Thursday, July 24, 2014
“Think of the child, then, not as dead, but as living; not as a flower that has withered, but as one that is transplanted, and touched by a Divine hand, is blooming in richer colors and sweeter shades than those of earth.” — Richard Hooker
After the death yesterday of a little five-year-old girl, taken by malaria, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to Jesus’ parable about the ninety and nine. We’ve probably had over 200 small children that we have fed and educated over the last nine years, and twelve of them have been killed by malaria. That’s a little over one a year and every one of them has hit us hard. It doesn’t matter that all the others have lived and thrived, it’s the loss of those twelve that has hurt us so much. For the first time, I really understand leaving the ninety and nine to go search for the one that is lost for that one is so precious. The quote above helps ease the pain, but the pain never goes away, it just becomes something with which we have to live knowing that it will happen again. The other children came in this morning laughing, singing, and playing as if nothing had happened. Oh for that innocence and ability to focus on the joys of today and not the sorrow of yesterday. Karen reminded me of something that was said to me many years ago when I was in Peru. In the year 2000, on a mission trip to the Peruvian Amazon, I was distributing Bibles in an Indian village up one of the tributaries of the Amazon. We were in a village that was all Christian, and they were so happy to be getting Bibles in their language. The head man was showing us around (I was with my son, Keith) and finally brought us to their cemetery. They have to not only clear the jungle for the cemetery, they have to work hard every year to keep it clear. What amazed me was how big it was. The village only had about a hundred people in it, but the cemetery must have had 300 graves, each marked with a small, wooden cross. The cemetery took up more area than the entire village and I was saddened to see all those little crosses because I knew that many or most were children. Malaria killed children there in huge numbers. I asked the head man how he and the others could be so happy all the time in the midst of all this death, and he just shook his head at me. He said, “Look, there is a cross on every grave. Did you not understand that we are all Christians? How could we be unhappy that all of these are now with Jesus?” He was right. As a servant of our Lord, I of all people should have understood. That small man taught me a great lesson that day, and Karen reminded me of it yesterday. Heaven will be full of happy, laughing children, and we should all be happy that it will be so even if we still feel the pain of every loss. Listening to the children laughing this morning, it was hard to hear the voice that wasn’t there, but my heart knew that that children's choir was one voice less than the day before.