Funerals of believers offer us a sacred time of reflection, remembrance, and the chance to celebrate as one of our brothers or sisters in Christ enters into heaven.
During a recent trip to Chad, I attended the funeral of a man who was a national pastor and my neighbor during my early years as a missionary there. Pastor John Ngaodanbé and his wife, Rachel, meant a lot to me, so I took the funeral as an opportunity to share some of my special memories of them.
During my very first week on the field, missionary Fran Clark introduced me to her friends and fellow believers, and we stopped at the Ngaodanbé’s home. Because I hadn’t learned the language yet, I couldn’t understand what was being said or communicate in any meaningful way. Yet John and Rachel were warm and friendly, introducing me to their nine children. The youngest was just a baby in Rachel’s arms, named Caleb. At the end of the visit, Rachel gave me two eggs. I hesitated to accept this generous gift from a young, large family that obviously needed them far more than I did! But Fran wisely counseled me to take the eggs and not refuse such an offer. I have never forgotten the warm welcome and that gift.
My first term in Chad was full of war, fear, and much suffering for the people who lived all around me. One day we received news that soldiers had killed the pastor in the village of Bao, only 30 miles north of where I lived with other TEAM missionaries. The soldiers had surrounded the village market and opened fire into the crowd. When fellow Christians started wailing and weeping at the sight of their fallen pastor, the soldiers opened fire again and shot many more people. The Ngaodanbés visited us that afternoon, sensing we might be afraid. The pastor read scripture aloud and prayed with us, asking the Lord to remove the fear from our hearts. I have never forgotten that prayer.
Some time later, I was riding my bicycle to visit a pastor who had recently returned to Chad after attending a conference in Europe. On my way home, a man who appeared to be mentally ill jumped on to the path just ahead of me. He was obviously agitated and was threatening me by waving two broken bricks in the air. I immediately knew where to go for safety. Taking a quick left turn, my bicycle bumped along over an old sweet potato field as I sped toward Ngaodanbé’s house. We greeted each other calmly, but the pastor’s jaw dropped when I pointed over my shoulder toward the enraged man. Ngaodanbé hurried me quickly into his house and shut the door. I could hear him and his children speaking gently to the man to calm him down. They sat him on the edge of the well and offered him a cup of water. As they led the man behind the church building next door, one of the kids burst into the house and told me to take off for home. Ngaodanbé came by to check on me just a few minutes after I arrived safely at home. I was very grateful and gave him a large squash out of my garden. I have never forgotten the refuge I found when I needed it.
At Ngaodanbé’s funeral, I read Philippians 3:17 in memory of this pastor who served as a wonderful Godly example to me and countless others: “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.”
-Written by Lorraine Green, TEAM’s senior director for Africa
-Photo by Lorraine Green