'Asa carries my burden'

In the tragic wake of illness and death, God’s grace has opportunity to shine.

A dreaded illness made its way around and through the Dinangat village where Gary and Esther Smith minister. Tragically, as it ran its course, it claimed the lives of several young children and babies.

Just a few weeks ago, Asa, a Dinangat believer, and his family lost their young son.

Deepening their pain of loss, Asa and his family endured false accusations from other villagers. Still entangled in threads of animism, some claimed the death had happened because he was a negligent parent. He had failed to do things the spirits demanded.

As a result, many villagers did not attend the funeral for Asa’s little boy. In angry protest against Asa, one of his brothers angrily cut down several of his banana trees and an entire sweet potato garden.

The people of the village were hurting and confused during this sorrowful season. Gary shares, “We guided the church through this time and later people publicly apologized to him and promised to reimburse Asa [for his] lost food.”

Then, in a further blow to the little village, another child, an infant, contracted the illness and died. This time it was the child of Mowit, a man who has kept his distance from the Dinangat church.

Esther and co-worker Elli Schlegel went bearing food to minister to the grieving family as they sat stunned in the fresh loss of their baby.

What Esther and Elli saw on arrival at Mowit’s home brought them to tears.

Before them were Asa and his family sitting with Mowit’s family, living out the mercy and love of Christ. Moved by empathy and compassion, they wept openly with the family who had just lost their baby, offering encouragement and support.

Later, Mowit remarked, “I am amazed at this show of grace. I was one of the people who was mad at Asa and blamed him for the death of his child. I did not visit him when his child died. I did not go to the funeral. And in spite of that, now Asa sits here with me and carries my burden. This is amazing to me.”

Gary and Esther are rejoicing to see Dinangat people responding to God’s Word, in spite of obstacles and persecution. Gary shares, “God does comfort us and He uses His church to comfort as well. Asa rose above his pain and became the vehicle of God’s grace in Mowit’s life and family.”

Pray that God will use the bright display of His grace, poured out through His church, to draw more Dinangat people to the hope and comfort of the Gospel.

Thankfully, God has answered the prayers of Dinangat missionaries. A government doctor recently flew into the village to administer the much-needed medicine for this illness.