May we share with you a few moments of a very intense spiritual battle we went through this past Monday? It started at 5 a.m. when Aunt Alice called to say that Antonio’s uncle “Tio Eurico” had passed away. This is the 94 year old uncle that Antonio led to the Lord in January. His wife, family and relatives are some of the staunchest Catholics you will ever meet! We went to the funeral chapel where the wake was, and stayed from 7 a.m. until the body left for burial at 4 p.m.
Antonio met many friends and relatives that he had not seen since childhood and his early teen years. His heart was so burdened for the salvation of these dear, lost people! We prayed all day for the opportunity to share the Gospel with them. Antonio asked Aunt Alice if he could say a few words before the burial and she reluctantly said he could at 3 p.m. when the largest group of people would be gathered. At exactly 3 p.m. the Roman Catholic priest came and began his funeral “service”. He started by reading in John about the death of Lazarus and how Jesus said that if we believe in Him we would rise again. He even cited John 14:6 and said that Jesus was the only way….but then he contradicted himself and said that Eurico was going to heaven because he was a good person and kept the eucharist and church sacraments. He sprinkled the body with holy water and then evoked about 35 different “saints”….one at a time with all the people chanting 4 times between each name “Pray for us, pray for us, pray for us, pray for us”. There were probably 120 people packed inside a tiny chapel. Antonio and I wanted to leave and not hear all the blasphemy but we had been labouring in prayer all day that we would be given the opportunity to share the truth. Antonio said to Lawanda: “I would like to leave but feel we should stay”. He left briefly to get his Bible from the car. When the priest finished and went into a side room to change his garments, Antonio walked to the front of the room and called everyone’s attention saying that he would like to say a few words. The tension in the air was like static electricity! About half of the people decided to leave, some smirking words of not wanting to listen to an “evangelico” (what they call a person who leaves the Catholic church to follow the Gospel). Of the 60+ people who stayed there was a myriad of reactions. Lawanda was tearfully agonising in prayer, begging God to give Antonio the courage he needed and for the seed to fall on fertile soil. Some listened out of curiosity; some looked genuinely interested; some had eyes of scorn; and some were out right hostile! We could literally feel the forces of evil all around us!
For brief seconds it looked like the deceased’s son was going to make Antonio stop talking but he didn’t! I wish you could have seen the priest’s face as he finally left the dressing room and walked out having to squeeze by all the people to the door as there was no other escape route! It was such an intense moment that Lawanda, the mother of 4 children, compared it to labor pains….and hard labor at that! God gave Antonio the words and the courage to tell those present that Tio Eurico had been saved and how they could be saved. He was careful not to be “unkind” to the priest, but he had to share the truth with these blinded relatives! Antonio explained that in their weekly Bible studies, Eurico had requested that Antonio give his testimony of salvation for him to all his relatives present at his funeral. You could have heard a pin drop and the sensation was that something had suddenly sucked all the oxygen from the room! Antonio thanked them for the opportunity to fulfil the dead man’s wish and repeated the simple plan of salvation. Silence remained in the room for a long time even after Antonio stepped down. A man who had been standing up front near the coffin tapped Antonio on the shoulder and asked him if he could ask a few questions. Of course Antonio was more than happy to say “yes”. He asked about baptism and keeping the Sabbath. Antonio answered briefly but soon brought him around to THE most important question of all; “If you were to die today, do you know you will go to Heaven?” The man answered “No, I don’t”. So Antonio asked if he would like to know and he said “Yes!” Right there in a corner of the funeral chapel with people looking on, Antonio shared the Gospel again to this man, reading many verses from the Bible.
Right there he prayed with that man! The man prayed with tears in his eyes asking God to save him. Afterwards he shared with us his story. His name is Dehom. He was there for another funeral (there are 5 small chapels side by side) and was leaving as he had to go to work. For months he had been searching for truth and watched a lot of TV programs which totally confused him. As he was leaving the chapel complex he saw Antonio walking in with his big, black Bible. He said that it seemed like a voice said: “If you really want the truth, listen to that man”. He kept walking as he didn’t want to be late for work but felt so impressed that he turned back to the funeral chapels. He had no idea which one Antonio went in to, so he started at one end going in each and looking for Antonio. He found him in the 4th chapel and listened intently while Antonio spoke. And he was saved that day! He was so happy and praised the Lord for a long time!
He was so impressed about how God had worked the entire situation out so that he could be saved. He even laughed saying this is the first time that being docked at work was going to be worth it! None of the others who attended Tio Eurico’s funeral made a decision, although a few told us that they would be thinking about what he said and a few thanked him for the “lovely words”. But a man attending a different funeral was saved! Isn’t it amazing how God works? We rejoiced at this new birth after an entire day in “labor”. We thought you might like to rejoice with us and pray for the seed sown in those relative’s hearts! Also pray that we can do follow-up discipleship with Dehom. Thanks for upholding us in prayer!