Our co-workers, the Kopf's, arrived back in from their furlough the previous week and the Copley family who worked in the first two Hewa villages and dialects also came in for a visit. The Copleys left on Monday and then our other co-workers, the Dunns, left on Thursday to have their two year old son's leg x-rayed and re-casted from where a motorcycle fell on him when we were out in Wewak for our annual missionary conference.
On Thursday night the sixteen year old brother of one of our young mothers came into our village. Friday morning they told us he was really sick, so Jonathan went to go check on him. The people said his leg was really swollen and painful, but Jonathan said that both legs looked normal to him, and the boy just looked like he had the symptoms of malaria.
On Saturday morning they told us that he was doing much worse, so Susan had them switch him to the strongest medicines we had and then Saturday at lunch time he was dead. We honestly have no idea what was wrong with this boy or what could have killed him so fast. Our best guess at this point is a ruptured spleen... but even that is a just a guess.
This kid was strong and healthy and handsome. His eyes were open when he died so that is the way he stayed as we all sat by the body to wail and mourn. I just kept looking at this perfect face with no weight loss or dehydration. The only imperfection was the absence of life in such a youthful face.
We all prepared ourselves for the coming drama. This boy did not live in our village, so many would come from the outside and outsiders always mean trouble. This is now the fourth young man to die in or from our village, so we know that puts several of our ladies and children at high risk for being killed as witches. We talked, cooked for the mourners, and prepared for what was to come. And most of all we prayed for God's mercy.
And God answered our prayers.
Saturday night our village leaders informed us that they would take the boy's body back to his village to be buried since it wasn't very far away. His father died a year ago and his widowed mother would do better to be able to grieve at home and would rather her son be buried next to his father, anyway. It might sound harsh or cold, but it was a HUGE relief to us. It meant only one sleepless night listening to the haunting sounds of wailing and no fear of angry family members coming in here to do something stupid and dangerous. It was definitely a display of God's mercy to us and our village.
So, after one night of mourning, they wrapped his body in tree bark and cardboard, fastened it to a pole and hiked it to his village several hours away. By 10 am Sunday morning everything was quiet in our village again. We were relieved but I think everyone- missionaries and natives- sort of sat around looking at each other like, "Did that just happen? That was crazy!"
I know there will probably still be some fall out from this death, but taking the funeral away from our village will at least buy us some time to prepare and hopefully protect anyone who gets blamed for these deaths.
Today is Monday and we are now back to home-school and language study and are preparing for our upcoming furlough…life as usual. But I am constantly reminded that we have no idea what a day holds in store for us in this life and this work. I am reminded how important it is for me everyday to dive deep into God's word and cling to Him in prayer.
My mind completely reshapes what it knows and believes about "putting on God's armor". The Sunday School lesson in my head tells me that to put on that armor, I have to get up and reach up to some metaphorical shelf and mentally and invisibly put on each individual piece. The belt of truth...the breastplate of righteousness... the shoes of peace... the shield of faith… the helmet of salvation... and the sword of the spirit. Man that is a lot of stuff. What if I forget one? What if I wake up late and don't have time to get all that stuff on? What if I am sick with malaria and am too weak to hold an entire flippin' ARMOR?! Seriously, I am 5'1 and have extraordinarily weak upper body strength.
What life out here has taught me is that God is the armor. God. Just Himself. He is all those things to me. All I have to do is run to Him and He does the rest. He made me and knows that my weak girly arms could never hold up a shield or swing a sword. He is theshield and He swings the sword. And I don't have to get up every morning and put them on because they never come off even when I am sleeping at night. I am covered. Always.
So, when one day quickly spirals unexpectedly out of control I am already wearing that armor. I already have that belt of truth wrapped around me reminding me that He makes beauty from ashes and that all things work for the good of those He loves. When my mind goes to the dark places of confusion and hopelessness, He is there swinging that sword around my heart and in my head so that I think on all that is true, noble, right, pure and lovely. Everything admirable and praiseworthy.
And all of those thoughts lead right back to Him. My Armor.