Today my colleague (Pastor Andrew Vanderheide) and I brought a young man’s body to the morgue. The story is heart-wrenching, seemingly senseless and not without some probably unanswerable questions. Yesterday afternoon a young man from our church, Benny, and his friend (wantok) of 17 years, were working in their garden on the mountain range outside of a place called Tent City. On their way home they decided to take a route to a bridge that traversed possibly the fastest flowing river in PNG called the Busu. Some 50 meters from the bridge, Benny’s friend convinced Benny to rinse off in the water and Benny agreed to his friend’s fatal decision. While on the edge of the river his friend’s foot slipped and he was pulled under the water. Lacking the ability to get out, Benny tried frantically to help him but couldn’t. And the torrent of water in a river punctuated with sharp boulders and rocks realized his early death. Benny thought that maybe he would still appear again down stream, alive, of course. But to no avail. He began to search down the river until darkness fell, having told a few others of the imminent fear of death.
The next morning Benny got up at 5:00 and began walking the length of the river. Four to five kilometers later as the river entered into the ocean, laid the young man’s battered body. Benny found his friend and carried him to the nearest village where they wrapped him up, ready for the morgue. We were asked to come and we did, praying with Benny and the people first, we took the body to the morgue.
At the morgue we were reminded again how different things are here than in Canada or Australia. Here death is not masked and made sanitary. We witnessed the cleaning and the deep cuts to the head, the wrapping, the opening of the morgue which is a simple container that is refrigerated. Having witnessed much already, the opening of the morgue and the ensuing spells forced Andrew and I to retreat to clean air. Death is not without sting and stench, we were reminded.
Of course we have many questions? What happened? Were they maybe high? Was he sick? But having spoken to the family about this, we realize that some things may not be answered, but yet our Sovereign Lord has this in His control. He alone numbers our days. His days were full. This young man had only recently been attending church in Kamkumung with his aunt who is a confessing member (his parents are in a village 12 hrs away). He sat under the preaching for the last 4 Sundays. I didn’t know this and I didn’t recognize him when I saw him. But we thank God for leading him there. Especially last Sunday I had the privilege of proclaiming the simple Gospel message from Ephesians 1:4-5. We pray he heard it and we commend Him into God’s Sovereign grace.
Please pray for the family. His extended family is hurt deeply by this. His parents probably don’t even know yet. Pray that this will not cause them to turn to anger (against Benny) or against God. But humbly walk through the valley of death in the courage and strength of the Lord.