|L-R Butch Cassidy, Calamity Jane, and the Sundance Kid (this pic is a fun re-enactment --- we took no pics on the real-deal-day)|
He was 10 feet from the car, but the look on his face was a dead give-away; our day was spiraling downward with every step he took. Do people know when they yell with an accent, it is impossible to understand them?
He looked at us and yelled something about our belts. Then he was on the three 20+ year olds in the backseat; our son Peter and two close friends visiting us from the States. And when I say he was on them, it's literal, not figurative. With his arm in the car-window he pointed wildly, tugged at their shirts and yelled, “Out of the car, get out of the car NOW”, those words we understood completely.
Oh why had we allowed ourselves to watch the movie Blood Diamond the night before??
The accented voice screaming was all too familiar from the two hour cinema experience just 12 hours earlier... and there were guns here too.
He made the “kids” get out of the car but would not let us. All five of us were asking the same question, “What are you saying? What do you mean? What are you doing? Why are you so angry?” But when he began shoving them to his green police truck, telling them to get in, we could begin to grasp he intended to take them away from us... to jail... and then to court... because they had not been wearing their seat belts. Everything changed in those short moments. All “deals” were off. Steve and I had multiple, mini, internal explosions all of which erupted out of our mouths. Where we come from you don't just grab “kids” out of the back seat and take them to jail. It's just not done.
Instantly our missionary mindset left us; we became furious foreigners ready to fight.
When we said the words, “We are calling the Embassy before you take them anywhere”. It added fuel to his rage. And when the potent words, “You will loose your job for this...” came screaming off my tongue, it poured gasoline on the fire.
I fully meant my words ---- there was no jest ---- and in America I could have backed them up.
My mind flashed back to a time when I had stood in line to get my license renewed. The uniformed men were slowly working their way through the long line. In front of me was a couple obviously from Mexico, speaking broken English and looking so frightened. They held a little boy in their arms. When they stepped up to be served, and one of the uniforms behind the desk said the words, “Whatta ya' need 'Taco'?”, my anger was like a fine italian sports car... 0 to 90 in 1 second FLAT. The next 5 minutes were agonizing as this couple had to endure the DMV employees prejudice attitude. He called them several other derogatory names as he told them too loudly they needed to go “home” and get more paperwork. As they walked away, he turned to me and in a courteous tone asked how he could help me today...
I produced the needed paperwork, got my license renewed, wrote down his name in the process and before walking away leaned over his desk to tell him how he had embarrassed me, an American, by the way he had treated that family. He was shocked. I was furious. More words were shared and I said the words, “You need to have a job working with rocks and stumps not people with souls... and beginning this afternoon I am going to do all I can to remove you from this position.”
(doesn't sound much like a missionary in the making does it... see, my life is actually PROOF that there is a good God and He does transform lives...)
Justice matters in this world.
So does kindness... and goodness... and standing up for what is right... standing up for those who are being mistreated... standing up for those who don't have a voice... yes.
My parents taught us well. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Be kind. Live Sunday's words on all seven days. And I grew up watching my parents teach it by living it.
All those years ago, I made several phone calls and wrote several letters, and received a phone call from “brass” at DMV with an apology for the behavior of their employee and and confirmation that he had been transferred to a position that did now give him opportunity to interact with the public. I was so thankful, he had not lost his job, but he had been reprimanded, moved to a job working with papers instead of people, and the next time the hispanic couple went back to the desk, they would hopefully be treated as all people should be. Ah... justice.
But now years later, living in Kenya, all the rules have changed and the players don't appreciate justice. Power and position command respect here and rough hands with loud voices carry loaded guns too big for holsters. The whole game is different here.
There were about 7 uniformed officers around our car. One was yelling, the others were genuinely kind saying, “Just do what he says, please just don't argue with him.” Two officers whispered to me, “We are so sorry he is acting this way, but please he will only get worse if you don't comply.” Their eyes conveyed how embarrassed they were.
They did not want their fellow officer to ruin how we would view Kenyan police. They knew what was happening was wrong.
On any given day in Kitale, you can sit by the road and count cars passing by and count the drivers wearing seat-belts. We did it yesterday. Out of 60+ cars, only two were wearing a seat-belt. There were police checks in place, but no one was getting yelled at or shoved into a police car for not buckling up.
On the day we were accosted by the irate officer, we were wearing our seat-belts in the front. But when he approached our car, long before he ever came near, we could see the look in his eye. He was determined to have power and control over us, he was determined to take us to jail for something. Injustice was rolling its camera.
The kids were wrong, and according to American law they should have been wearing their seat-belts. And even though we were only going 5 kph in the middle of town... they technically should have been wearing their belts. But we had never heard the law that backseat passengers had to wear seat-belts or they would be taken to jail and court.
Justice would say, they broke the law, they should be charged. Yes.
But pulling, pushing, shoving, yelling, and terrorizing the offenders and the adults with them --- while dozens of others ride by breaking the same law... it was all so wrong.
The lines had been drawn in the sand though, and he was stomping on our side of the line.
In the end, it became clear to us, he would “win”. He hauled the 3 offenders to jail in a police truck with no seat-belts while yelling at them the entire time. We followed behind having to speed through the busy town just trying to keep up since we had no idea where the jail was. We prayed, as we followed, for their safety in the truck and in the hands of this billigerant, unreasonable man. Are God's kids allowed to be that angry when they talk with Him? I'm thankful for the words... “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests...” (Ephesians 6:18a)
And Abba heard...
90 minutes later, we pulled out of the police station, with our three “outlaws” ------- wearing seat-belts. We were all stunned and shaken. But thankfully Steve had done a wonderful job stating our “case” before the arresting officer's commander. So our Butch Cassidy, Calamity Jane, and the Sundance Kid were released with a warning --- and a great story for years to come.
It could have gone all wrong --- but it didn't.
While Steve was negotiating for the release of the “criminals”, I was left sitting alone in the jail surrounded by other Kenyans. It was an intense moment of “Reaching for the Robe”... and I prayed. I began talking with Jesus, asking for help. At first my prayers were silent and then without realizing it, the prayers were flowing out of my mouth---- out loud. Only when the Kenyan man sitting beside me began nodding his head did I realize I was talking out loud. It was too surreal. But truth be told, I was calling mighty warrior angels to comeswiftly to our aid. Might sound melodramatic to some, but sitting in a jail with 3 behind bars and one being taken to the Commanders office... well it seemed like the right time to fight... while sitting still on a dirty bench.
I asked for help.
I asked for God's cover and protection.
I asked for the Judge to judge and expose the injustice.
I asked for mighty warriors to cover us with their shields and rescue us.
… and it is so good being God's kid.
“He will cover you with His feathers and under His wing you will find refuge. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.” (Psalm 91)… nor the screaming policeman (added by me)...
We left with an experience under our belt and a good story the “outlaws” will be telling to their grandkids someday.
And a reminder --- “In this world you will have trouble. But don't be afraid, I HAVE overcome the world.”
It took us about 24 hours to do the right thing in our hearts. We prayed for that arresting officer. We forgave him. And we committed that we would go no further in pursuing justice over the matter. God reminded us that HE was there, He saw it all, and HE will judge.
We're learning... slowly but surely.
©2014 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe
©2014 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe