|Eve with her three youngest children - this pic was taken about 1 month before the events shared in this blog took place.|
Thursday, April 7, 2016
A Story of Faith
She stared ahead as bare feet skimmed over red dirt and she wondered, what will come of me.
Her tattered blue and white school uniform hung from shoulders burdened with weights not meant for a child to carry. Around the curve on the trail her friends would be waiting, the path to school was more wisely traveled together. The journey would be quick; the schoolmaster would be harsh if they delayed.
In her thirteen years, hard lessons had come. She'd buried her father, then 3 blinks later, her mother. It might have been 3 years, but for her mind it was all a fast moving blur. Three children were left, Faith and two younger siblings. Left in the care of her mother's family, they were not abandoned. So why could she never seem to escape the sound of shoveled dirt landing on a hollow, wooden, casket? It was the last sound she heard before sleep came each night, and the first sound she heard before the rooster called each morning. Another year with bare feet gave her not a second thought, but the passing of endless days never uttering the words “momma” or “daddy”, that revealed a lack in her innermost heart no covering could protect, no words could sooth.
But today, fear had a white-knuckle grip on her stomach. Keeping morning ugi down was proving to be a monumental task as her feet padded down the path.
In Uganda there is a law that declares if anyone is caught molesting a child, then few questions will be asked, before they are thrown in jail.
Great in theory, this appears to lend weight in the direction of protecting children. But in reality, there are always clever ways deceitful people are able to circle 'round to the back door of something and find a crack.
The backdoor crack in this law goes something like this...
There are evil-minded people who “promote” their young daughters or nieces to lustful men. Warped men who look with perverted eyes, and plan with darkened hearts how they can take innocence. The “seller” may be a family member, looking to make a schilling as they “off the record” sell their own niece or daughter. However, there's a wicked catch. When the “client” arrives and begins taking what he has paid for, the “seller” secretively takes photos using their cell phone. With proof now in the photos of the violation of this Ugandan law, the “seller” eagerly threatens to call the police and prosecute the “offender”. The perpetrator begs for mercy, the negotiations of bribery begin, and the lost innocence of a devastated child is ignored. Not only has she been sold ---- she's been sold by those who should have been her protectors. The “agents” (usually family members) begin working their deal. “If you pay us $----, then no police..., if no, then we have proof...” More money exchanges hands. The child bleeds in more ways than can be seen.
It's not a trumped up story in a book or headlines on the evening news.
But instead, it is reality for too many little girls.
As she walks to school, struggling to ignore the hot breath of fear on her unprotected neck, she concentrates on holding breakfast down. More food will be long in coming, she needs to keep the ugi down.
Her mother's sister had come to care for her after her mother's death. Auntie Anne was kind and good, the children were safe in her care. But rumors were rumbling and auntie had cautioned little Faith. The family of her deceased father were plotting. Was her father rolling over in his grave? Did he know, his own family wanted to “sell” his daughter? Before that could happen they would have to take her from Auntie Anne, and that would not be an easy thing to do. The community had been alerted, the rumors were being used as a warning, “Protect little Faith, protect all the girls. Trouble is lurking.” So daily, little Faith walked with caution traveling between home and school. No one should walk alone, girls would walk together.
Faith knew she was in danger. But threats could not put schemers behind bars, and absence from school would only cause marks to decline on test day. She had to go, fear had to be beaten.
She released the long-held air from her lungs when she saw her friends waiting under the mishola tree; never even realizing she'd been holding her breath since leaving her auntie's hut. Little Faith kicked off fear as her friends smiled. Feeling safer with them beside her, shoulders shifted under her worn shirt, eyebrows rested above tired brown eyes.
Many miles away, Auntie Eve is praying. She knows the dangers young Faith is facing, and she knows her sister Anne is doing all she can to keep her safe. Eve laments again over the painful moments of seeing her sister's life slip away, leaving three orphans behind. But what can she do to help as this trouble appears on the horizon. She's in Kenya, Anne and Faith are in Uganda; a country spans between them. She prays.
