Often when Jill and I go somewhere without our children, we call it a
date. Well, today wasn't our average date. It was more like lunch and
a funeral. I know that sounds strange, but this wasn't your average
The guy who passed away suddenly of complications from diabetes had
been a very prominent pastor with the Baptist Churches of Congo. He
had a PhD and taught at the Christian University here in Kinshasa. The
memorial service was at the largest Protestant church building in town
and was packed with people showing their respects. Several people gave
testimonies of how this pastor had gone out of his way to touch their
lives and what a great family man he was. He was remembered well.
The pastor who gave the message – there were at least fifty pastors
present and ten or so who had different parts in the service – had
some great things to say about their former seminary professor. He
mentioned that when the deceased was his professor in Seminary he
often said, “It's not those who start well who will be blessed, but
those who end well.” I thought that was a great interpretation of
Hebrews 13:7. He then went on to say that there are two ways to live
and two ways to die. We can live and die with Christ. Or, we can live
and die alone. He said that his old professor had lived and died the
right way. It was a great exhortation to the hundreds of people who
One thing that we found difficult to understand at the funeral had to
do with the deceased pastor's wife. She was brought to the front for
prayer, which is not how we would do it in our culture. Then the
pastor showed everyone her wedding ring and said that when she put
this ring on she agreed that it was “until death do us part”. He went
on to say, “Today this contract has been completed. This contract is
no longer in effect.” Basically the pastor was saying that this
marriage contract has ended.
Jill and I both felt very sad for the wife of the deceased pastor. In
our culture this type of statement would be totally out of place.
However, when I asked a pastor about this he quickly pointed out that
in Congolese culture this was the best thing that they could do for
the wife. Because when they were married the pastor had given many
required gifts to the girl's family, she had become, in effect, his
property. And often even after death the family will make demands on
the family of the deceased. So, the pastor was actually doing his best
to set the woman and her children free from the bondage of old
cultural traditions. He was giving her a chance to move on. It was an
act of mercy.
I have to say that this was quite an uplifting memorial service. The
pastor was remembered well with much respect. His family was
ministered to. And the congregation was exhorted to finish the race
well with Jesus in our lives. There were a lot of people there with
deep deep faith. It was very encouraging to us.
So, maybe it wasn't your normal “dinner and a movie” date. But, I'm
glad that Jill and I got to share this experience together. It was
encouraging, uplifting and culturally appropriate. All I can say is
that I hope that I can be remembered in such a way.
In Christ's Love,