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Thanks for your continued prayer support, especially as we attempt to set up many things for the future as well as continue our ministry among our people here.
A tale of two deaths:
We have had two young people from our churches die in the last three weeks. The first person, a young mother of three, died unexpectedly at age 31. She had been an active member of the Winti Wai church for a number of years, and was popular and well-known. She participated in our burial funds. She had a very god-honoring burial. The church was greatly saddened by her death, but had the joy of knowing that her testimony was good at the time of her death.
The second young man was also about the same age, and had been active as a teenager at the main Jowjowstraat church. I knew him well, as he was one of my soulwinning partners. He started taking our Bible Institute and I had hoped that he might eventually go to the interior in some sort of pastoral capacity. Unfortunately he drifted away from the Lord as he became entangled in the world, and left the Lord’s service for a number of years. His testimony was not good either in the city or the interior. A little less than a year ago, he came back to the Lord, returned to the city and started attending church again. He asked forgiveness for his previous lifestyle. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with cancer and radiation treatment in Columbia was delayed for some time due to red tape applying and getting government support. His cancer spread widely, and he died. He was not in our burial fund. His family, which was largely heathen, overpowered the godly uncle who had raised him since his teenage years. He is being buried at this time with heathen rituals. His mother, who is a weak Christian from the interior, did not support a Christian burial so our church is not really involved.
To understand this system, you need a little background. Our Bush Negroes who are unsaved come from an animistic heathen background. They are terrified of the spirits of the dead, whom they believe will come back to haunt then and give all sorts of trouble. Therefore they have a wide variety of practices which they do to placate the departed spirit. They make offerings of food and liquour. They put another member of the family in mourning - usually the spouse of a couple, or perhaps a mother of a young individual. They will wail and cry at the funeral, and sometimes demonic attacks are seen. They may have different ways to try to determine who is responsible for the person’s death. One is to use witchcraft with the hair of the individual on a plank carried by two men. Then the spirit will carry the plank to the location of the guilt party.
The person in mourning wears dark clothing. He must hang his head, and not speak loudly or laugh with others. He can go to work, but then must come directly home. He cannot have a relationship with the opposite sex. The person usually must sit on a low stool with a string tied around it which came off the sheet covering the casket of the deceased. The person in mourning puts some food and drink down by the side of his stool. Finally after a numberr of months (6-9), they “poeroe blaka”, a ceremony when the person is washed, wears new clothing, and is able to rejoin normal life. Usually there is a lot of feasting and dancing as well as immorality at this time.
As Christians, we attempt to have Christian ceremonies replace these heathen ceremonies. But one of the keys is finances. In the Bush Negro culture, the entire extended family is expected to contribute to the funeral. Our current costs are around SRD 8500, which is over $2500, and a substantial cost. If the family pays, then the family decides. We decided to open a burial fund a number of years ago to which individual church members may contribute. Then when a Christian dies, the church uses the funds to cover most of the funeral expenses. In such a case, we can almost always control the funeral to be a Christian one. The first lady had a good Christian testimony before the family, and was in the funds. The young man had pretty much destroyed his testimony and was not in the funds. Thus you can see the difference in outcome.
With increasing costs, we are having to increase the costs of the funds, but as I have stayed here longer, I appreciate them more than initially. We pray that we will continue to be able to have Christian burials for our believers.
This section was so long that I will delay talking about my fun experience speaking on evolution, and also a most unusual series of dreams by a new believer which led to his coming to Christ.
This week, a missionary with a burden for radio/TV work for missions contacted me and we will be on the internet on Baptist Radio Network! He is already starting to work on the audio material which I sent. We will be sending some video materials a bit later. I am making copies of much of our TV material both for him as well as for continued broadcasts here in Suriname in the future.
Health and strength for the work
Our own spiritual growth
Independence of the churches ( the papers are back into the government with the additions they requested)
Success in repairing churches and the necessary funds. The sanctuary of Sunny Point is painted, and they are starting to work outside the church.
Continued growth spiritually and numerically in the churches
In Him and Content: Bob & Liz Patton Missionaries to Suriname since 1986