Feature

Home At Last

Adapted from The Alliance Weekly, April 4, 1956

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In her youth K’Lai had been an extremely attractive woman, and the chief of a huge district near Djiring took her as his fourth wife. She lived in a big longhouse with the other wives, enjoying the comparative riches of a big chief. However, because of constant quarreling among them, her life was very unhappy. She left her husband and returned to the country of her grandparents, to the village of Sre Dang.

Here she remarried and bore 11 children. Despite sickness, poverty and evil customs, she outlived all but three of them. We were told when we met her that she was 97 years old. Tribespeople are not exact in reckoning their ages, but the fact that K’Lai recalled that she had already been married and had a child when the French first arrived about 80 years earlier supports the belief that she had lived almost a full century.

Her son, K’Sol, is a gifted leader in the church. For 20 years he talked to his mother about the gospel and exhorted her to believe in the Lord. But she always retorted that she could not forsake the customs of her grandfather. Then the gospel message came once again with fresh life to the village. A grandson, K’Sac, had been born again while teaching his language to newly arrived missionaries. He hastened back to his village and convinced his family of the truth.

However, K’Lai did not completely break with the old ways. One day K’Sol received word that his mother was dying. When he arrived at the village he was told that she was already dead. The children had started wrapping her body, but when they reached her head, she suddenly sneezed! Shaking with astonishment, they unwound her. She opened her eyes and told them this story: Her spirit had started on a trail where she saw K’Sol standing by a large fire, preaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. Then a man all in white blocked her way and told her to go back. He said she was not ready to come because her house was still dirty. Then she regained consciousness.

She declared to them that Jesus Christ was the true way and that they must all “clean house” and completely surrender to the Lord. The people in that village built a chapel and celebrated Christmas that year for the first time. What rejoicing there was as they testified to the invited neighboring villagers! Then the 97-year-old woman asked to be baptized in the cold stream nearby.

Now, three years later, she has died. The family requested that we hold the funeral, since she is the first believer to die after the village turned Christian. The people wished the ceremony to be a witness to the neighboring villages.

Death among the tribespeople is a time of much grief, drinking, weeping and destruction of property. Here instead was real peace and singing as they met in the bamboo chapel on the hill. Three days earlier, K’Lai had said, “I want to go home.” When asked where, she replied, “I want to go home to heaven.” Now she is home at last.

—Mrs. G. E. Irwin

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