Hearing about tragic deaths is not uncommon nowadays—unless the victim is known to you. I had the unfortunate experience of knowing one such victim. There isn’t much I can say or write about since investigations are still on-going. All I can do is share the impact it had on me as a person.
Joe (not his real name) agreed to meet with me in front of City Hall at 10 in the morning. I arrived a few minutes early but Joe was already there waiting for me. He and I then made the thirty minute trip to their house located in the rural area of the city where I was scheduled to hold a home bible study for their family.
It was a couple of months ago that I shared the gospel with Joe’s grandfather (let’s just call him Peter). It was Peter who organized this home bible study hoping that opening the awareness of God’s simple plan of salvation to his family would change their lives and outlook. Peter’s 40+ year old son, Tomas (not his real name) was married with a wife and four children and is an alcoholic and drug addict. Joe, 20+ is the oldest among Tomas’ children.
On our way to their home, Joe showed a level of excitement characteristic of one who recently came to know the Savior intimately. He could not stop asking me about the Scriptures, and was making plans to conduct a bible study in the home of his girlfriend and her family. Our conversation was “intense” as the half hour journey went by quickly.
When we got to their home, Tomas’ household and extended household were waiting for me. Tomas’ asked if we could hold the study after lunch as he had invited a few others to join in. I obliged.
A few minutes after we arrived, as I was drinking served refreshments, I noticed Joe busily preparing to leave. I asked him if he would be able to join the study, but he said that he had work that day and that he had only requested one of his co-workers to cover for him for half a day so he can get to meet me. Joe worked for a known delivery/remittance company in the country. He had a quick bite, and then quickly rushed out the door.
The atmosphere is Tomas’ home was charged with anticipation. Joe’s mother, on the other hand remained reserved and skeptical. That was quite alright with me, as it was not my role to convince. I was simply there to serve as a mouthpiece to share what the bible had to say. Spiritual regeneration is completely and entirely the work of the Holy Spirit. Despite the many years of studying the Scriptures, I never considered the work of conviction and conversion as my work. That was entirely God’s work.
The excitement and positive anticipation of the family turned to mourning when, as I began to open our study with a word of prayer, a young man (who I later found out was a family member) rushed to the door and announced that Joe had been shot at point blank range at what seemed to be a robbery-homicide while making his afternoon deliveries at a nearby city.
I was stunned and speechless. It had only been a little over a couple of hours when I last spoke with Joe, and now, he was gone; tragically taken from this world because of someone else’s greed!
At that moment, my mind was racing, accounting for every single word and gesture I exchanged with him. A felt a thick layer of sweat forming on my forehead and my back; my palms began to sweat, and I didn’t know exactly how to respond.
There was a sense of loss that engulfed me especially when I learned that Joe, at a young age, was the breadwinner of his family who gave up going to college because his father was an alcoholic and drug addict. I caught myself surveying the entire room, particularly the reaction of Peter. I could not quite make out Peter’s reaction as he already had blood-shot eyes probably from pulling an all-nighter of drinking and drug use. Peter was motionless and without emotion.
A few moments later, hysteria broke loose, and Joe’s mother started to beat at Peter with her fists blaming him for the fate of her son. What was discomfiting for me was that the first thing out of her mouth was, “Sino na ang bubuhay sa pamilya natin?” It was as if the value of Joe was limited to being the breadwinner of the family. Through the succeeding moments, I caught myself waiting for cues that would tell me that they valued Joe for more than just the money he brought in every 15th and last of the month.
As I sat there silent, still not knowing how to react, I closed my bible. As soon as I had done so, Joe’s mother turned her attention at me. With eyes glaring, she had blamed me and Tomas for bringing this curse to her family, for bringing in a new religion, and that this was the lynchpin that took Joe (and his income) away from the family. I remained silent and calmly took the blows from Joe’s mother. When she clamed down a bit, drenched from the pitcher of soda Joe’s mother threw at me (thank goodness it was made of plastic and not glass), I excused myself and made my way to the bathroom to rinse-off the traces of soda on my skin, shirt, and trousers.
I spent the entire Sunday with the family, offering what little cash I had to help pay for the meals (as I found out that Joe was supposed to bring home his pay that evening when he returned and that they had no money) as the refreshments that was served came from Tomas and was purchased on credit from the nearby store.
I have gone through a constant stream of struggles and challenges over the past three years, and again, here I am faced with yet another. I tried to muster the strength to ask “what?” I had to learn through all this, but despondency took the reins as I soon found myself asking “why?”
I left the family on Saturday afternoon, and as I made my leave, I will never forget the reaction Joe’s mother toward me. Tomas remained cordial, but somehow distant and ashamed at how Joe’s mother had reacted toward me.
I haven’t recovered from the trauma. I am still asking the question “why?”.