Last Saturday I attended the funeral for Maserame, a 14 year old girl that died the previous Saturday after a car hit and killed her and left her on the side of the road to be found much later. I met Maserame at Agnes' house through her feeding program. She lived several km's from Agnes' tucked back in the bush. There used to be several very large farms that were owned and run by the Afrikaans. Now that Apartheid has fallen, the black SA's have moved onto this vacated land and have established little shack "compound" looking areas that sometimes several families occupy. It is desperately poor as most of the people don't have jobs and their daily goal is simply survival. This is the area that Agnes' heart bleeds for and the place that Maserame unfortunately had to call home. She was unfairly plucked from life prematurely, but I wonder if it wasn't God's mercy to remove her from the very difficult life that she was living. It wasn't just the poverty that she has escaped, but the daily abuse.
The funeral was slated to begin at 7 am on a very cold (upper 30's) morning. I was amazed at the contrast of the beauty of the sunrise as it peaked up from behind the mountains to the living conditions of this family. The funeral began late as we waited for all the children from the school to arrive on the bus that the school hired. It was very unorganized; in fact Chelsea and I set up the chairs in the tent where the service took place and prepared the "room". I offered to take pictures because they usually hire a photographer at funerals as we would a wedding (I know a bit weird) and the family did not have the means to do that. One of the teachers was considerate enough to sit between Chelsea and me to interpret throughout the whole service. The service was similar to what we would have in America with family and friends sharing words, the reading of the obituary, singing (random people will just lead out in song at appropriate times, this is not arranged ahead of time...also the children from the school sang a few songs), a message from the pastor, and closing comments. The one thing that is interesting that they do differently is that they read all the cards and messages that were sent to the family with all the flowers, etc. I was impressed with the number of remembrances that were there considering most of the people have so little that it would be a great sacrifice to buy something like that. This service lasted a couple hours and then we proceeded to the Cemetery for the burial. Most of the people that attended the funeral didn't have a car, so everyone piled in to the few vehicles available as well as the bus with the kids. We passed the spot on the road where Maserame lost her life on the way to the cemetery and then we wound through very rough dirt roads until we located the little tent they had set up in the middle of the field. This was what I would describe as the "potter's field"...there were not any head stones, just piles of dirt with a little homemade sign to mark the grave. Many people gathered here for this service...several more than had been at the house earlier. The pastor shared a few words of encouragement and then they lowered the casket into the ground and proceeded to have the family members throw some dirt on it. Then, as part of SA culture, the men took turns shoveling dirt until they literally buried the casket while we all sang song after song. (took about 30 minutes) Many of the family members wailed and were extremely emotional during this time which was difficult to witness. Finally, they ended with a few more words and a prayer of committal. We went back to the house where a meal was prepared to serve to all of the 100's of people. It is expected of the family to provide a dinner for everyone which is an incredible burden on the family trying to mourn. This family could not serve a meal because they had no money. So, Agnes went to the school and spoke with the principal and arranged for a meal to be prepared and served between their joint efforts. This family would not have to be shamed as a result. Seriously, she is the perfect example of a sacrificial servant. Everyone lined up and got their food and sat all over outside eating and talking while they soaked up the warmth of the sun. At this point, Chelsea became very sick to her stomach and so we had to leave. I took some ladies home on the way by and we left. I have to say that it was very difficult for me to go home (6 hours later) and enjoy sitting in the comfort of my home after spending time with that family that is in the most desperate of circumstances. I have to trust the Lord and just be obedient when He says to give...I know I can't make it all better, but if I can just do something to make even a minuscule dent, I can find a small sense of comfort in that. Please pray for this family and for this area that God would turn the difficulties into victories! This is a glimpse into what I get the privilege of doing...not always easy, but very important in sharing life with the people that we desperately love. I have included a slide show above with some of the pictures of this day.