At 1 o’clock in the morning we were wakened.
A colleague and three Nigerians stood at the door.
My colleague had gone to visit an evangelist he was supervising.
When he got to the village, he found that the man had died the day before.
Because he came from another village and was of another tribe, the people wanted to bring him home to be buried.
But the taxi drivers wanted too much money. The little church could not pay. Impasse.
My colleague decided to bring the man home himself.
So – the wooden casket was tied to the top of his car, and everyone who could go along got in.
It was quite late at night, they knew they needed to sleep somewhere. Viss would not mind being woken up in the middle of the night. Of course not.
The next day we saw that the casket had begun to leak. And stink. The man had, after all, been dead now for more than a day in the tropical heat.
We moved the casket to a pickup truck and took off with two cars for the man’s village.
It was a four hour drive.
His family did not know what had happened. We had to tell them.
Because the man had become a Christian, the family did not want anything to do with him. Including burying him.
We tried to negotiate in every way we could, but without success.
Finally, at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, we headed over to the church. Perhaps they would help us.
When we got to the church, we saw a bride and groom standing outside the church. A wedding was about to begin.
We went to the elder’s room and explained the situation to the minister and elders.
They were willing to bury the man even though they did not know him, but, understandably, they would do it after the service.
We went back outside and waited.
It was now 5 o’clock, the man had been dead for 2 days, and the stench was unbearable. At least for me.
What an example of Christian love.
The minister and his elders dug a grave.
At 6 PM we buried our evangelist.
We were rid of that awful stench.
I will never forget what that smelled like.
Nor will I ever forget the love of those elders.
Sometimes I think about that story when I am attending an elder’s meeting.
(Note: this is the ninth in a series of blogs celebrating the 30-year anniversary of our departure for Nigeria. The blogs can be found under the label "Anniversary". Click here for the first one.)