On Friday, we had our end of the school year program and the graduation of two students we have taught and loved for 5 years now. Graduation is always such a mix of emotions, gratefulness for what God has done in the lives of these students and how much they have grown in so many ways right next to the sadness of saying goodbye as they move across the ocean to study in college in the United States. We are both celebrating and grieving as they move on to the next thing God has for them. I will miss these girls so much!
On Sunday, we received a message that Tim, one of our teammates, had been bitten by a snake and was not doing well. We did not know what kind of snake it was at first. He had thought it was a harmless green snake, so he picked it up. He even took a picture holding it.
When he wasn’t being careful enough it bit him, and he almost immediately began feeling terrible. As our team leader and Tim’s wife were rushing him to the hospital, the kids and I were at their house with their 6 children. David posted the picture to a reptile Facebook group for identification. The group identified the snake as a baby Jameson’s mamba whose bites can be fatal if not treated with the correct antivenom within 30-120 minutes. The nearest hospital that had the correct antivenom was about 90 minutes away. As I was working in the kitchen with 2 of his daughters I realized how serious the situation was. We received word that he was in very bad condition. He was struggling to breathe, vomiting and barely hanging on. Silently I told God that this family and this ministry need this man here. I begged God to spare his life. They arrived at the hospital 70 minutes after the bite. Once he received the antivenom, he immediately began to improve. His condition stabilized and we celebrated and thanked God for the treatment being available and the quick transport that God used to spare Tim’s life.
On Monday, the GSF social worker who works with elderly people in the village told us that one of our neighbors was very ill. I had heard he was sick on Saturday at Bible study, but I didn’t realize it was so serious. Since Tim is the Director of Community Development, and he was recovering from his snake bite, the social worker asked me to help arrange things to get our neighbor to the hospital. We found someone who could go with him and arranged transportation. Just about 30 minutes after they left, I received word that our neighbor had passed away. His daughter lived there with him and her children. He was a very kind man with a good sense of humor. He will be terribly missed. None of us realized how serious his illness was a few days ago. So yesterday evening we sat with the family as they grieved over his body.
Today, Tuesday, the morning has mostly been consumed with helping our neighbors with preparations for the burial. Buying and preparing food, getting a coffin, setting up a tarp for shade for people to sit under. In the middle of these preparations, I left in order to go to a baby shower for two friends who are expecting babies very soon! It was a very nice time, but I am struggling with going between these two extremes. Celebrating new life and grieving over the loss of another life. Right now I am taking a few minutes to write and cry and process these emotions while my baby takes a nap before we go for the burial.
I am thankful that our neighbor knew Jesus. I am thankful that for him, death was like a graduation, leaving this life behind and moving on to something better. But for his daughter and grandchildren, this is a time of grief and sadness. They will miss him. We all will miss him.
The only way that I know to handle this jumble of emotional ups and downs is to cling to my Lord. I will trust that He is good, all the time. I will trust that he is using the times of joy and pain for good. (Rom 8:28) I will trust that our present suffering isn’t even worthy of being compared to the glory that awaits us. (Rom 8:18). But I will also weep with those who weep (Rom12:15) which is what I am doing today.
God is good, all the time. And all the time, God is good!