After the church service, when many of the people had dispersed, Parenoowe grabbed my skirt as I walked by pulling me down on the rough bench next to her. Her face was drawn and tight, eyes still shining with tears carefully held in check. She leaned her face very close to mine, and with great emotion asked if we could talk about her daughter. It has been less than three weeks since her 9 year old, Joonoomeng, had run down ahead of her friends to the river, and whose body been found days later washed up on the shore a few miles down the steep river ravine. Parenoowe ‘s searing pain showed in her eyes, her voice, and the tight grip she held on my hand. Her questions are the same that anyone would wrestle with… “Why did this happen? Did I do something wrong that God allowed this? Where is she now? Will I see her again?”
I wish I had something to say to Parenoowe that didn’t sound trite. “My friend, God is not angry with you, He is not punishing you. You know this, don’t you. He loves you and He loves your children. We all die. We do not know when—today, tomorrow, when we are young or when we are very old. Only God knows all of this. We cannot know. But we do know that we can trust God with this. We will have to leave it with Him.” I paused, thinking. “What does Weng tell you?” I whispered, her face still very close to mine. Parenoowe ‘s oldest, married son, Weng, has carried the family through this time. He has been a Bible teacher and helped teach through the Bible to other villages, and has a very evident love for the Lord and His Word.”Yes, this is what Weng tells me,” she quietly answered.
Even while they were still searching for little Joonoomeng’s body, our family had hiked over to their village to see what we could do, and be there with them as they waited for news. In the past, we would have been needed at the forefront, reassuring and reminding everyone of God’s love for His children. Instead, when what we found were other brothers and sisters in Christ ministering to the family, and to Joonoomeng’s mother in particular. And when Weng’s faith was brought to the test, his little sister missing and feared dead, his faith was steady and shone through brightly.