Saturday, August 27, 2011

Preaching at my sister’s funeral


My sister’s funeral pamphlet.

My sister, Dorothy, who was 12 years older than I am, died in a motor car accident 2 Mondays ago on 15 August 2011, at approximately 18:15. The family asked me to preach at the funeral service which was held yesterday, 26 August 2011.

My plan from the beginning was to preach the gospel, just like I did 11 years ago at my father’s funeral. So, that is what I prepared. Most of my family are still unbelievers, and I believe that my sister was also an unbeliever. She never expressed any belief in Christ, and neither has any of her children. My hope is that in those last moments before she passed away she had an opportunity to cry out to God.

So, the preparation for the sermon went well, and my niece informed me where the funeral would be held at (NG Kerk, Geduld – Dutch Reformed Church in Geduld, Springs, South Africa). The church is on the corner of 3rd Str and First Ave in Geduld.

What was supposed to be a time of remembering my sister, turned out to be a harrowing experience for my family and me. As we drove into Geduld (which means patience-which I do not have a lot of), I swopped the Str and Ave around and ended getting us in the complete wrong area in Springs. And, for anyone who knows Springs, it is a horrible place when it comes to street names. Almost all streets are named 1st, 2nd, 3rd Street, Avenue, Road, and as a result you can be anywhere in that town, and think that you are in the right place, while you are actually totally lost without knowing

Luckily I noticed this predicament. However, my wife was driving behind me in her car, since I had my one brother, his wife and mother in my car. All roads are one-ways, so if you miss a turn you have to drive around blocks with horrible traffic, and South African taxi drivers who think they own the road. It eventually happened that we were late for the very service I was to preach at. At the same time I had to speak to my niece to find out exactly what the address was, and then also to keep my wife informed. Then it happened! With all the turning around to get back to Geduld, my wife lost sight of me, and ended up totally lost in a town that I haven’t been in in about 25 years and that she didn’t know at all! So, when she told me where she was, I could not help her at all. By this time I was totally frazzled, being the kind of person who hates being late for anything, period! Luckily my wife had the presence of mind to tell me to stop trying to find them and to go to the church. She’ll try to find the church herself. She felt that I just couldn’t be any later than I already was.

I eventually arrived at the church about ten minutes late. I met my niece and nephews outside, and then I was told to follow the church caretaker to the preparation room. There she handed me a microphone with a head piece. I eventually went in, and had to step up onto this very high pulpit so reminiscent of the old Dutch Reformed churches.

Little did I know that my niece wanted me to do everything, not just the sermon. Announcements, leading the singing, etc. I felt the sermon went well, since several came to me and thanked me for the message. I preached the sermon in English and Afrikaans, since some were English and the others Afrikaans. The notes for the mixed version of the sermon can be found here. A completely English set of notes can be found here. When I started preaching, I could feel the tears well up inside me. I stopped for a second, gave myself over to God, and then carried on.

Right through the service I was keeping an eye open for when my wife and kids would arrive, but that never happened. After the service was finished, and the coffin was already in the hearse and everybody had said their goodbyes to Dorothy, my wife arrived. My niece’s husband went looking for them, and found them at a McDonalds almost 3Km away.

While no-one came to speak to me specifically about what I had said in the sermon, I pray that the seed that was planted, would eventually find its growth in God.


The family at the funeral.
I am 3rd from left, with my wife, son and daughter in front of me.
My one brother Robert and only sister I have left, Melody, are 1st and 2nd from the right.
My oldest brother, Preston, could not be at the funeral.


My brother, Robert, my sister, Melody, and me.

Life hardly ever turn out the way we think it should. Of the 8 siblings, only four are left, Preston, Robert, Melody and myself. Of the four that have died, 3 met a violent death in car accidents. Valerie died before I was born. Drew died when I was six years old and now Dorothy. Richard died of a stroke and passed away in his sleep eleven years ago.

It saddens me that the first four to have died did not profess faith in Christ. It is only God’s eternal wisdom, that He has elected some and not others (Ac 13:48; Rom 9:11; Eph 1:4-5). All of them have heard the gospel, perhaps with the exception of Valerie and Drew. The rest I know have heard. Yet, in the mystery of God’s will, the rest have not believed.

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