Last month I visited an orphanage in Liberia, West Africa called Rainbow Town. I am surprised at how close I became to this community in such a short period of time. Even referring to it as formally as I just did, sounds strange and unnatural to me. But when God does stuff, He often links the human heart to the purpose of what He is doing. This is the very essence of the spirit of adoption. We don’t adopt kids to become care takers and logistical managers of their lives. Rather, we adopt kids and become fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters. This is what has happened in my heart. I know now, after today’s events, (if there was any doubt before) that this is my family. Yes, we are separated by almost 6,000 miles, but they are my family nonetheless. That is why today’s news of the passing of Moses Kolleh hurt so much.
The first time I met Moses he was really quiet. I was surprised because I remembered, from his videos and picture on RainbowTown.org, that he was a fun, smiley kid. He was not feeling well that week. Yet every time I was near the older boys, there he was. And so I got to know him some. Since he was standing off like he was shy, I made it my goal to talk to him and pretend he was my little brother – like I had known him forever. He had tiger stripes shaved in his eyebrows, which I loved because I remembered doing the same thing at his age. I lovingly gave him a hard time about it. I explained to him that we used to also do that to our hair. He’d never heard of Vanilla Ice but liked the idea of shaving designs in your head. I noticed several times as I spoke with one of the older boys about the scriptures, life, or God redeeming broken things, that Moses Kolleh was listening. As he started to feel better he began to seem like himself again and we enjoyed our final few days with him. One morning we woke to find him outside the compound where we were staying, looking for a ride back to Rainbow Town to hang out with us. I will never forget him and the short time I was able to see his bold smile. Moses was a beautiful young man that has marked my life and made it richer. He will be missed like crazy!
A Time to Mourn
When we were in Africa Moses wrote many stories for us. One of the parables captured in his notebook was “When a rain falls, does it fall on my house alone?” He continued to write, “This means, when sickness comes, does it harm just one person? Death is not for one man.” Moses’ parable is true today of his death. It is not for him alone but for everyone who has loved him. Many who have never even met him are mourning with the entire village of Rainbow Town who deeply feel his loss. It is right and good to mourn. As Ecclesiastes 3 says, “There is a time for everything… a time to mourn.” Tonight I am strengthened by the faith of Rainbow Town as they spent the night thanking God for the life of Moses. His death has affected so many because of the great value and worth of his life.
Making Sense Of It
Sickness and death exist because sin entered the world. They are the most bitter fruits of the fall. God’s response to sickness and death is redemption, renewal, and re-creation. Sickness and death are not the final word. They are temporary realities apart from the original good meant for God’s creation.
The cross is both the consequence of sin and God’s method of accomplishing redemption. Jesus proves, by the resurrection, that God redeems and heals. And when Jesus returns, He will make all things new. On that day, Jesus will wipe away every tear from our eyes. (Rev. 7:17; 21:4). Until then though we groan (Rom. 8:23) and we grieve (1 Thess. 4:13). We look forward to the day when grief will be banished. Therefore, we can have hope, which invites us to grieve, but not to grieve as one who does not have hope (1 Thess. 4:13; 1 Cor. 15:55–57). We grieve with hope because God is about healing and redeeming even this, especially this.
I rest tonight knowing that God has completed the final adoption in Moses’ life. He has been adopted into eternity and Jesus has secured a future for Moses that has no questions left to be answered. No more obstacles for him to overcome. He is with Jesus where I will be one day. I cannot wait to put my arms around Moses and see that smile and say to him, “Remember when you shaved stripes in your eyebrows bro, those were good times.” Here is a picture of what that day will be like in Revelation 21:3–5 :
Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. . . . Behold, I am making all things new.