James 4:14 “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”
I was standing in line at the checkout in the bread store when I got the shock of my life. As I approached the cashier with the sack of freshly baked “pão francês” I glanced down at the stack of newspapers by the cash register and I immediately recognized the face of the person on the front page! It was Daniel who had lived for a time at the Indian village of Milho. The headline said something about his brutal death and his body concealed in a secluded country well. I picked up the newspaper and quickly headed home to be able to read the story and understand what had taken place and why.
Daniels father, Bento, and his stepmother, Erminia, had lived at the village of Milho for many years. Daniel was one of Sr. Bento’s sons from a previous marriage and had lived a life in the world. One day he showed up at the village to visit his family and decided to call it home and soon started planting his own garden. It wasn’t long before Daniel began visiting the village church and became quite faithful in attendance. Daniel professed to have made a decision in the past and did show an interest in spiritual matters. But just like he showed up out of nowhere, he eventually disappeared back into the world, getting a job as a delivery truck driver between small interior towns.
Jane and I were now ministering in a new work, Grace Baptist Church, in Boa Vista the state capital. Sr. Bento and Erminia had moved back to the city and were now attending our church. In fact, we had seen them the day before in our Sunday services and everything seemed to be normal for them.
I showed the news story to Jane and we read it and reread it. The story said that Daniel had been murdered and had been thrown down a well in the night. Someone who had been out for a late-night stroll saw somebody throw something down the well in the darkness. About three days later with Daniel missing, the person went to the police with his story. I looked at Jane and said, “Sr. Bento and Erminia don’t know about this. We are going to have to break the news to them.” We quickly got ready and drove to their home with heavy hearts thinking about how to break the news. When we arrived we discovered that they already knew. They had been advised about fifteen minutes before. The body was so decomposed that an older son had to go to the morgue to identify it so it could be taken immediately to the cemetery. Oh, the poor parents! Their tears flowed and we sat, prayed and comforted them.
The big question was, how do we bring closure to the family? How can you have a funeral without a body? We decided to call the church family together for a late afternoon memorial service. I went home, found a picture of Daniel, enlarged it, printed it off and put it on the communion table at the front of the church. We sang, read God’s Word, prayed, shed tears together and comforted the family. Sr. Bento and Erminia seemed to handle it well but no doubt had broken hearts for a long time.
Less than eight hours after seeing the newspaper with Daniel’s picture that morning, our memorial service was over. How our plans for the day had changed. It was an experience for us to always be ready for whatever a day may bring forth and be ready to comfort the broken hearted.
I Peter 3:15 “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”