Friday, June 27, 2014

Grief in a New Culture

So many things are different here, even grief.

This past Wednesday Isaiah and I joined the Ibadah Keluarga, a bible study for families held weekly in homes. Ben usually joins as well, but this week he stayed behind to supervise repairs to our a/c unit.

Isaiah praying at the Children's Ibadah
Everything at Ibadah was much the same as it always is. Friends gathered, husbands, wives, children in tow, grandmas and grandpas, aunties and uncles. We crowded together in the livingroom and even spilled out onto the porch.

We sang, prayed, and listened as families shared about their week. So and so is graduating school, so and so has malaria, so and so is looking for work.

We've forged many friendships through attending Ibadahs. This week, like all the others, sitting close together, worshipping together, I couldn't feel more at home.

Children run in and out of the house. Someone stands in the open front door and shares scripture and what it means to them. We sing and pray again. Afterwards we shake hands, fill plates with Indonesian and Papuan food and sit down together to talk and laugh.

Time to go and I thank the family for opening their home. "Terima kasih, Bapa." I tell Bapa Alex, shaking his hand, and head home.

The next morning via text message we received word that Bapa Alex had a heart attack and died just a few hours after we left. An Ibadah Penguatan, a "Strengthening Devotion" would be held that evening at the family's home.

I didn't know Bapa Alex personally and this week was the first time I had been to his home. Still, his sudden death shakes me. This family was one of the first to start the GKII denomination church here in Sentani. We attend one of the church plants that grew out of this family's work in the town. He and his family are well known and loved by many in Sentani.

With Bapa Alex's passing, I realised I have no idea how to grieve in a new culture. The idea of a church service held in the home immediately after a death is very new to me. Friends have talked about how important specific number of days after the death are. The third day and the fortieth day being the most important, and how friends and family interact on those days.

Although the 'how' of grief may be different, the heart of grief remains the same. A beloved father and mentor is gone. He will be sorely missed by the community he loved and served. I am glad to have had the opportunity to shake his hand on this side of eternity.

Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8

This week at Velvet Ashes others are sharing their stories of grief as well.


  1. A friend and I were sharing this week how we are ready for Jesus' return where there is no more pain or tears.

    1. Deb, I couldn't agree more! Ready for all things to be made right. Thanks for stopping by and reading.