Smiling Through the Tears

I will admit that this was a hard post to put into words for me (Julie) as it has been a unique week for myself and our family.  I got to walk beside two very different Indonesian families as they held two very different events through out the week.  One of the families was our neighbors that live directly across from us and hold to the faith of most Indonesian. The other family attends our church here and we also attend the same small group every week. Now, normally I would write about each family separately but both events actually happened at the same time and since I walked through both at the same time I can’t separate them.

A few months ago our neighbor came and asked Greg if they could host their daughters wedding in our front yard.  Most people on our street do not have large open areas in their yards besides us and since our houses are almost directly in front of each other it would work very well. When Greg came to share with me this request I just paused for a moment in amazement at how God had just put before us such a unique way to be apart of our neighbors lives. As the weeks drew closer we allowed them to use our yard for parking cars and bikes in as they hosted all those fun pre-wedding events. And our family began to really look forward to the event and really wondered what it would be like.  As every island and tribe will do it a bit differently and we had not attended a wedding in Papua yet.  Sadly, though Greg discovered a couple weeks before that he had to be in Sentani for meetings and would not be here for the wedding.  Now, I will be honest that this news had me more then a little nervous as this meant that I was going to be by myself while this was going on. And that I would be the one that all questions would be coming to instead of Greg. All I can say is man our God is so faithful!!!  As the day approached I found myself more excited and less nervous.

Tuesday morning trucks began to come to our house to drop off all the metal frame for all the different tents that they were going to put up.  This would have been the time if you were looking into my house when you would of found Isaac sitting in his big chair watching with great interest.  He loved watching this process from a safe distance (where no one would talk with him) with a fan blowing right on him.  During the morning I would pop out every so often to take pictures and greet people. This lead to me be invited to our neighbors house to take part with what the ladies were doing (which for me is still a very nerve wracking thing for me to do but I understood the importance of it).  As I walked into the house I found about thirty women spread through out the house working on different things. For some of them it was likely the first time greeting a white women so I will admit it was fun seeing their reactions. After all the greetings were done I found myself seated on the floor drinking and eating with them for about another 30 min.

After leaving the ladies I walked through all the guys who were busy working on tents, chairs, tables, and different task to check on what my kids were up to.  I was pretty sure school lessons were not a top priority compared to what was going on outside at the moment plus Jaclynn was coming down with a nasty cold/flu.  And as I was checking on the kids I received a text message from Greg that broke my heart. One of our church friends had called him telling him that our friends daughter who was approaching her 2nd birthday had suddenly passed away. After confirming the news I had to call Greg (who was already disappointed about missing the wedding)??? that our dear friends were dealing with this tragic loss. Which meant that I would now be trying to show support, love, and compassion to our friends, along side our church family on top of all the wedding events that our neighbors wanting us to attend.

When a person dies here in Indonesia there is no funeral home like back home that prepares the body.  And it is the family that takes care of the body inside the house.  With this knowledge in mind I needed to find out were this was going to happen as that would mean about three days worth of special services and visiting with the family.  Through this process I discovered that everything was going to be held at the little girls grandmothers house which is only a few houses down from our house. I was thankful that both events were going to be so close together that I could be apart of both but my heart was so torn. How does a person really go through the process of grieving with a believing family and not only attend but host a wedding in your yard with a family that believes very different then you do while everyone is watching you?

I was standing next to my gate watching all that was taking place for the wedding when everyone instantly stops what they were doing when the ambulance (ambulances are more commonly used as the function of a hurse here) turn onto our road. After the ambulance passes by everyone goes to that house and we watched the family caring the little girl into the house and place her on the prepared table that she would be laying on during this time.  At this point it does not matter what a person beliefs are or if you really know that person. Everyone comes in and cries with the family for a short time.  During the next hour I sat with different church members as we had tears rolling down our faces as we listened to family members cry and scream the little girls name. It did not matter that I could not understand every word as grief has its own language and needs no translation to be understood.  After some people had left I was able to go into the house and hug my dear friend as we cried together. And as I turned to leave their yard and head to mine (where all the wedding preparation was happening) I realized that I was truly walking between two different worlds almost. One was a time of laughter, new beginnings, excitement, and joy. The other was filled with intense sorrow and broken hearts. More importantly though one has a deep faith (even though at the moment there were lots of questions of why) and one did not. I will admit that I was unsure if I could handle doing both the grief and happiness at the same time.

Oh, how faithful our God IS at answering prayers and giving strength to His people.  So thus began three days of going back and fourth from the wedding to the funeral services. I am thankful that our kids were old enough to take care of themselves or they might of gone hungry on that first day. However, I think that Isaac might have just eaten cookies that day with all the cookies crumbs in his room. Franklin really stepped up to the plate with his dad gone. He attended the first service for the little girl even though he was scarred of crying in front of so many people. He even when into the house and shook hands with people as they sat around the little girls body. Then as we entered into our yard all the guys were sitting eating snacks and drinking tea. Most of the guys knew that Franklin loved to eat their small fried snacks just from watching him ride his bike everyday to buy some.  So the guys convinced him to sit down with them to eat some fried goodies for a little while as I went into the house (a couple of the men could speak English).

The day of the wedding was very hot but it was such a blessing and honor to be apart of. Jaclynn was feeling better enough to attend and she loved seeing all of the fancy dresses and flowers.  We laughed when we saw a young dad take his little son (about one) and douse him under our outside water spout. Isaac was pretty upset that I would not allow him to do that during the service as well. However, once the service was over and the eating had begun I allowed the kids to go sit inside the AC rooms for a few minutes.  It was neat to see how the men set on separate sides as the women and they actually had the men get their food from different tables as the ladies. I think that the hardest part of the wedding was the music as it was loud and I laugh pretty good when I went to use my bathroom and the windows were actually vibrating. So you can all imagine that we all breathed a sigh of relief when they turned it off.  Thankfully, the big reception for the wedding was at a hall and not in our yard so it got a little quieter a little faster.  As our family was heading to the reception our neighbor asked if anyone wanted to ride with them in the cars. Franklin jump at the offer but later find himself apart of the wedding party as they walked into the hall.  Jaclynn and I were already seated up front so he just smiled and followed the line of people until he got to us and sat down.  I really had to not laugh out loud when he turn to me and shrugged his shoulders and shook his head in unbelief at what he just did.

After we left the party and got home I found myself switching gears once again as I headed to our friends house.  While the reception was going on there was another service for the little girl and lots of people were still there so I went as well.  While there visiting with people I watched how they carried in her little coffin and how they prepared it before they place her little body inside. It was a beautiful thing to be apart of even though it was such a hard thing as well. For three days family members continue to sit around the body working through their grieve while everyone is watching which makes it is a very intense time for everyone.

Even though Greg did and amazing job of supporting me through text messages and phone calls I was very happy to pick him up from the airport Thursday morning.  Since his plane was actually on time he was able to drop his bags off at home, shake hands with neighbors who were busy taking down wedding tents, and go hug his grieving friends next door. Our neighbors did an amazing job of taking down the wedding tents quickly allowing us to use our yard once again for people looking to park cars and bike for the final service before the graveside service.  Which Greg and I were able to attend as well and then afterwards Greg was able to spend more time visiting with our friends some more and help with a little bit of clean up from the wedding.

And words can not express how grateful I am for you all who saw my post on Facebook and prayed not only for our family but for our friends.  Thank you for helping in this special way as I know that I could not have done this without your emails, text messages, and prayers.



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