I had no idea what to expect when I walked into the crowded Haitian church today. The mother of one of the women in the Dame group (the evangelistic group I go with on Mondays) died this week and I was asked to attend the funeral. When I arrived at the church they had already started with music, but lots of people were still trickling in. The usher found me a seat, so far so good. It appeared to be just like a funeral in the US, just a little more crowded. After the third singing group sang a special and about three speakers, things got a little interesting. A loud wailing started in the front of the church. At first I thought it sounded like a grieving family member, then it got a little out of hand. The woman started convulsing and screaming / yelling / wailing. The weirdest part was that everything continued on as if nothing was happening. I thought to myself, this must be normal. Then the woman got even louder and convulsed more. I have to say that this is the first time I have ever seen a grown woman, dressed in her Sunday clothes being carried by two men out of a church building screaming and fighting the whole way. Even with this there was very little reaction from the crowd, except for a few turned heads. The service continued, but not 10 minutes later a man calmly walked up to the casket. Now this was a completely normal sight at this service. There were people standing around the casket and lots of people walking in and out of the building right past the casket. Yet this man stopped at the head of the casket and deliberately, in one fell swoop, knocked the flowers off of the casket. This created an uproar. Everyone jumped out of their seats and for a minute I thought there was going to be a brawl at the front of the room. Then someone calmly ushered him to his seat and ushers were placed at the four corners of the casket to guard it. A few singing groups and speakers later another woman was carried screaming and wailing out of the church. Her arms and legs flailing the whole way.
After the service everyone got in a huge procession line. Except no one has a car here so the casket is loaded into the hearse and everyone else walks together to the cemetery. As I walked down the street I felt as if I was in a sea of people. A brass band played music at the front of the line and periodically I could hear the wailing women. We had men directing traffic around the procession the whole way to the cemetery, there was even a pilot car to direct the cars.
The cemetery itself was full of unkempt weeds, and all of the graves are above ground graves. As we walked into the cemetery more people started uncontrollably weeping. Whenever I heard the weeping all I could think of was the hired grievers in the Bible. I think that they must have sounded something like these women today. While the casket was being placed a polite man reached down with a stick and moved a skull lying on the ground. What a different atmosphere.
Reflecting on this new experience all I can think is how important it is to accept Christ. I am so glad that I have received the grace of God. I don't have to worry about all of this and I don't have to be afraid. This experience also brought to life everyone else's need for Christ. I want to rejoice in the homecoming of every Christian brother and sister that has gone on home to Christ. The thought of one person I know, dying without receiving the grace of God is horrifying to me. I pray that this will take away any reservation that I may have, that all might know Him