Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nets Not Caskets

This is my friends Tamara and Jeremy's latest blog (it relates to the Nets Not Caskets)....

"We keep a receipt as a bookmark in our Bible to remind us of Peter. It’s for the cost of his casket.
Peter was a young man, maybe 25, who worked in the furnace of the local steel plant. It’s a tough and dangerous job. His body evidenced this fact, pock-marked with bloated scars where molten steel had exploded onto his skin. And he was as strong as an ox. All those days working the mill gave him rock solid arms. We remember them well because we had to wrestle with him for hours. Out of the church, into the van, across town, through the clinic, strapping him to a ‘hospital’ bed. Then again we wrestled so nurses could test his blood, administer his IV and other medications. Peter didn’t know we were trying to help so he fought against us. In his mind we had bewitched him.
The night before, Peter had stumbled to church from the factory where he slept outside, on the ground, exposed to the elements. He came for healing. By then he was really sick. Sick enough to die. And that’s how we found him. He was face down on the church alter, writhing in pain, sweat pouring from his brow, eyes bulging, legs paralyzed, his saliva making a paste of the dirt floor underneath him. He spoke to people who weren’t in the room, and spit on those who were. It was a terrible scene, like out of a fiction book. Having never seen anything like it we found ourselves asking, “Is this man possessed?”. Our friends replied,“We’ve been praying for him all night. He became calm and then the demon’s once again entered his head”. We knelt around him and prayed again but the chaos of his condition persisted. We assured them that God was big enough to set the man free with a single, humble prayer. Suggesting the problem was physical, we made our way to the clinic.
Not even the tranquilizers could calm Peter from the effects of cerebral malaria. But the convoluted outbursts filled with fear and anger mellowed before nightfall. We thought we’d turned the corner and sighed relief. Peter began to speak with us coherently and, for a brief moment, we began to see the young man beneath the madness of this cruel disease. He was scared, he was thankful and he wanted to live. Tragically, this was the calm before the storm. By sunrise Peter had died. “Maybe it was an aneurism or he aspirated on his own vomit” the doctor said. Either way, there was a dead body and we were responsible. We searched until we found his sister and a few friends. Together, the few of us tied his body properly, bought him a casket, loaded him into a pickup truck and returned his body to the church where he’d come for help the day before.

The slum was electric with curiosity about Peter and the church who’d fought for his life. They stopped in to take a peek at his body, mourn and thank members of the church for giving him a respectable end. That’s a lot more than people typically get in Masese Slum. Often, with no money for caskets and no land, families don’t know what to do with the bodies.
But can’t we do better than this? Better than a respectable end? Better than caskets?

We think so. We know so. That’s why we keep Peter’s receipt. To remind us, not only that we can do better, but that we are called by Christ to do better. According to Philippians 1:10, the love of Christ ‘approves the things that are excellent’. Likewise, the love of Christ disapproves of things that aren’t excellent. Plain and simple, love disapproves of merely buying caskets for those who’ve died when there’s a more excellent way.

Of course, we all want to ACT NOW. But it’s important to note that the answer isn’t plain and simple and that our action must be more than just passionate. The same passage in Philippians tells us that love is filled with ‘true knowledge’ and ‘all discernment’. Our response must be girded with wisdom if it’s going to be loving. A loving response takes the time to understand and find the most excellent way.

There’s a more excellent way than white people buying 1,500 mosquito nets, giving them away and leaving. The people who live in Masese Slum wouldn’t see their value, they’d sell them for food, they may not even know how to use them and we’d miss out on bigger opportunities to effect sustainable change. To do this right people need awareness of the issue, ownership of the solution, training and follow-up to give them the best chance of malaria prevention long-term. And this project could be the right platform for the church to begin doing what it was intended to do. While it’s certain to be a drawn out, messy process, every step of the way is an opportunity to engage the people of Masese with the message of Christ’s excellent love.
Peter came to the church for is the time for the church to take healing to Peter."

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1 comment:

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