African funeral for Rob Hall

Below is the account of the funeral held for Rob Hall in Zambia, Africa yesterday, February 24th… as told by Jess Cantelon… Rob’s brother-in-law (Kate’s brother)…as we all say good-bye to our friend and fellow sojourner. His body will be brought back to Canada on Sunday.

Thursday in Africa:

Well… today was both glorious and terrible at the same time. Our Robby was honoured by the Zambians. Glorious. Yet terrible for the obvious reasons.

It started off with a sermon. I escorted Katie around the back so she could avoid the close to 400 in attendance. Apparently, all of the pentecostal leaders of the nation were there. African mommas with baby’s wrapped around their backs were there. His students were there. His farming apprentice (Chris) was there. I was there. Kate was there. The Holy Ghost was there.

The preacher preached about death and resurrection and was actually kind of boring to start. But then towards the end of his talk he got (what some might call) ‘prophetic’ and told every one in attendance that this life, and this death was not in vain. That he and all the leadership of the nation of Zambia were the direct fruit of Canadian missionaries years ago. Rob’s death, will not be in vain.

He then handed the mic to the mc at which point we started singing…

“It is well”

But before we go down that road, I forgot to mention the ice breaker. Now, you’re all probably feeling it right now: what do you say in a moment like this? what are you supposed to do with the reality of seeing his body for the first time? how do you lose a spouse?… So, you could say that we were both quite stressed upon entering the funeral with all those questions running through our minds.

That was when I noticed the casket.

It was very… white. And, the gold handles and nobs were very… gold. Something straight out of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, or the nation of Greece. We’re talking Gaudy. Here was our Robby in a totally “African” casket, with an african preacher preaching his guts out, to a totally african crowd who came because of who Rob was to them, and all I could think of was that this was classic Rob. He would have loved it. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

So, “It is well” was intense. It really felt like that final scene in the Lord of the Rings where all the elves take a knee to honour the hobbits. Such glorious singing from a people truly acquainted with grief, mourning the loss of a “dear one” and lifting up a chorus of angelic voice to the king of kings. I’ve never experienced something like that. At one point, as they walked around the casket to view the body with tears and sorrow, kate pointed out a group of about 10 women who had just passed… widows. Kate told me today, that she understands them now. She gets it.

Oh Jesus

After the funeral ended, Kate was greeted by many and shared hugs with all of them. She’s been so strong through all of this. I kept on asking her if she wanted me to whisk her away, but she said, “No, i better do this… this is important for them.” I’m so proud of her. She’s so broken, yet so strong.

Things started settling down and people began their journeys home. I was taken by the administrator’s husband to see the place where Robby died. So sad. So hard. Anyway, as i was examining the scene, i noticed through a broken window (which had shattered in the accident) a good 20 Acres of the most beautifully cultivated farmland, full of crops. I asked if that was Robby’s handiwork, and it was.

Kate and I headed out into the fields later to grab a couple of rocks to place on his casket in Canada (we could only find rocks on pathways–the fields were void of them), and it was just so amazing to see Rob’s passion growing. There was even a huge patch of sunflowers. So Rob. Kate pointed out a field of dry rice (a type of rice that can grow without being flooded with water) and told how at one point the whole patch was neon yellow. She thought that it was a cool looking colour but Rob said that it was because they were sick. So, the next day he headed out with all the compost he had produced and sprinkled it over the field. The rice crop is now a very bright green, and all the Africans have started their own composting piles. Awesome.

The last thing I’m going to write has to do with the drive home. Picture the national geographic Africa, just with quite a bit more green–it’s rainy season here. Kids with big bellies, mud brick homes, kids playing soccer with a deflated ball, and a very bumpy road. Kate tells me that there’s a saying here, that you know a driver is drunk if he is driving straight on the road. These roads are so terrible that a single pothole could swallow an entire car. So, there we were zig zagging down the red dirt road passing national geographic africa on all sides. And, as the people we were passing noticed that it was our Katie in the car, they stood to their feet to wave, to take off their hats, and to show their respect. Apparently, Rob spent a lot of his time teaching this terribly poor community that surrounded the bible college, how to grow food. They were thanking him and thanking Kate. I felt very humbled.

So, today we pack and cry some more. As I said on facebook, Kate is pouring over all the messages and memories of her Robby, so do keep them coming. It’s really helping the process.

I guess all that’s left is to give glory to Jesus. He knew this was going to happen and he gave them such a gift to be able to travel europe together with their kids, to pilgrimage, and to sow in africa. Truly God loves them, and truly God loves Rob.

That’s all for now.

Glory to God,


~ by blueporch on February 25, 2011.

3 Responses to “African funeral for Rob Hall”

  1. I am from Newamrket ontario and I do not know Kathy and her famliy prsonally, I have met Jim and Kathy Cantelon here at Crosslands amd I have just been in heartfelt sorrow and prayer for the whole family and friends during this trying time of loss. It will be difficult to ove on , but The Lord will somehow carry you through I am sure. We may not know the master plan in this situation but God Knows. He is the Master Our bible study gals will lift you all up in prayer when we meet this week and following.

    May the Lord Bless and Keep you

    May He hold you in the palm of His hand

    And send his Holy Spirit to sustaine you.

    All Glory , Honour and Power be unto Him

    In Jesus’ Name we Pray, Amen.

    Love and Prayers Always, Sherry Dyson

  2. I met Robbie when I was 16, he was a good friend, family in fact to a dear friend of mine and the son of my pastor.Ken and Lois Hall are a very dear special couple..the kind most people never have the privelege of meeting.Robbie’s brother David was best friends to a young man who led me to the Lord and who later became my husband.Ken Hall spent many hours of his valuable time discipling me and helping my life head where the Lord wanted me to go.My husband and I moved across the country and began our family. When our eldest daughter was just 3 yrs. and our new baby 10 months, my husband Timothy Carruthers was tragically killed in an auto accident. He was just 27 years old.My children and I were alone in a province with no family and it was a very painful time of our lives.Like Kate, I put Tim’s body on a plane and flew back to Ontario for the funeral. This time of my life was so painful..the kind that feels like a bad flu that will last forever..your body hurts and so does your spirit…your mind is exhausted . My source of strength came from my Father God. I had supernatural annointing and strength because of the prayers of believers. Kate will need those prayers more than any other thing you can do for her. In the months to come when many people have moved on with their lives , she will need mercy and grace and so will Robbi’s family, his parents and Kate’s family will need support for some time.The Lord is a father to the Fatherless and a husband to the widow…he brought me thru and he lives in me and in my children. Kate I will be praying for you and believing in my Lord’s strength for you and your little ones.

  3. To all of you who is suffering the pain of sudden death in your life, may God fill you with his presence during the dark nights, that never seems to end. The waves who come in when we least expected it.

    You will never forget your dear one, you will carry him in your heart forever, you feel his presence with love and tenderness.

    May God give you and your family all the courage of keeping on living fully as you did in the past.

    God Bless

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