death struck our small village of Buena Vista again recently. this time a young man, 17 years old, fell down and died on his grandfather's porch. no one knows why, what, or how...
his grandparents are good friends of ours. when we heard about it, we went down to visit. we had a team of college age and young adults visiting, so they came along.
when we got there, a dark, sad atmosphere welcomed us. his mom was silent, sitting on the porch, staring into space. his grandparents greeted us. his grandpa told me the story. he explained that he got home from work to find his grandson on his porch. "i knew he wasn't sleeping by the way that he was lying there. i got him up and into the bed. he was already gone. please believe me that there was nothing i could do."
the next 20 minutes or so was spent just sitting there, being with them as they mourned.
i couldn't help but notice the setting around me. the place had been trashed. one cultural tradition in our village that i really don't like, is what happens after someone dies. the family of the lost one is expected to feed anyone that comes by for the next 24 hours. unfortunately, in places of poverty - where people are hungry - people will go to the home of a lost one just for the meal.
this family had been hustling for the last 24hrs to feed hundreds of people who had recently visited. having just gotten back from burying their son/grandson, the place was completely destroyed. trash everywhere. chairs and tents that had been rented to seat everyone. it was just a mess.
together as a group, we were able to spend the rest of the afternoon helping out. we swept, picked up trash, broke down tables, disassembled the tents, stacked chairs, etc, etc. when we left, the place was spotless. a simple way to show them that we care.
as we left, grandma gave me hug and said "thank you brock. i dont think any of us had the energy to do that. it feels so good to know that it is done."
later that night we were talking about the gospel of jesus christ. as trivial as it may sound, i believe that visiting someone in their time of need, giving hugs, and helping clean up - describes the gospel of jesus christ as well as anything.
when Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment of all, his reply was simple. love God and love your neighbor. he went as far to say that everything else hangs on those two things.
as we cleaned up the property that day, i noticed that lots of men were standing out in the street watching us. none offered to help... but none were heckling or laughing either. it just seemed as if they were looking at us, confused, wondering why we were doing what we were doing.
i feel content knowing that the gospel is that simple. in such an extremely difficult moment for this particular family, i didn't have to share any message, or try to explain how God has a purpose for everything.
sometimes simply loving our neighbor and lending a hand is enough.