We attended our first Xhosa funeral. We love learning about the traditions of the Xhosa people.
If you recall from an earlier post on my blog we attended the women's portion of the funeral for the father of our RS President, but not the actual church service. We had heard that some of the services go for four hours, so we hesitated, but went ahead anyway.
The service was held in a church in the Location for the sister-in-law of one of our members, Sister Mgadi. The hall was about the size of the cultural hall of a small LDS chapel. We were a little late, and when we came, it was PACKED. Out of courtesy, the men were outside to allow the women inside to have seats. When they saw us come, they kicked a couple of people out of their chairs so we would have a place to sit.
We were the ONLY two white people in the congregation. Have you ever seen 500 heads turn at the same time and look. It was great! We walked in and started to sit down, after we apologized to the people who had been ousted from their chairs, as we noticed Sister Mgadi motioning for us to go sit on the stand with the other ministers. "Not me" said I. Dad reluctantly marched up to the stand and took a seat with a dozen or so other Ministers and Pastors. It was great. One shining bald white man amongst hundreds of blacks.
Now, this service was all you have ever imagined. Hallelujahs, Amens, Hands up to Heaven, Singing, Dancing, clapping, and preaching. Oh the preaching. We made it through five speakers who presented their sermons in Xhosa. In between each speaker, was more singing, dancing, and hallelujahs. I loved it. Even though I did not understand a word, those voices when they sing are heavenly. The Pastor that was conducting announced that we had the privilege of having a Prophet to preach to the congregation that day. I am looking around for President Monson, but instead a fine looking man with a sweaty forehead and beard moves to the podium. He spoke in English and then had someone translate for him in Xhosa. His sermon started with a slow and low pace. He used a microphone. Gradually, his voice got louder and louder and louder as he gained momentum and prepared us all to be saved.
The service took on the feel of a revival. The women were standing in the aisles praising God. I am looking at Dad on the stand. He has, at this point, plugged his ears because the preacher is now screaming in to the microphone. And then came the words of the "prophet".
"Do you believe in Jesus? Raise your hand" I look at Paul Wheeler and his hand is up. Of course he believes in Jesus!
"Do you want to be saved? Raise your hand" I look at Paul Wheeler and his hand is up. Of course he wants to be saved.
"Then hallelujah! You have been saved". There you go. The day that Paul Wheeler was saved. Easy breezy done!
It's not over yet. The prophet finishes his sermon. The Pastor stands and holds up a white towel and explains that if you want to put some money where your mouth is he will lay the towel at the foot of the casket and you can come up and place money on the towel. Paul Wheeler is the first one to march up and put money down. Several others then proceed to donate money. By now the band is playing, the congregation is singing, and the family is dancing around the casket. This good woman got a great Xhosa send off.
Hallelujah Brother! I just hope Paul Wheeler will pull me through!
I just must say that I love this mission. It is a surprise a minute. We found out this morning that Brother Hola's brother passed away. We get to go to another funeral in two weeks. I won't miss it.