I went to the service of Kelvin Andrea (the boy with the burns) yesterday. We arrived around 10am to their home where a large tent had somehow been set up out of a tarp, some tree limbs, and a bucket. I saw people sitting on broken down benches and writing in a book. Vincent told me it was a donation book that they were passing around in order to pay for all the service fees. The family was able to pull together 70,000TSH (1,000 shillings is a little less than a dollar) The village raised 100,000TSH and they needed 40,000TSH more to cover everything. (mortuary fee, casket, sodas, food, etc.) When the book was handed to me I looked inside to see a long list of names by each name was the amount the person had contributed and across from each name read amounts like 1,000 or 1,500 a couple of 2,000 amounts. But because so many people gave, those amounts had added up to over 100,000TSH. It was such an amazing example of how when everyone gives a little it adds up to a lot! And these small amounts (in my eyes) were probably actually big sacrifices to some of these villagers. Sacrificial giving…this is a concept that God has really been laying on my heart lately. Not only with my money but with my time, with my life. I had never met this little boy, I don’t know his family, but I soon discovered that during occasions such as these, the men stay outside and the women inside. After making my contribution I was taken inside to express my sympathy to Kelvin’s mother and female relatives and friends. I was then told to sit there inside with them. I didn’t want to. I didn’t know a single person and I didn’t know how long I would have to be there. And I didnt understand anything anyone was saying. I knew I would have to sit there until one of the boys came to get me. It was awkward and uncomfortable but this was about being Jesus to these people who have never met me. God has brought me to Africa to be His hands and feet. And with that comes a responsibility, a responsibility to get over my own comforts. So I sat on the floor in this dingy little room on the only cushion in the house because they insisted I should have the best place. There was the mother who was lying stretched out on the floor surrounded by three of what I guess to be her best friends kneeling around her. Then I sat next to a very elderly woman whose toes were covered in something black. I couldn’t tell if it was caked on dirt from walking a few miles to get here or if she too had been badly burned at some point and they were just cooked off. With my limited understanding of Kiswahili I sat and listened as the mother cried and explained to me how it happened. And then we all just sat in mourning, no one said anything for awhile until another mama came in and poured everyone some chai. I couldn’t help but wonder what that was like for the mother of Kelvin to watch the pot of boiling hot chai with no lid being cooked over an open fire knowing that was how she lost her baby. But we all just drank in silence no one wanting to acknowledge the irony.
I know everyone was wondering who I was and why I was there. I wanted to tell them and to explain I had heard about Kelvin and his burns and how I wanted him to see these European doctors and how I wish I could have done more, but just none of it mattered anymore. He was gone. And there was nothing I could say to ease that pain. In Judaism there is a tradition called "sitting shiva" and basically it means after a death the immediate family gathers in the home of the deceased to receive visitors. Its a time of grieving and mourning and that was all I could do.