Hopelessness.That is what I saw in the eyes of the women as the wailing sounds surrounded me. Marta was the local witch doctor in Nagishot; A woman whose very face invoked pity. She was childless (a very shameful thing in this culture) she was an alcoholic falling down hurting herself or burning herself in the fire. she was crippled, often crawling to reach places she wanted to go. Covered in scars and burns from her witchcraft practice, Marta was lost and Marta was alone and now, Marta was dead.
For a typical Didinga funeral, everyone comes and sits on mats and mourns together for their friend or family member. The grieving is often done in song. Wailing songs about how the person died and calling out the name of the dead in high pitched minor notes, that sometimes make me shiver in their eeriness.
The night before Marta died, I woke up around three in the morning with her heavily on my mind. I had heard she had suddenly fallen sick just that afternoon yet by the time I reached the clinic they had already sent her home and so I decided to visit her the next morning. This wasn't the first time Marta was sick, I guess I assumed it wouldn't be the last.
I lay there in my bed praying for Marta and debating if I should go to her house in the middle of the night, as she seemed so heavy my heart. I didn't go. Even though I've been a follower of Jesus for some time, I am still learning to know the difference between the Lords prodding and my own. Oh, for a listening heart!
I prayed for Marta until I drifted back to sleep. The next morning she died and so I went to her funeral and sat surrounded by friends as they sang their songs for the dead.
My head hurt and my heart ached with sadness as the women next to me wailed, "oh Marta, oh Marta! You fell sick and died...oh God, take her to heaven!!!" Someone brought out pictures of Jesus colored with cranes and placed them on the grave, someone else put down some of Marta's charms on the grave. It was a desperate attempt to please whatever god or spirit would listen.
Funerals are not easy in Didinga, yet they are common. Marta was the witch doctor who needed Jesus. Many times she had heard the gospel and had opportunity to respond. Even that last week, before she even fell sick, she was visited by the pastor and given opportunity to hear. Many times I sat with her and talked about Jesus who loved her.
We do not know her heart; perhaps in her last moments she turned and accepted Him who had been pursuing Marta since her birth.
Marta is gone, but her friends remain. Pray for them, that they would listen and respond to the Good News; that they would have hope; that they would see Jesus. That they would not turn to witchcraft and spirits to save them. Please pray for these precious people!