Friday, April 06, 2007

Thoughts on Death in Cameroon -- Day 39

French Word of the Day: la mort; means "death." On Good Friday, we remember Jesus' mort on la croix (cross).

Face of the Day: Guillian Arrey, pastor of N'Chang UMC: Pastor Arrey is a young man pastoring a church in an English-speaking congregation in N'Chang. This church is best known for having started a piggery in the last year; last Christmas, the pastor slaughtered a large pig and gave cuts of meat to everyone in the church. Now that's a Christmas gift that has real meaning and value in Cameroon!

Cameroon Fact: How do Cameroonians celebrate Easter? Well, not with bunnies and ducks, that's for sure. Catholics spend the week before Easter flooding their parish churches to make confession before the holy services. On Maundy Thursday, a service begins at 5 pm and lasts throughout the night. On Good Friday, there are Stations of the Cross; in the Yaounde Cathedral, the Stations service is preceded by "Esani", a Beti ritual dance used during the funeral of a chief or a patriarch. On Saturday, the service begins at 7:00 pm, with a fire lit at the entrance of the church. The fire is blessed and then used to light the Pascal candle. Christians will light their individual candles from the Pascal candle during a procession while waiting for the announcement of Easter by the parish priest.

Protestants don't celebrate in the same way, of course. But Good Friday services are becoming increasingly popular and the entire Holy Week is treated as a time for prayer and fasting, in preparation for the celebration of Easter. Many of our Methodist churches, for example, will hold all-night prayer vigils during the week.

Mission Challenge: I've written a prayer for you to use today, or any Good Friday, to remember the smaller, and less significant deaths that happen in remote places around the world.

"O God, who heard the cries of the Hebrews suffering at the hand of the Egyptians. You are not deaf to the groan of creation, nor are you blind to the injustices that go on daily in the world that you made. Today we remember that your Son suffered on our behalf, a fact which humbles and silences us. We thank you for the gift of vital, abundant life which has come to us through this death.

"But today, we are also humbled and silenced by the fact that thousands of your children are still suffering, for no good reason. They do not die to redeem the world; indeed, they are unknown, nameless, and forgotten to history. They are victims of rape and war in the Sudan; they are orphans of AIDS; they are the hungry and thirsty of Chad and Central Africa Republic; they are the voices of dissent in Zimbabwe.

"God of mercy, make us the instrument of your peace in this world. Raise up your church to proclaim life in the most death-dealing places, to shine light in the dreariest corners, and to love the most unlovable people.

"In the name of the One whose death was ... Good. Amen."