Friday, February 22, 2008

Funeral in Chuwang Family

John and Sarah Chuwang are among our closest friends here. We've known them from the first Sunday we spent in Jos. That day we attended Trinity chapel on campus, and they were among the first to greet us warmly, inviting us to make Trinity chapel our church home, as indeed it was for a number of years.

During our first year at Unijos John taught us the local language, Hausa. About two weeks ago John called us telling us that his father, Da Chuwang Rwang Kanang, had died, and invited us to join them for the funeral. It did not take us long to make room in our schedule for that event. His father was born in 1901, but the family is not certain of the date (which is not uncommon here), so we do not know his exact age. But for a man of such an age, as you can imagine, the funeral marked a celebration of his life; he is missed, but the funeral could not be an altogether sad occasion.

The funeral took place in Bukuru, which is a suburb of Jos. It began under the trees outside the large COCIN church which is still in process of being built, on land donated by the Chuwang family. The first thing we noted on arrival was that all the grandchildren wore clothing made from identical material, so it was easy to spot them; if we had not noticed this yet, it was quite clear when they offered a few songs and remarks during the funeral program. You can see the coffin there at the front. The program continued for about two hours, with remarks from various family members and acquaintances, testimonies to his service to the church, the sermon, and prayers of thanks for his life. We learned that he had become a Christian when attending a mission school, and spent a significant part of his working life as local Director of Forestry. He served as secretary of council for churches of both the SIM (Sudan Interior Mission) and COCIN (Church of Christ in Nigeria, established by SUM, of which CRWM is still a leading partner). It was also pleasant for us to learn that he and his family had donated the land on which TCNN now stands.

After the service the coffin was taken in an ambulance and driven (slowly) back to the family compound, about a 20 minute walk from the church.

Here a number of canopies had been set up, and already many more people were waiting for the arrival of the body. The modest compound was soon crowded with people, many of them singing and dancing their farewell to Da Chuwang.

He was buried in the ground behind the house, in spot well-prepared for the burial.

The graveside service was short. When this was finished we all stayed to socialize, and enjoy some refreshments with the family and friends.

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