s protection on his life. We were served a full meal and enjoyed some good fellowship with our cell group before racing home to beat the imminent rain.
Just in the last week, there were 3 other babies in our neighborhood to visit and pray for. Our cell group met at 6:30 in the morning to go visit two of the babies. I think the families were a bit surprised, although delighted, to see us show up at 7am!
On a sad note, after church on Sunday we visited two families who were in mourning. One older woman who had struggled with diabetes for a long time broke her arm last year and had complications and infections as a result. The second family lost their 22 year old daughter last week after a long battle with tuberculosis and complications from a surgery. We grieve to see their lives on earth cut short and the struggle of these families to fight the sicknesses. We are grateful that even in the midst of harsh tragedies like this, God gives hope and offers us Life beyond this world.