On Saturday November the 8th, we buried my friend and UB classmate, Laona Segaetsho, at Phomolong in Phakalane. We committed his body to the belly of the earth. Eleven years ago when I married Shinie Lekoko, he stood beside me as my best man.
His beaming smile remains crystallized on my wedding pictures as a constant reminder of, and a testament to, our enduring friendship. He is now no more. He leaves behind a distraught pregnant wife with a young son. She is now left to grapple with complex existential questions of life. Because she is a Christian woman, she is confronted by a plethora of unanswered questions that she wishes God could answer. Why did Laona have to die leaving her expectant? Where was God in Lake Ngami when Segaetsho was drowning under the billowing waters?
Why did God allow death to visit this family? Amuchilani’s questions are legitimate and make her come across to me as one of the most sincere Christians of our time. We live in times of great pretense; a time where a theology of pain is lacking. With the advent of the so-called fire churches, good biblical doctrine grounded in deep biblical truth has been replaced by the feel-good prosperity prophets. To them nothing painful should befall a good Christian. Pain and loss are either a consequence of demonic attack or lack of faith or both. One is expected to sing and dance at the height of their greatest loss. However, I am reminded that Jesus wept at the death of one of his friends, Lazarus.
R.C Sproul has argued before that: “The problem of evil has been defined as the Achilles’ heel of the Christian faith. For centuries people have wrestled with the conundrum, how a good and loving God could allow evil and pain to be so prevalent in His creation.” No better text confronts us on this matter than the biblical story of Job who was a prosperous man. He was pushed to the absolute limit of endurance with the problem of pain. Everything dear to Job was stripped from him, including his family, his worldly goods, and his own physical health. Yet, at the end of the day, in the midst of his misery, while his home is atop a dunghill, Job cries out: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord”. But we rush to the end too quickly. Job also had unanswered questions. In despair he asked: “Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb? Why were there knees to receive me and breasts that I might be nursed?
For now I would be lying down in peace… what I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” In his broken spirit he declares: “Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” These excerpts are not for Amuchilani, Laona’s wife. They are for those who may misunderstand her speaking out in the midst of her anguish; those who may not comprehend her unanswered questions.
They are my attempt to demonstrate that the questions that plague her mind are normal for one who has lost so much so soon. Laona Segaetsho married his wife on the 27th March 2014 and seven months later lost his life in a tragic boat accident in Lake Ngami. Seven months later there is an uneaten wedding cake that together with the coffin had to be committed to the belly of the earth with the departed husband. Laona┬á Segaetsho is gone too soon. Christians must be retuned to the biblical truth of pain and suffering and here Sproul is helpful: “The Christian faith baptizes a person not only into pain, but also into the resurrection of Christ. Whatever pain we experience in this world may be acute, but it is always temporary.
In every moment that we experience the anguish of suffering, there beats in our hearts the hope of heaven ÔÇö that evil and pain are temporary and are under the judgment of God, the same God who gave a promise to His people that there will be a time when pain will be no more. The privatio and the negatio will be trumped by the presence of┬áChrist.” I possess no answer to why Segaetsho had to die. However my people have an idiom: magare a Modimo a itsewe ke ene. It is therefore God who understands the grand plan of life. A Sesotho hymn articulates God’s mysteries thus: Oa laea, oa khalemela, Ho se ea ka mo fetolang; Oa phelisa, oa timetsa, o etsa kamoo a ratang” Matt Redman echoes those great words of Job: “You give and take away, blessed be the name of the Lord”.
What we know without a doubt is that “it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment”. We have lost a great friend, a loving father and a son. We have lost a proud Mongwato man. The nation has lost one of its finest sons. It is at this difficult hour that we must remember that Fatshe leno la rona, ke mpho ya Modimo. And it is to God that we must turn and be comforted for: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”
Rest well dear friend; rest well dear patriot!