Thursday, April 20, 2017
“Death be not proud.” -- John Donne
One of the best lessons I was ever taught about Easter happened almost twenty years ago in the Amazon jungle. I had taken my then 19-year-old son, Keith, and traveled for the second of three trips to the Amazon River above Iquitos, Peru, to take Bibles to the tribes living up the tributaries. We had about 400 Bibles with us and a good friend back in Arkansas had supplied heavy duty Zip-Lock plastic bags in which to keep each Bible. The humidity there is so high, any paper books unprotected wouldn't last more than a year. We had to fight with some religious leaders who tried to stop us right on the river bank (they didn’t want us to give away Bibles as they sold them), but we had many friends who surrounded us and wouldn't let anyone interfere with our canoe. To put a Bible in the hands of these new Christians was such a joy that I wanted to share it with my son. Now every village had to work hard to clear the jungle for space for the village and then they would also work hard to clear enough land to play soccer. My son played soccer with them on a field with holes and other hazards but had a great time. The head man of the village took me on a short trip back into the jungle. He just told me he wanted me to see something. Not far from the village, a huge area of the jungle had been cut back to make room for a cemetery. The many graves and small, wooden crosses outnumbered the living villagers by about five to one. I got choked up seeing all the tiny graves for the children who had died of malaria and other jungle diseases. I asked him how he, and the others, could remain so happy and keep smiling in the face of all this death. He looked at me quite surprised, and said, "Didn't you understand that we were Christians? Don’t you know about Easter?” I was stunned and humbled by the depth of his faith, and I was ashamed that I had so quickly assumed that death had been the victor here. I have never forgotten his words and rely on them over and over here where death is so real and touches so many. "Didn't you know that we were Christians?" I do now.