Faith walks with purpose beside the familiar bare feet of her friends. Life is hard for each of them, but they are together. Strength in numbers.They smile at one another.
Laughing together over things little girls find funny, they are almost there.
But a car swerves off the road and rough hands grab at little girls like lion claws. It happens in a flash, but their minds see it all in slow motion.
There are screams.
Joy hides in the bushes as fear snarls.
Before she knows it, her friends disappear and the car lurches wildly down the hole-pocked road.
And what can a thirteen year old little girl do in those moments?
Three friends stand alone, there had been four. As the car disappears, flying dust swallows up their friend. Faith has been taken. Looking at one another, no words come, only screams as they run wildly to school. The headmaster rushes to them listening carefully to their horrid tale. He calls Auntie Anne, she calls the police. They all know little Faith's every breath now hangs by a thread.
Anne in Uganda calls Eve in Kenya as police begin their search and Faith hears only the sounds in her head, of dirt being shoveled onto a hollow wooden lid. It's the first sound she had heard after her mother's face was covered, it's the dark sound that comes when she can not face this pain. Life goes numb.
The aunts know, prayer is the only thing they can do. Thoughts must not be allowed to careen them over the cliff, they must control their minds. Prayers, to the One who sees and knows and can save. Prayer is the only right response when life goes so wrong.
The aunt in Kenya is our own dear Eve. It is her niece who has been taken.
We've met little Faith once, when her mother passed away and we visited the family to show respect.
But now, in these dark days, when little Faith has been kidnapped by the family of her deceased father, Eve's grief became visibly evident. Her heart pained so deeply for her niece, her eyes rarely left the floor. After sharing with us all that was happening in Uganda, our home remained silent as we each went to separate rooms to pray to the only One who could save this stolen child.
We prayed together...
We prayed alone...
For 24 hours few words were shared as we each held to prayer and clung to hope. Internet was down. No emails for prayer could be sent. Prayers don't need internet. Nothing can separate us from the One who is over all things.
It would take the hand of God to rescue this child.
Nothing else could do it.
And i thought to myself ---- how many little girls are treated in these ways, and no cover of prayer reaches into the darkness for them. Oh God, the evilness of mankind, how grievous it is.
Idi Amin trampled over the very ground this little girl was now being consumed by. The soil of that land has soaked up much blood. But Lord, this innocent child, may we see Your hand move these mountains of evil and save her from the monsters who have taken her.
Twenty four hours passed. Prayers stuck in our throats, but tears kept them flowing. Pleading for the life of a child, it can freeze blood in veins.
But that evening, Eve called with the news.
Little Faith had been saved.
The police had surrounded the huts of the deceased father's family. Auntie Anne had been forceful, more demanding than most African women. Carrying witnesses who testified of the plotting family's threats to take the child, this aunt did not stay silent! She did what good people should do, she fought for what was right. “Evil prevails when good people are silent...”
Both aunts were doing all they could; one demanding police attention, the other calling out to God.
And a child was saved.
A child was saved.
So often we can get to words like those and we cheer and celebrate and say, “What a great story! How great to know they rescued her from certain horror...”
But when you live up close to the endless flow of the stories, you realize something that maybe can't be seen as easily from a distance.
The child's life is not finished, it's not over for the child. There is still very present danger as she walks the path to school the next day, week, year, decade.
Just because the first plan was foiled by an over-zealous auntie, doesn't mean the destroying evil will fold its hands and sit down. Oh no. We must step out of the mentality that everything is solved and the bad guy is defeated all within the one hour drama, and just in time for a commercial break.
For little Faith is still alive, still breathing, still falling asleep at night hearing the thud of dirt on wood as she ends another day wishing she could have said the words, “I love you mother”.
She's still a little girl with fears, and now she needs to stand stronger than ever before, because she knows what it feels like to be gripped by cruel hands and thrown into the back of a car. Her screams were ignored. She must work that horror back out of her mind. Faith still lives. Faith has more chapters to come. She still is a little girl in Africa, a little girl ------- in Africa -----
So what happened next in her story?
