301) I Want to Go Home (part two)

     Robert Coles is a psychology professor at Harvard, an author, and a Christian.  He tells the story of a little girl he met in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  He described that poverty stricken village as follows:  “Death haunted every shack: miscarriages, babies dying of a variety of untreated diseases, children chronically ill, and children often telling of the loss of this or that friend, and of parents who were dead or very sick.  Death was ever present.”

     The ten year old girl Coles was writing about said to him casually, “To die is what can happen to you any day.  That much we know here in our village.”  Yes, Coles thought, we know that here in America also, but not so well as they know it there.  Few ten year olds here are as experienced in facing death as are all ten year olds there.  It was with a resigned shrug of the shoulders that the little girl had said someone could die any day, and Coles was distressed by the calm way she said that.  Such matter-of-fact acceptance of death is commonly seen here in nursing homes, but not so much on playgrounds.

     The girl then told her story.  She said:  “My father died before I was old enough to call him by name.  I was less than a year old, I think.  My mother will soon join him.  She always wanted to stay with us children, but now most of all she wants to die and go home to Jesus.  She is in so much pain all the time.  At night, we hear her cry.  We should be sleeping, but we hear her and we worry about her.  She doesn’t want us to worry about her, so she tries to let out her tears only in the dark.  During the day, she tries to smile, and talk to us, and teach us everything she can.  I have younger brothers and sisters from my stepfather, and I had to learn to cook for them.  Mother is teaching me, and I am getting better at cooking, and I am also getting better with my little sisters and brothers.  Actually, I think I am getting better all the way around.  I don’t want to brag, but this is just what is happening.  Mother says I have to learn much, because soon she won’t be here.  My stepfather gives us some money, but he comes around only sometimes, and then he is gone again.”  This girl is ten years old and she is getting ready to take over the household.

     Coles then asked the little girl if she could tell him what was the most important thing that she has learned from her mother.  “Oh yes,” she said, “I will tell you what our mamma tells us all the time.  She says that in this life we are just visiting here; we are just visiting this world.  That is what life is, a visit, and then we have to leave.  So, she says, be glad that you are here, but don’t forget, we are only here to visit, and be prepared every day to say ‘good-bye.’  Mamma says that she is saying ‘good-bye’ to us now.  Even though the pain is terrible and she wants to die, she also is grateful for each day to teach us, so the memory of what she says can grow stronger in us.  She tells us she is proud of us, and when she sees how much we love her, she knows why she was born– so that we could be born, and then we too can have little kids someday.”

     A few days after that visit that mother died, at the age of 30, with her children all around her.  To the end, she was whispering her advice, her guidance, and her encouragement to the children to be faithful and to be good.  After her mother died, the little girl went outside and looked up at that famous statue of Jesus, standing high above Rio de Janeiro with his arms outstretched.  With tears in her eyes she said, “She is on her way to you now, Jesus, so be ready for her.”

    File:Christ on Corcovado mountain.JPG Christ the Redeemer statue, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

     That little girl lived in the hope passed on to her by her mother that when death comes we go home to Jesus.  That hope is best expressed in Jesus’ words to his disciples in in John 14:1-3:  “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God, trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

     Without that promise, Frank McCourt had no words of comfort or hope for his daughter after the death of her grandmother, even though he was a brilliant Pulitzer prize-winning author and master of words.  With that promise, a poor, illiterate Brazilian mother was able to leave her ten-year old daughter with the confident faith and strength to face the death of her second parent, and the task of taking care of the family.  That little girl grieves, but not as those who have no hope.  She has a very lively hope.  She knows where her mother is now.  She went home to be with Jesus.


Hebrews 11:13-15  —  All these people were still living by faith when they died.  They did not receive the things promised;they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.  People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.  If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.  Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Psalm 145:3-4  —  Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.  One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.


Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.

Come home, come home,
You who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home! 

Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing,
Passing from you and from me;
Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming,
Coming for you and for me.

Come home, come home,
You who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home! 

–Will L. Thompson, 1880