Last week at one of the churches where we are teaching the CROSS Project, one of the ladies in the group was gone because she was at a funeral. I got thinking how this is such a “normal” occurrence here. Usually, every week at CROSS, someone or multiple people are gone because they’re attending a funeral. Because of this, I started to do a little unscientific survey of our National Workers/Missionaries and other Zambian staff about how many funerals they attend per month. The answer was at least one, for sure, but usually 2-4 per month, but sometimes 5 or more PER MONTH!
Why are people attending so many funerals here?
One, because African/Zambian culture is so much about relationships. There are huge expectations that you go to family/extended family and close friends’ funerals – you just have to go. Period. But even for neighbors that live 5 houses around your house, you also need to go to their funerals. Then, add in work and church, and that adds a whole other group of people that you will feel an obligation to.
Two, the cold, hard truth is that there are a lot of people dying in Zambia. Even when you take into consideration how important relationships are here and that Zambians have so much more pressure than Americans to go to funerals. There is just so much more death here, which means people have so many more funerals to attend than in the States. This is because of HIV/AIDS (Zambia is currently 6th highest in world at 13.5% of adults HIV+), malaria, TB, malnutrition, very poor health care, and lack of education about health care.
According to the CIA World Factbook, Zambia ranks 216 out of 223 for life expectancy at birth at only 51.51 years (but, generally, I hear 35 to 45 years on the ground here). Ranking 216, Zambia is a little higher than 217 – Somalia, 218 – Central African Republic, 219 – Afghanistan, 220 – Swaziland, 221 – Guinea-Bissau, 222- South Africa, and 223 – Chad at 49.07 years.
All this to say, there is a lot of death and suffering that goes on here. And this week, I have been reminded again how important the sin-and-death-saving Gospel of Jesus is and what we are doing here with our ministry area, the CROSS Project. May God shower this people with the hope of glory through Jesus Christ!
“Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:2 ESV