It’s been—providentially—common to hear the tremendous Kenosis passage (Philippians 2:5-11) lately around our mission. Chloe and I had used it last week in our language studies, It was read to our weeding crew as a brief devotion, and one of our teammates read it Saturday as a precursor to our mission prayer meeting. Thus, I’ve been thrice reminded of Christ’s condescension on our behalf, his willingness to enter into the trouble of the human race in order to bring us out of that darkness into his glorious light and life.
Thursday evening, one of our workers, Markson, came to our door in an obvious state of distress. His wife had just died from injuries sustained in an altercation with a neighbor (the official story, as usual, is long and convoluted and of dubious provenance). He was here because he didn’t know what else to do and he hoped that we would have some answers. Not knowing what to do, we prayed briefly with him and asked him to send us word the next day when the burial would be.
Friday morning, I went with several of our workers to assist in digging the grave and to be present for the funeral (many of our teammates are down in Mbale and those who remain had things that required their immediate attention). When I arrived, the accused man had been bound and was being guarded by a police officer—both from attempting escape and from vigilante justice by the family. I took several turns as the grave grew deeper, and when I was not digging, I tried as best I could to take in the scene of which I had become a part.
There was an abundance of grief, but also a tension I couldn’t quite understand, that no doubt stemmed from the fact that the accused was a friend and neighbor to the people of this village. As we finished digging the grave, it began to rain and I was offered shelter seated next to the accused as many hunched together under a small thatched roof. He was addressed in no way and made no apologies, but seemed to understand the gravity of his work and accept its consequences. We waited for the rain to end and for other police to come and take testimonies.
When the other police arrived—to my surprise—three men were taken away, including one who had helped us to dig the grave. Two of them were sons of another of our workers, and as the police removed these three, the chief assembled the members of the village and gave a stern lecture to the family not to retaliate. He then turned to the father of the two accused men and warned him that he needed to arrange some way for the two very young children of Markson’s wife to be cared for.
Mid-afternoon, the body was carried from the hut, laid in the grave, and covered with earth. The rain again began to fall as Omena, one of our Bible teachers, read from John 11 and led us in a prayer. A few songs were sung and everyone lined up to dip their hands in a basin of water and sprinkle it onto the grave.
Christ’s kenosis enters my thought here because I think it was important for me to have been there with the family, to get the dirt under my fingernails, to sit in silence next to the man accused. If we really want to minister to these people, we need to be eager to enter into their troubles alongside them, to weep with them, and by turns to rejoice when they are joyous—to show that we are just as baffled and undone by death as they are. And, ultimately, we need to show that we have answers not because we are Americans or because we have greater wealth or resources, but because we gather together in the Church as Christ’s body, that we receive our help and salvation from Christ, our head.
We pray that Markson might know this salvation and that by his good example as he navigates these murky emotional waters, the people of this village might come to know it as well.