When I write that we are surrounded by death here, I don’t mean like in a war zone where hundreds die almost every day. Yet, in our neighborhood (defined by two houses away in any one direction), in the last four years, twelve children under the age of eight have died, six adults under the age of thirty have died, and among the workers here at our mission, three children, one husband, one sister, two mothers, and three fathers have died. Of the ten deaths from among the families of our workers, only one was over thirty years old. That works out to just about six deaths a year of children and young people in an area smaller than one city block. Now imagine that same number of deaths at those ages in your neighborhood. If those numbers happened in the United States there would be news crews, government investigations, and a lot of empty houses as people fled what would have been very frightening circumstances. Mostly, only old people die in those numbers in any town in America. Here, it is what it is—life in a developing country. The deaths were almost all due to malaria or AIDS. One was a stroke and one diabetes and one high blood pressure. All were preventable with proper medical care and adequate protection against mosquitos.
You would think that everyone would walk around with heads down, wringing their hands, and mumbling, “Woe is me” but they don’t. They understand, as we live in a completely Christian neighborhood, that death is not the end. That every loved one who died is living in the loving arms of Jesus in a far, far better place than here. These people have a special weapon against overwhelming grief (you can have it, too). It’s called “faith.” Not the faith that thinks that maybe something good might happen, or the faith that believes in the same way one might believe in winning the lottery. No, this faith is internal and integral to their lives and mindset. This is the faith that takes the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase. These are not people who believe in Christ—these are people who KNOW Christ in a way that far too many Christians have never known Him. It does not mean that they are not sad or do not mourn or grieve, but it does mean that they are never looking back and obsessing on what was past but rather looking forward to a life eternal in the heavens promised them by He who died and rose for them (remember Easter?). Their faith is in a personal Christ who loves them and would never abandon them. It is something to behold. It is something all Christians should have. We have been blessed to live among these people who are such wonderful Christian role models for us. Faith here is a flame that can never be extinguished. It can be so for you.