Saturday, July 31, 2010

Statistics of Life

Statistics are so much more than numbers. Those numbers represent people’s lives and the events of those lives. That was painfully driven home to me today. The statistic is that one in five children under the age of five in Malawi dies. The most frequent cause of death is malaria or complications of malaria. Favor Fatsani died today of malaria. He was just one year old. He is one of those who make up the statistics, but he is so much more than a statistic, as is each one who makes up the statistics. He was an inquisitive, lively little boy who loved to explore and learn, who was eager to try new things and meet new people. He was the apple of his father’s eye as his first child, a favor from God, his parents believed. He will be remembered as far more than a statistic by everyone who knew him. His impish smile and little giggle will be missed as long as those of us who cared about him are alive.

How do you process the death of a child? That is an age old struggle. Questions come flooding in, questions without answers. This is not a situation unique to Malawi, but it is one that is relived each time a child dies and statistics are reinforced. It is a situation that is lived out almost every day in this country where poverty and disease sometimes seem to reign, in spite of the strongest human efforts. There are no answers to the questions that won’t stop, no answers for the whys? and the wheres? and the hows? that just keep coming. But there is comfort in the midst of all of this. Jesus is present. That is a truth that transcends the questions and supersedes any attempt at answers. It is the only comfort in a comfortless time. That is not something that is affected by poverty or disease or statistics. Jesus’ presence is the only thing to hang onto. He knows that little boy. To Jesus, Favor was not a statistic, but a child of the covenant. That is God’s grace in the midst of sorrow and grief and confusion. That is the only answer that can come with the death of a child.

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