A Christian Funeral In India

(Monday, January 20, 2014)  When we left Mellamarru yesterday morning we assured them we’d come back and speak there again some time in the future.  Little did we know we’d be back in 18 hours to bury Moses’ mother, who died shortly after we left.  Pastor Moses got the phone call while we were eating supper last night and was devastated.  He wasn’t expecting this at all. 

She raised him as a single mother since he was 3 yrs old , 45 years ago.  She died at age 64.  She became the first Christian in their village after going with an untouchable to Calvary Church in the next village. She and her family were from a MUCH higher cast of farmers, but she went and received Christ. Then she evangelized the village and many are now Christians. She built a hut church on her property and recently  rebuilt it with concrete, cinder blocks and a real roof. EVERYONE knows she is a Christian.  Many were grieved.

            The funeral and burial are soon after death, which often necessitates driving all night to arrive.  Moses’ wife, son and several elders from his church did just that. We left at 6 this morning to arrive at 8.  There is no funeral director, no one pronounces the person dead, no death certificate.  Families totally handle their own deaths.  The body is laid in front of the hut on hay and covered in a white linen material from the neck down.   Relatives and villagers stop by to cry and mourn.  Men are hired to start digging a grave on her small farm land.  A wooden box is made and they cover it with white cloth and flowers. Much time is spent praying, singing and crying.  Clearly it is a time of love and devotion to a special woman.

            I had a 30 minute message from John 14:1-6, focusing on bringing comfort to the believers as well as understanding of the gospel to the Hindu’s present.  Then there was more singing, others spoke, more singing, and so on for several hours while the grave was being prepared. 

            The men then left and the women lovingly washed her body and wrapped it in a new, pretty sari.  They brought the coffin over and put her in it, put a lot of flowers in with her, and nailed down the lid.  The casket was carried in a procession around the small village and to the burial place which was on some land she owned.  A concrete block rectangular wall was built in the grave and the casket lowered into it.  The coffin was open and salt was poured in until her whole body was covered except her face.  Then the casket was again nailed shut.

            I had the privilege of saying a few words at the burial.  I used Psalm 116:15, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”  Then I prayed.  We all threw some dirt and flowers in the grave and marble slabs covered opening.  We went back to their home where everyone sat and talked for a few hours.  We ate a nice Indian meal and walked around the village for awhile as well.  It’s like walking around in a National Geographic’s special. 

            This was certainly a day and an experience we will never forget.  To watch this body of believers grieve together and support each other was a beautiful thing.  To see what a difference the assurance of eternal life in Jesus makes was very moving.  The Hindus have no such hope, and their grieving shows it.  To be a part of this day was truly a humbling experience.  I knew many of the pastors and people who came today from my visits here.  The fine elders in Pastor Moses’ Hyderabad church are good men of God and ministered to all of us in many ways.  They are fine men indeed. 

Psalms 116:15   Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

How often do you think about death?  If a believer close to you dies, do you have confident assurance that you will see them again?  Are you ready if God should choose to suddenly call you home?

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