Stella’s story is a short one as the world measures a lifetime. With Caiaphas, her brother, they were one of the first AIDS orphans in The Passion Center. When their parents died their future looked bleak, but with God’s grace, that’s never the whole story. Stella recently passed on, likely due to an undetected brain tumor.
Malawi funerals are unique. The entire village gathers outside the family’s house sitting respectfully for hours on the ground in two large groups—men and women. In the main house, women from Stella’s family mourn intensely around her open coffin. At the same time ladies from her village church sang songs of hope throughout the day. When the coffin is finally brought out and laid in the middle of the crowd, relatives, church leaders and the choir form two bands around it. Stella’s pastor recounted her life in Christ, the role The Passion Center has played, and exhorted those gathered to also trust God’s promises. As we began to escort the coffin through the brush to the village graveyard, songs of comfort and grace accompanied us. I continued to recognize young faces from The Passion Center and was amazed that they made the long walk to be here. I realized they saw Stella as a sister in their new Passion Center family. A group walked with Caiaphas supporting and consoling him.
Then it strikes me that for most of them, the last funeral they attended was their parents’, when they stood alone looking into their own bleak future. Now they are here, facing death again but knowing that it doesn’t have the final word. In a strange way, the entire scene reminded me again that there is life after death—both for them and for Stella.
Stella’s story may be short by earth’s standards, but that’s not how a life in Christ is measured. It has a real beginning and it continues without end. Thanks for helping us to show these children that there is life and hope!