The smell of death


POSTED ON 2008-03-04
  by Jim Elliott





There is a particular smell that accompanies those who are near death and lie incapacitated in their tribal house. I call it the smell of death.

Once you know this odor you don't forget it. When you smell it again, you remember it much like you would a bad memory or a place where you are loath to go. Today this smell greeted me once again as I entered John's house to check on Poren.

Tuberculosis seems to be rather opportunistic, laying dormant but infectious within the person it infects and only flaring up and causing a person to waste away and die once their immune system is compromised by another disease, an injury or some other stressful event.

I now understand why tuberculosis was previously called "consumption." It literally devours the person wholly once it takes hold.

People become extremely thin … with eyes sunken deep into their skulls and their cheeks hollowed out and sunken into their teeth. Their muscles begin to disappear and it is only a layer of skin that covers their bones. Their legs and arms become thin enough to encircle with forefinger and thumb, their bulbous knees and elbows protruding like softballs. I have seen this image enough times to know it quite well.

Before, I was shocked at its gruesome appearance but now I see things quite differently. Now I see an unseen enemy attacking and attempting to devour someone for whom I have been pouring out my very life. When I see them, I rise to the challenge to destroy the beast that so silently wants to take away this life that I have been trying to preserve -- trying to preserve a life to hear the Gospel of our Christ that they might be as I am.

Our battle takes place on many different fronts. Sometimes it takes place upon the fields where we try to go into an area and face opposition not only from man but also from the spiritual forces of darkness. Sometimes it takes place within the villages where fatigue and discouragement play upon our minds to try to get us to surrender and go home. And sometimes it takes place face to face, one on one, when we reach out and try to grab back a lost soul from the edge of darkness, snatching them out of the pit where they would be lost forever.

Today I feel as if I have battled for the very life and soul of Poren -- one of the "least of these" for whom Christ died. Tonight he is so close to eternity, so close to slipping away. But he is still so far away from hearing the Truth that can set him free.

I long to tell Poren about the one who died for him and trust that it isn't too late. I pray the Lord would even yet have mercy on this poor, lost sinner who is very much deserving of hell, just like we all are.

I pray the Lord, who is compassionate and full of mercy, would even now extend that grace and mercy to Poren who lies deathly ill in his own waste in the furthest corner of the world, uncared for and unwanted by the world and yet, a being created in the image of God Himself. One for whom the blood of Christ was shed.

Addendum: A few days later, Jim received word that Poren had died. Five times a day Jim made the trip up the hill to the house where Poren lay suffering. Jim fed him through a feeding tube and would clean him and change his bandages. Please pray for the family members who watched as Jim and his wife, Joy, provided care. Pray that they will come to know the love and care that Christ provides.

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