The timing couldn’t have been worse.
Hours away from driving to Weiler’s Farm to facilitate a workshop on Food and Nutrition for the teachers and principals of the Zakheni ECD Forum, I felt the recognizable pain.
My throat hurt.
My sinuses were clogged.
My head ached.
I had been soooooooo determined.
I could not allow myself to get sick.
Not the morning of my workshop presentation.
Not a few days before our family would depart for a ten-day ministry trip to Zimbabwe.
And certainly not the day before my birthday.
Alas, my immune defenses failed me. I headed into the workshop in Weiler’s Farm feeling absolutely lousy. I couldn’t cancel it, though. To send word that the workshop would be postponed – only a couple of hours before the start time – wouldn’t reach the group in time. Some would have already started their long walk towards the venue. Others wouldn’t have a phone signal or ‘time on their phone’ to receive my message. There was no choice. I would go.
And I did.
And it was, thankfully, a good workshop experience. The teachers and principals were now equipped with strategies, lessons, and activities to use with their preschool children. They were enjoying themselves so much that they actually wanted to keep working beyond the workshop time-frame. That was gratifying.
My frustration was that I couldn’t do more. Often times, I take people home after my workshops or I stop and visit with someone who couldn’t attend for one reason or another. But, I couldn’t this time. I was too weak. I had no voice. I had no energy. I had given everything I had that day. I had nothing left.
After a trip to the doctor’s office on Monday, I was diagnosed with a severe sinus infection. Rest was prescribed. I needed it.
But, while resting on our couch that Monday morning, a disturbing message from my friend, Zoliswa, lacerated my phone screen:
“Heather, I am sorry not to have attended your workshop on Saturday. Two young neighbour boys got into a fight and one killed the other. I was needed to help my neighbours and restore peace to our neighbourhood. Please pray for us. Please pray for South Africa. Please pray for the nations of this world. We need Jesus.”
Honestly, my first desire was to leap from my couch and race to Zoliswa’s home in Weiler’s Farm to hug her, love her, listen to her, cry with her, and pray with her.
But, I couldn’t.
I was sick.
And my dear friend’s message made my heart and head ache even more.
The loss of this young life makes no sense – to any of us – especially this side of heaven.
The confusion, trauma, and horror of this tragedy is not what they call a once-off here – a one-time, final event. No. This death is the second death of a young man (this time a teenager) in my Weiler’s Farm community of friends in the past five months. This death sends another shock wave of agonizing, heart-stopping pain through this family, this neighbourhood, this community, and this nation of South Africa. My friend is correct. This loss of young life affects us all.
This side of heaven, we lament.
This side of heaven, we cry.
This side of heaven, we mourn.
This side of heaven, we weep.
This side of heaven, we ask:
How could these harmful, devastating tragedies make any sense the other side of heaven?
I honestly don’t know. You and I aren’t there yet.
But, one thing I do know. That someday, one step into eternity, we will be on the other side.
And what won’t there?
No more tears
No more death
No more crying
No more disease
No more pain
No more worries or fears
No more sin-filled strife and struggle
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.
New International Version, Revelation 21: 3-7
A day – an eternity – is coming when God’s dwelling place will be among us and these awful, nightmarish, distressing ways of life on this earth will be gone. Forever.
A new order of life, peace, joy, and blessing is coming as we live our fovever days with Jesus Christ.
In the face of tragedy, this is the promise of Jesus I hold onto today:
I have told you all this so that you will have peace of heart and mind. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows; but cheer up, for I have overcome the world.”
The Living Bible, John 16:33
Though my body is frail and weak, I choose the peace and cheer of Christ to pray into the hearts and minds of my friends in Weiler’s Farm this side of heaven.
Would you say a prayer for my friends here?
Zoliswa is right.
We need Jesus.
Life is hard. And tragic. And cruel.
We need the love and hope of Christ to continue forward in this life that makes no sense.
Featured Image Retrieved from ourfatherprayer.org