When the police found Faith, her father's family had locked in her a ramshackle shack behind their huts. Plots were being formed as to who they could bribe for the highest price. Perhaps they were planning to let the trauma of the kidnapping pass, or time to let the news of the kidnapping fade, or they might have been planning to send her to another area for the “sell”. Regardless of their reasons, their hesitation gave time for her rescue before she was molested. When the police found her tied in the shack, they untied her, carried her to a nearby safe place, and raided the family compound. But... as evil as the plots were --- no arrests were made. No one was locked up for traumatizing a little girl. No one could be convicted of what they hadn't done...yet. And after all, couldn't they simply say they wanted to visit with their niece and that is why they took her??
So loud words were shared, police intimidated, Faith was rescued, but no one suffered for what they had done. Only the child bore the wounds of it all.
Immediately both aunts began praying and trying to figure out what to do to keep Faith safe.
The fact that she had been saved, could only be celebrated a short time, for the clear presence of real danger was still lurking near. One foiled kidnapping only meant the ruthless family would now hire another to kidnap her again, this time carrying her far away from local eyes.
Eve and Anne, good aunties of Faith, prayed and talked and a plan came clear.
Anne would send little 13 year old Faith on a bus, from Uganda to Kenya, to the waiting arms of Eve. Anne could not travel with her, for she had 2 other children to care for, and travel costs would be too much for them all to travel together. Eve could not go to get her, for she too had 2 small children at home. Eve has four children of her own: one is 20 and out of the home working as a seamstress, another is 17 at boarding school, then twins a boy and girl, 9 years old living with her. Eve is a single mother, having been abandoned by her husband 9 years +9 months ago. The night he left her, he brutalized her terribly intending to end her life. She did not die. Instead, 9 months later she gave birth to twins.
Seven years after that nightmarish night, God moved us to Kenya, and as we asked a dear friend here to let us know if he knew of a good woman who needed a good job, Eve walked into our lives.
Can you see the hand of God at work?
Auntie Eve knows what ruthless hands feel like. She's raising 4 children alone, and now she peacefully says, “It is for me to give little Faith a safe place to grow up. I can do this mom and dad, it's why i've been given a safe home. So she can have a safe place to grow.” Now, again, can you see the beauty of God at work?
Two days later, little Faith arrives on a bus.
On that same day, two dear friends arrive to visit us from America.
That evening, one of our friends hands us an envelope with $100 and a beautiful note of love and support. Sent from a young lady back home, she simply shared her desire to send the money to be used in whatever way we felt God guiding us.
That night ---- when the dust had settled from the whirl of the day ---- we prayed.
Thanking God for the safe arrival of Faith to Eve's home and our guests to ours.
Thanking God for saving Faith and for blessing Eve with a good home to welcome her into.
Thanking God that our children were safe and sound and had not been taken from us...
Thanking God for dear ones at home who support and love us and help us in countless ways.
And then ---- asking God, “Be sure and show us Lord, where you want your $100 spent...”
No sooner had “Amen” come out of my mouth, than i knew for sure. Like a wave on the ocean's shoreline, it rolls all around you, leaving you standing in the same spot, but you know you've been touched.
The money had been sent weeks before --- from America --- and it was for little Faith's needed school fees. The money had begun it's journey to us, even before she had been kidnapped. Her Abba knew what would be needed and where. That money has now paid for little Faith's school fees for one whole year. She sleeps peacefully tucked safe inside her Auntie Eve's little two room home, with cousins to play with and a good school with new friends.
These days, little Faith is found walking with her cousins to a nearby school, wearing a new school uniform and shiny, black leather shoes AND sparkling white socks. She smiles. She's a whole country away from those who plotted dark schemes.
She has a future ahead of her.
And the sound of dirt hitting hollow wood is beginning to fade away.
Instead she closes her eyes at night, to the sounds of giggles and prayers and love all around her --- and morning's light brings still more of the same.