Rev Hendrik du Plessis.
Elder Aron Johanes came to see me earlier this week about the funeral of a deceased family member. She was born in 1920 and was 101 years old. We left D’kar on Friday afternoon for Tchabo where the old woman would be buried on Saturday. Tchabo is about 110 kilometers from D’kar. It rained a lot and the gravel road was wet, with the result that we drove for about an hour and a half. Once there we had to pitch tents as soon as possible so that the rain would not catch us off guard. We also arrived just in time for the funeral directors vehicle to arrive. The coffin was escorted to one of the rooms, a prayer was said and then as is the custom here, certain formalities had to be completed first such as asking the people who were left behind and waiting for the deceased, how they spent that day. Someone then speaks on their behalf. Then a person stands up to explain on behalf of those who went to fetch the deceased how they experienced procedings in Gantsi with the arrangements there.
After that, the blessing is asked and the people are asked to gather again at 9 o’clock in the evening for the night vigil. The night watch originated from the superstition that the deceased is accompanied by prayers, sermons and singing all night to the afterlife. That whole night they will sing, preach and pray.
The proceedings only started after 9 and they requested me to do the opening message. The person who opens paves the way in which all the preachers should follow him. They use his theme and emphasize what he said. The advantage of funerals is that you have the opportunity to minister to people the Gospel that you would not otherwise have found in a church – people over a very wide area who come for the funeral. It is absolutely a mission and evangelism opportunity where the Lord Himself is the convener through the death of a loved one.
The text I dealt with them was John 14 and Acts 4. In John 14: 6 the Lord Jesus answered Thomas: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” In Acts 4:12, the words of Peter: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Christ is the only way to the Father. As expected not all mourners liked the theme of the sermon – people who preach different ways to eternal life.
My question to them was, “If there were other ways, why would the Father have burdened his beloved Son with such a horrible death?” Then why not use the other ways instead. There are people who believe that your church membership can contribute to your salvation. There is even a song that they sing from time to time where they are asked not to forget the membership certificate. Please bury me with it, says the song. Then there are people who believe that the bishop is some intermediary between the now and the hereafter. From time to time he gives them vinegar water as a means to heal them mentally and physically. Then strings are bound around the waist and joints by which they guarantee your health, but if you take that string off, misfortunes and diseases will strike you. If you dare to take off the strings, the disease from which you were supposedly cured will return to you. So these people live in fear, too scared to take off the strings that the bishop has bound around them. These so-called churches with their bishops are waging a reign of terror among their members. They have an incredible hold on them.
After the sermon in which I emphasized Christ as the only way to the Father, it was as if there was discomfort among some, who still believe that if you do this or that you can be saved. Then the other “barutis” or preachers spoke. Some of them were very grateful for the message, but one was clearly not happy. He stood up and hinted that we should still be tolerant of other views. Not everyone has the same view. Not all churches believe the same. Among other things, he tried to justify their strings that were tied around the people’s hips and joints with Jeremiah 13, but if you read that passage, the linen girdle that was tied around the hips of Jeremiah becomes a sign of the Lord’s punishment and not healing. Jeremiah, at the command of the Lord, had to hide the linen girdle he had tied around his hips at the Euphrates River in a hole in the rocks. And it came to pass after many days, that he went and fetched the linen girdle, according to the commandment of the Lord. When he got there the linen girdle was spoiled and worthless. It was then that the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah and said: “9This is how I will destroy the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. 10These evil people have refused to obey me. They have been as stubborn and wicked as ever, and have worshiped and served other gods. So then, they will become like these shorts that are no longer any good.”
Unfortunately, the preacher did not attend the funeral the next morning and I could not talk to him afterwards. I know who he is and am waiting for the right opportunity to talk to him. At some point we will meet again at a funeral.
After 11pm we had to adjourn according to Covid-19 protocol. The next morning we started again at half past five. Of all the preachers the previous evening there was no one to be seen, and consequently I conducted all the proceedings up to the grave. It again gave me the opportunity to proclaim Christ as the only way to eternal life. After the funeral we socialized with the funeral attendees. This is how you get to know people and they have the courage to ask you many questions.
The old woman we buried was one of the few people who still knew Bushmen who had not yet come into contact with Europeans. She was literally part of the old order.
At the very Tchabo where we were, a woman from the bushes arrived in 2017 who still had no contact with civilization. When they questioned her, she answered: “I grew up in the bush and lived there until all my family members perished. I’m the only one left. I was forced to come to you here.” No one suspected that there were still Bushmen living primitively in the bush until she arrived. It could be that there are other Bushman families in the bush that we do not know about, because the Kalahari is vast and wide.
To conclude, we ask for your support and intercession, that the Lord will send us to so many people who have not yet met the Lord Jesus in their lives. Also to many who have heard of the Lord Jesus but have a distorted view of the Gospel.
Your brother in Christ,
Hendrik du Plessis