I am always on the look out for lessons to be learned from those who have gone before me. This past week, by the confluence of events I will describe here and the reading of Philemon in my daily Bible study, I was taught a beautiful lesson—one I hope I shall never forget.
It had been another hard day of travel. We had gone to see the government again. (Thankfully, we now have in hand the legal papers to open the hospital!) The van rocked back and forth as Zecharia navigated the foot deep ruts in the road spawned by the recent rains. Imani and I reclined in back seats of the van, our feet propped on piles of supplies. We were all trail worn. We were running late. I had had to make the unpopular decision to abandon the remainder of our errands in order to arrive home before dark (thus depriving poor Baba of his dinner).
Ahadi and her new tiny baby rattled around in the front seat. We had picked them up from the hospital on our way home. She recently had a C-section and is recovering well. It awes me to watch her bring home a premature (under five pounds) infant to a mud hut where she has minimal belongings and essentially no resources. I know for a fact that she doesn't have ten dollars to her name. In her little home she will care for her infant and give him her strength in the coming weeks. Jolting from the bumps with a new ten inch scar on her abdomen (it's got to hurt), she doesn't even act like there is any hardship about it. She smiles so happily with her miraculous baby boy. When I think of what copious resources (easily a hundred thousand dollars) a similar case in America would subsume...social workers, ultrasounds, five thousand dollars a night for the hospital, neonatal intensive care units (or as my friend calls them: more intensive than careful units). What does Ahadi have? One blanket. Enough food and tea for the next day. It's hard to wrap my head around why the world is the way it is. Don't feel guilty for all that you have, that is not my intention. But if you will, please remember to pray for her, for she will need it. And bear in mind that she and her son are rich in ways that you, dear American, are not...
We were only a mile or two from home when a tremendous crack tore through the van. Shattered glass showered Imani and I (he got the worst of it). Instinctively I got on my toes and crouched low in the van, wondering if someone was shooting at us. A rock the size of a baseball skittered over the van floor and clunked into the well by the sliding door. Someone had a thrown a rock through our window! As the van skidded to a halt in the sand, Zecharia was out of the driver's seat and running after the vandals before the vehicle even stopped. Like an bailing fighter pilot, he had just jerked the emergency brake and jumped!
By the time I got my bearings and scanned the horizon for threats, Z was interrogating a ten year old boy by the side of the road. Already a group of witnesses was gathering. The youth had in fact seen the whole thing, and he knew the girls that had hurled the rock. He pointed to their house—the typical mud hut with a thatch roof. Not knowing how we were going to negotiate this, I agreed to go to the house and talk with the girls' parents. I wondered, “How do you handle vandalism in this context? How can we ask a family to replace a window knowing that it will cost as much as they make in a year? But people have to be held responsible for their crimes don't they?”
I knew we could call the police, and I knew that because we have a very good relationship with them and there were many eyewitnesses, they would take the case seriously, but what would happen to the little girl if we did that? Was that a tenable solution? Could we demand payment, even if it was in tiny increments? Should we just forgive the whole thing and write off the $200 loss? Wouldn't that just invite this kind of thing again? I didn't know what to do, but since Z said we should talk to the parents, I figured that was a good place to start. He actually did all the talking.
We learned that her brother actually goes to school here at City of Hope. Before long thirty people were engaged in the negotiations by the side of the road. The girls had disappeared. The parents did not argue. They were clearly distraught. They are wise enough to realize that the education of their children, which the City of Hope is providing, is perhaps their most valuable asset. The father agreed to come to City of Hope to talk to the director, Dr. C.
So what should we do? What would you do? Feel free to leave a comment.
to be continued...