400 pairs of feet marched mechanically through the silent room. Their faces were solemn. Each firefighter’s badge was covered with a black band, representing that one of them had fallen. A young hero came to his death tragically and unexpectedly and well over a thousand people had gathered to commemorate his life.
I watched their faces as they passed his coffin and paid tribute to their friend, their co-worker, their brother. Their eyes were filled with sorrow.
After the pass and review, Buddhist monks lined up around the coffin and set up for the ceremony. The strong smell of incense drifted through the air. Men in long cloaks hit metal gongs and other instruments as they chanted and groaned, creating a disturbing cacophony.
My heart went out to the crowd around me. Though I didn’t know Mitchell personally, I could tell he had deeply invested his life in so many people. Most of all, I grieved for his parents who had lost their only child.
As the low, droning chants of the monks continued, I closed my eyes and prayed for the presence of the Holy Spirit to enter this dark feeling place. In a room full of mourning, hopeless people, I prayed that God would be the one who would comfort their weary souls. No amount of chanting to Buddha could ever do that.
Friends and co-workers of Mitch then went forward to share stories about him in remembrance of his life. The stories made us laugh and cry. He truly seemed to have lived a life of love and excitement.
The very last person to share a word was my favorite firefighter in the world. He slipped out from the seat next to me, walked to the front, unfolded a piece of paper from his pocket, and looked out at the crowd. His deep brown eyes were full of compassion, kindness, and confidence.
He began by offering condolences to those who had been close to Mitch. Then he so eloquently and graciously presented the Gospel of Jesus to this crowd of lost people. He didn’t shy away from the truth. He saw the opportunity and used it to offer HOPE. His words were spoken out of love, not of condemnation.
From my seat, I looked at my sweet boyfriend while my eyes filled with tears. I had never been so proud of anyone. I was so proud of his strength and his willingness to shine for Jesus in the darkest of places. Carmi and I have very different “mission fields,” but I’m convinced his is the hardest. Even though he isn’t a vocational missionary like I am, the way he lives his life every day points the souls of those men to Jesus. They see a difference in the way he treats others, the way he serves without being asked, his faithful commitment to me, and even through the things he refrains from saying and doing. The battle is tough, but he is doing so well.
God calls us to be wise in the way we act toward outsiders and to make the most of every opportunity. My sweet Carmi lives up to that calling every day.
“Jesus wept with Mary and Martha. And He is weeping with us now. He’s here to offer us hope when we place our trust in him.”
His words gave hope and spoke life into a desperate and sad situation. When life is hard and I face difficulties, I pray I will have the same strength I see in Carmi.