Guest Post by Scott Hackett*
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Romans 12:15
In the past month, we have experienced our share of death. Not a cheery subject for the beginning of the year, I know, but keep reading. First, a security guard at GIS died unexpectedly leaving a wife and children behind. On the same day, a close Thai friend of ours lost her brother-in-law in the same way; he left a wife and seven children behind. Within the same week our landlady stopped by and told us her husband had died. A week later, Sarah’s grandmother passed away. Finally, one of our pet rabbits died as well.
All death is tragic and no one wishes for it. However, the Thai friend’s brother-in-law as well as Sarah’s grandmother were believers in Christ, and we rejoice that they now have comfort in heaven. The rabbit, well, that’s a theological debate. (There can be an argument that there will be animals in the new heaven and earth.)
The others are a different story. The guard was Buddhist. A Buddhist funeral is quite a heartbreaking experience. After monks prayed over the coffin, the wife and children placed a banana on the coffin, cut it in half to symbolize their separation from the deceased, then ran to a motorbike that sped them away. This quick departure was to assure that the spirit didn’t try to follow them. Afterwards, the coffin was moved to the incinerator to be burned. The fire began to go out, so people quickly doused the coffin with accelerant to keep the fire burning. This was said to be a bad omen indicating the body was not ready for the next life and was trying to return; therefore, many were left in fear, including fellow guards who believed they saw his spirit.** This demonstrates a small example of the confusion in this country. The GIS community was able to reach out and share Christ’s love with the family, for which they were blessed and appreciative.
Our landlady is of a different faith. We were able to cry with her and hug her as she told us her bad news. We also delivered a small gift of candy and fruit with a note of encouragement wishing her comfort through Christ’s mercy and love. She responded with appreciation, saying “God bless your family also.”
We rejoice with those who rejoice over the hope of new beginnings. However, we mourn with those who mourn over uncertainties of the hereafter. Living here includes daily reminders of this sorrow. Please pray for this country, that the Thais will know the hope not merely in the new year, but in everlasting new beginnings in Christ.
**Buddhist funeral content taken from a coworkers’ blog post.