Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Death of a Saint


The first Sunday afternoon after my arrival in Tanzania I rode with Bp. Kwangu and Fr. Damson from Mwanza to Geita.  We had a pleasant time discussing the Bible, theology, family life, ministry, and politics.  After a ferry ride across a bay of Lake Victoria, we stopped in Sengorama to visit with Capt. Nestor, a retired Anglican priest.  Last year he had assisted me part time with translation work.  He is living a simple lifestyle -- but keep in mind that “simple” does not mean “easier”!  The home is made of baked mud brick walls with a sheet metal roof that could be seen from the inside (like a barn or shed).  Even though the inside walls were plastered and painted, I could imagine it still getting quite hot in the house during the summer.  He uses a wheelbarrow to transport their water in jugs from about 200 yards away.  A garden, chickens, and ducks provide food for him, his wife, and some grandchildren who are living with him.  They seemed quite content with the sparse, but sufficient, living conditions.

The highlight of the visit for me was meeting his 104 year old mother.  She was originally from the neighboring country of Burundi, and had become a Christian as a teenager.  In 1935 she walked to Rwanda after hearing about an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in what later become known as The Great East African Revival.   She received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit along with many other people from surrounding countries.  The revival continued to spread as the people returned back to their home towns.  I would have loved to been able to sit down with her, ask questions, and hear stories from that time period, but she was unable to speak.  She did raise her hand in response to hearing that she had a visitor.

She had been bedfast, living on fresh milk only, for the past year.  Nestor and his wife have been caring for her in these simple conditions with much love and devotion.  He said it was a great honor and a pleasure to be able to care for his mother in their home.  I could not help comparing their situation with those of some elderly people here in America.  We may have elaborate technology for many situations, but there is no substitute for a genuine love from devoted relatives.  I was impressed with the respectful attitude that Nestor and his wife had towards his mother.  He said, “She took care of me when I was young, so now it is a privilege for me to care for her.”

Later that week, on Saturday, February 11th, I heard that Nestor’s mother had passed away.  I immediately thought of the verse from Psalms 116:15, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”  I consider it an honor to have met this saint before she left this world and went on to her reward.  One of the strong points of African culture, especially among the Christians, is the respect they show towards the elderly.  The exemplary character of this fine lady is proven by the fine character of her son and his wife who did not consider it a burden to care for his invalid mother, but rather, a privilege and a joy.   

May the peace of Christ be with you, 
Br. Nathan



Capt. Nestor with his wife and his mother.


Br. Nathan with Capt. Nestor in 2011

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