Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Life versus Death

We just returned from a funeral at a Buddhist temple. Jane, a fourteen year old girl, died yesterday. She had HIV, which she got from her mother. Both her parents died years ago. Jane also had TB in her liver, but what actually killed her was malnutrition.
When she got sick her uncle, who had been caring for her brought her to one of the HIV homes that Sandy, my current host, is connected with. Jane met Jesus there.
That knowledge made the difference for the Christians who attended the funeral. It did nothing for those who follow Buddha.
The coffin was covered with twinkling lights and flowers. In front of it incense burned alongside a stack of robes that were gifts for the monks. The upper walls of the temple are covered with pictures that depicted some very violent scenes. One scene showed a chasm that people were falling into. Buddha hovered over the chasm. It reminded us of the tract that shows the separation between God and man with the cross of Christ bridging the gap. Jesus makes the way for reconciliation with the Father. While Buddha just hovers there watching people fall to their doom.
Before the monks came to chant, which they do to send her spirit onto the next realm, the Christian pastor got up and spoke about the sure hope that Jane was in Heaven. Then the Christians gathered together and sang three praise songs. I prayed and snapped pictures. Before the body will be burned the monks march around the crematory three times to confuse the evil spirits so they don't intercept her spirit.
One of the ministers there was telling me how fearful the people were after the tsunami. Fearful of all the spirits that were wantering around because they weren't able to have the monks send them off properly.
This religion is so superstitious. You will see strings with beads around many necks and wrists, even small babies. The monks chant over the strings and beads to ward off evil spirits. They will wrap a new home in this string!
Superstition is maybe not the best word for to me it means a fear of somehting that is not real. The evil spirits are real. In Southeast Asia they have the liberty to be very obvious. In our culture they have to be more subtle. Either way they are dangerous.
Whether in Thailand or the US everyone can find protection and power in Jesus. Praise God that Jane did!

1 comment:

  1. Dear Debbie,
    Re your previous post: You may have been eager to leave Cambodia when the time came, but it's evident from the pictures posted that, while there, you were genuinely happy to be with and help the people.

    I would have been whining/trying to arrange an early departure for myself the moment I heard about giant hairy spiders in the offing. (And if I'd actually gotten BITTEN by something, like you did, I would have tried to involve the embassies of at least three countries in Medivac'ing me out at the earliest possible nanosecond.)

    So I hope you'll feel good about what you did there and will do in the future, instead of feeling bad about wanting to leave. Your friends here in the US are glad you're coming home.

    Love and prayers,