“Do you remember Kutsak’s father?” Cara asked me.
“Yeah, he lives in the last house on the left before the bridge,” I said. “What about him?”
“Kutsak just called and said his father died last night.”
What was going on? This was the second member of Kutsak’s family to die this week and the third person to die in that village in a little over a month! Just four days earlier, Greg Timmins and I had transported the body of Kutsak’s brother-in-law to the burial site.
I don’t know what is happening behind the scenes with my friends in Boan Village, but I do know that Satan is hard at work destroying souls. As each call comes in, I sadly accept the invitation to attend the funeral and help transport the bodies of my friends to their ancestral burial grounds. Each time I go, I meet family members and friends I haven’t seen in a long time. Because the grandma who died a month ago and Kutsak’s family were somehow related, I started to recognize people from other villages at each funeral.
My heart is torn as I participate in these funerals. Many people are in shock or angry or grieving bitterly for their lost loved ones. Many simply have no hope. I am challenged to know what to say at funerals, so I mostly focus on doing what I can to help. Sometimes that means tying down the casket so it doesn’t slide out of the truck bed as we drive up the hill leading out of the village. Sometimes that means holding someone’s hand and listening to them talk. Other times it’s helping to shovel dirt over the casket.
Amid all of the animal sacrifices, the blood, the overwhelming smell of incense and rice wine and the hopeless wailing of the bereaved, I am often reminded that I am the only representative of Jesus at a Pnong funeral. I pray my way through each funeral. I lift up the family, and I pray for their protection from evil spirits that want to do them harm. I pray that everything goes smoothly and that I don’t get a flat tire driving over the rugged hills with their sharp thorns and protruding stumps.
Jesus was burdened with the sin of all humanity. He looked down from the cross at those around Him with an inexpressible yearning that they might know His Father. Each time I attend a Pnong funeral, I feel a small bit of that burden on my heart—the burden for lost humanity. One day soon, Satan will no longer be able to destroy souls. I pray that somehow my single example of holding onto Jesus might make an impact on my friends in Boan Village, and that someday I will attend funerals there where sadness is mixed with the hope of resurrection and eternal life with our Lord and Savior.