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Precious in His Eyes is the Death of His Saints

We had a friend in Tera who was from Ghana. He seems to show up in our pictures starting in 2004.  He came to our little fledgling church and was always faithful.  Looking back on it, we didn't know him that well.  He was quiet and gentle and faithful but never drew attention to himself.  We always enjoyed the chance to speak a little English with him, though he also spoke Songhai well.
Our friend mentioned in this blog is the man with the striped shirt next to me.

He made traditional medicines from local herbs, leaves, and roots.  There wasn't any witchcraft stuff involved....just knowing which plants cured which problems.  He then traveled from market to market in the area selling the medicines.  He made a living, but just barely.

He was single and often asked prayer that God would give him a Christian wife.  In Tera marriages are most often arranged, but there are also marriages where a groom chooses his wife and gets her fathers' and uncles' permission to marry.  This man could have chosen a girl and asked for her hand in marriage, but he would doubtless have had to change his religion to do so.  And he wouldn't do that.  We've been gone from Tera for six years now and as far as I know in that intervening time period he never married.

I was shocked last Friday when our pastor here in Niamey called and asked if I knew this man.  I said yes, and then he told me that he had just died.  I'm not sure how our pastor was contacted.  Our friend had moved to Niamey, but he didn't attend our church.  It may be that his friends knew he was a Christian and called the only church they knew about.  

His body was laid to rest on Tuesday after his family in Ghana had been informed.  He was buried at the Christian cemetery here in Niamey (Muslims and Christians are not buried in the same cemetery.)  I went to the cemetery for the funeral.  About 10-15 of his friends were there.  I was the only white person and the only woman.  Being the only white person wasn't strange as I'm used to that.  But being the only woman felt a little awkward.  Muslim women never go to the burial here in Niger.  I know that and I never went to one in Tera.  I assumed it was different for Christians and so I went.  But then I was the only woman and it was a bit awkward.  Several of the men there were Muslim; some were Christian.  But since he never married, there probably weren't that many Christian women who knew him well.

While we were at the cemetery three men who work with him were telling us what happened.  They were at work together....he had found a job here (construction, maybe?).  Our friend said he didn't feel well and he must have looked pretty bad because they got him on the back of the motorcycle of one of the friends.  He was taking him to the hospital when he died right there on the motorcycle.  He pulled over and gently laid him to the ground and then stopped a taxi to take him to the hospital.  But it was too late.  He had high blood pressure and so I don't know if he had a heart attack or a stroke or what.

I felt sad that we didn't even know he had moved to Niamey and that we had not seen him in the past three years or so.  It was sad that so few people came to the cemetery.  But then he wasn't a man that gathered a lot of friends.  Those he knew he was faithful to, but he was a very private person.
In the center of this picture

But on this Good Friday/Easter weekend it's comforting to remember that Christ died and has the victory over death as shown by His resurrection.  Some day he will give the victory over death to us as well.  It's also comforting to know that our regrets, our short-comings, our guilt over not spending enough time with those we love has also been dealt with on the cross.  I need to learn from this and be willing to spend time with people and to build relationships, but I don't need to harbor guilt over not bothering to look him up and find out how he is doing.  I'm already forgiven, thanks to Jesus' work on the cross.

See you where Death no longer has the victory, my brother and my friend.


Jane Stutzman said…
I am touched by your sorrow, Nancy.
Easter is a wonderful reminder that we haven't said "Goodbye" for the last time...thankful he was a believer.

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