The kids colored some American flags and we made fireworks out of pipe cleaners and hung them from a beam that runs down the middle of our house. We even made plans for the dads to build a fire out in the yard and we would throw Coffee Mate Creamer on it. Have you ever seen that? It is about as close to fireworks as you can get…although, it does give me pause as I stir it into my coffee every morning.
But...None of that happened. At about 2 o'clock in the afternoon we heard bone chilling cries. John Michael jumped up and ran out at the first shriek and I came running out a few minutes later when I heard the distinct sound of the death wail. I ran to the first lady I saw and asked what happened because no one I knew of was sick. At least not sick enough to die. Was it some sort of accident? I had no idea.
She struggled to tell me since she could not speak Melanesian Pidgin, and I could not understand in Hewa. So, I just started running toward the sound of the cries. I soon came across another lady who did speak Pidgin and she just yelled, "Pikinini bilong Was! Pikinini bilong Was!" which just means "Was's child". The trouble is now there are two men in the village named "Was" and both have several children. But I was running in the direction of "Old man Was's" house, so I knew it had to be one of his kids…but who? And what could have happened?
I climbed over logs and ran through mud, eventually losing my flip flops in the sticky ground, all the while getting closer and closer to the blood curdling screams of the villagers. I ran up on the scene and found my husband shaking with tears in his eyes,
"Who is it?" I cried desperately.
"Nosem", he answered, "He hung himself."
"Did someone try to give him CPR?"
"Jessi, he's dead."
For some reason I just couldn't believe it. A few weeks ago a man tried to hang himself, and someone found him in time and he was ok. I was just thinking this would turn out the same way. It had to. This was not a grown man who had murder and other vile acts on his conscious. It was a kid. A teenager. A boy. He had to be ok. He had to grow up.
I stepped closer thinking there was something I could do, when my husband said, "There is blood coming out of his nose and mouth, Jess. He's gone."
At that moment, I knew that if I saw his face, I wouldn't recover, so I just ran back home to check on my kids, and make sure my co-workers knew what was going on.
The rest of the day was a blur as I watched them carry the body to his house and then down to the crude covered area we call the "church". I had an intense pain in my head that throbbed harder and harder as the wailing got louder and louder while I sat with my neighbors crying over this boy's life.
"What happened? Why did he do it?" I asked everyone around me.
"No one knows" was all I got.
At one point his father told us that he had been having a reoccurring dream that kept him up at night. The father said he would wake up and find the boy just sitting up, unable to sleep. But other than that…nothing.
For some reason this just made me angry. Someone has to know something. Why would a kid just do this for no reason? As I found out more details about the way his body was found I became even more disturbed. He was found on the ground and from what it appeared, he could have just stood up at any point to save his life.
But he didn't, and now I was sitting on a log watching a mother roll around in the dirt because her last born child... her baby boy took his own life.
"I don't understand. I don't understand", was all I could say. I felt like I needed to understand. I needed a reason. I needed to see the plan for this. The purpose. I needed God to show up and tell me why this happened, so I could prevent it from happening in the future. But no answers came. No plan. No understanding. Instead what came was this,
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding."
I would never be able to understand this. No reason, explanation, or purpose would ever get me to the point of saying, "Oh now I get it. Now I understand." My simple human heart will never ever understand this.
So what am I supposed to do now. "Trust in the Lord with all my heart." To be completely honest. I am not sure if I can. This boy was a believer. How do I trust the Lord with this?
The problem really is though, how do I not trust the Lord with this. What are my other options? Despair. Outrage. Bitterness. If I can trust the Lord, even though I will never understand, I will at least have hope. A chance for peace. Healing.
So I hand Him this very horrific experience, and wait for his tender mercies.
But in the meantime, I have to move on. Move on with my job. Part of my job right now as a missionary is to learn the Hewa language. And one of the ways we were taught to do that is through something called "Culture Events". Basically, just what is says, we experience some sort of event in the culture of the people that we live with and then get them to tell us about it. And this is a big one.
So, I am just supposed to go out and ask people to describe everything that they saw and did surrounding this "event". I am supposed to meticulously document it and file it away under titles like, "Death" "Burial" and "Suicide". I am supposed to just do my job. But how do I do all that without crying as I can't even type these words without tears blurring my eyes so much that spell check is red lining every other word.
"How can we be so cold?" is all I can think. But then the Lord whispers. "This is the plan." And I know that to learn the words from this tragic experience is not cold. It is love.
How can I disciple other people, other kids to know that taking your own life is not the good that God has for them if I don't know the words to say. How can I love without speaking their language?
So, as hard as it is, I have to do my job now. I have to go out and listen to stories and get words that I don't want to hear. I have to step outside and sit in the mud next to a fresh grave and talk to relatives of this dead child. Even though what I really want to do is jump on a plane and go back to America and eat barbecue and watch pretty fireworks. I want to be somewhere where I don't see four dead bodies in nine months. Or a grief stricken mother screaming and rolling around in the dirt.
But it is too late for that now. Because I have seen and heard the cries of the Hewa. I sit next to former axe murderers in church and listen to them sing to a savior who has forgiven them. And now I sit with many other Hewa men and women who don't know this Savior. I sit next to them as they listen to the witch doctor try to tell everyone how important it is that we divine why this happened. And I watch as men who believe in God counter that witch doctor with truth from God's Word. I have seen what the Gospel has done for these people and I have seen the work that needs to be done to get it to more of them. And there is no amount of barbecue or fireworks that could drive those images from my mind.
So, I will trust the Lord with all my heart. I won't depend on any understanding I could have in this life to help me. I will stick with the plan that God put on my heart long ago. The plan to go to the uttermost parts of the world and share His Good News.
No turning back.
Mctctc ufuliya puwa.