Today was not a fun day. Today we went to Soshenguve (the nearby township) to be with our friend Oupa (whose other name is Johannes). You may remember me talking about Johannes back in 2007 when we came back from our short term trip exploring Nieu Communities. God used Johannes in a big way to stir my heart for what He was doing here. Today we mourned with him for his brother who passed away last week from an AIDS related illness.
The sun was hotter than I’d ever felt it before as I sat on the black plastic chair in Oupa’s backyard. The casket lay under a tent with several people dressed in choir robes leading the community in African hymns. Between each song, there was spoken word. After several hours of this back and forth process, Oupa stood up and gave his word. Passion filled his gut as he told the “young people here” and his family that he was sad but not defeated. His God had delivered him and wanted the same for all mankind.
“I will not despair, though I am sad right now. Because MY God delivers! Hallelujah!”
My brother preached.
As he walked away, he went to the front of his house where no one else was and sat alone. I went to be with him along with my teammate Bryan, but it was clear that this was space he needed. AIDS is confusing. It’s messy. It affects communities in the white world as well as the black world. It’s a plague on humanity.
Later, we were at the gravesite for the final words and the burial. In the United States, we rarely stay, if ever, for the full burial, but here it happens barbarically rapidly. After the religious types give their words, family members are given a handful of earth to lay on the deceased. Then twenty guys took turns with ten shovels and filled the hole until the entire pile was moved. Devastation in this moment now becomes the beginning of healing for Oupa and his family.
For Oupa, he is now the one responsible for the care of his brother’s wife and two children now left without their husband and father. A burden one is never fully ready for now rests squarely on this young man’s shoulders. This pandemic, this plague, it affects us all. Whether you’re here holding Oupa as he weeps or in the States reading these words. We are all connected by this reality now. AIDS is not just a problem in Africa, it’s a reality for the globe. Please hold my dear friend Oupa up to the Lord as you come to Him.