african funeral

I was so excited to finally be on my way to the mission field. My training was complete, or so I thought, and I was ready to hit the ground running. There was so much I wanted to do for Jesus. I was going to learn the language and culture, dig into relationships, engage in access ministries, start discovery Bible studies, lead women to Jesus, and train up leaders. I couldn’t wait to get started!

As you can imagine, my timeline and God’s were very different. Yes, some of those things happened, but instead of “doing,” I found myself sitting around a lot. Sitting in the market with my language partner. Sitting in hospital waiting rooms with my neighbors. Sitting in silence, in a hot, packed room of women at a funeral. Sitting in a courtyard, for what seemed like hours, waiting for a bride to make her appearance. Sitting on wooden benches, waiting to pay my water bill. Sitting on plastic mats with the whole community at a baby naming ceremony. Sitting at the bedside of a sick friend.

In my western mind, all this sitting around felt like wasted time. Hour after hour of seemingly doing nothing. There were so many things to do, and here I was sitting. Then came the day when God changed my whole outlook on this sitting around business. I was attending a funeral, and, yes, sitting with groups of women again. For hours. A friend came up to me and wanted to introduce me to someone. Her introduction went something like this. “I want you to meet my best friend, Kine. She took me to the hospital when I was in labor with my firstborn and came and helped for the baby naming ceremony. She was here for my sister’s wedding. She visited my mom every day as she was dying. She visits during Ramadan. And she has been here every day of the funeral. She’s not even Muslim, but she prays for me.”

In that moment God opened my eyes to see that, to my friend, all that sitting around was an expression of love to her and her family. I later learned that this is called the ministry of presence. It’s exactly what Jesus did when “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

🤲🏼Father, thank you for coming near to us in Jesus Christ. We love others because you have first loved us. Grow us in this ministry of presence, which we admit seems difficult much of the time. Empower your church to demonstrate love in ways that will be recognized and appreciated by our Muslim friends, not so that we can boast in ourselves but so that they may more clearly see the incomparable love of Jesus, the Savior of the world. Amen.
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