Deciding Tears

Was reading Judges 19-21 wishing I wasn’t all the while that I was. For me, its hands down, the most terrible story in the Bible. Remember the one about the Levite and his concubine? Always leaves me…in another not so good place… for days after I read it.
Anyway, I learnt from it how a single decision, a deeply personal decision, can affect a nation – in devastating ways. Without giving all the details, so the story goes, a woman decides her lover is not enough for her, finds another then takes off home to her Daddy. Her lover, a priest decides that he cannot live without her, leaves his duty post and goes off to woe her. The woman softens her stance and decides to take the priest – her lover – to meet her daddy. Her daddy decides he really likes this one…and decides to keep him for a few days – longer than the priest planned to stay, since he has a job to return to. On the fifth day, the priest decides to break free from his darling’s daddy’s manipulation and return home late in the afternoon. Home is not close by, so the priest decides to take refuge among those like himself – it would be too dangerous to find lodging among those unlike himself. After hanging out in the Quad for some time, an old man takes pity on him especially upon learning that the priest is from his original home, and decides to take the priest, his wife, his servant and two donkeys home with him.
Some time in the night, some young men decide the priest is too irresistible a guest not to be intimately partaken of – in a sexual way. They howl at the old man’s door and finally the priest’s resolve breaks…and he…throws out the woman he has gone through extended leave to bring back home. He decides it is better her than him…and the men glut on her…internally break her to pieces. She decides to crawl back to the old man’s house and dies face down with one arm penitently stretched into the threshold of the house. Her lover, the priest, decides to take off from this place as early as he can, but has to step over her to get onto his donkey – he decides to finish the journey with her body. Back home, not at work, he decides to break her remains into twelve parts and send this to the twelve tribes of Israel. Israel decides to come to him, to find out why. The priest tweaks his story a little, he decides to, so that the villains do not include him, but are those lustful sons of Benjamin…. Benjamin decides not to release the criminals…after all they are a super power unto themselves and can take on the nations of Israel single-handedly. They after all posses the war personnel to shame all warriors, and it was possibly against their national policy to surrender their nationals to those who are not Benjamin…even when they had committed crimes against humanity.
Well – God saw one of His little girls die…took into account her last moments and decides to arise – The Avenger, the Man of War…God The Just Judge…nothing escapes Him. Before the week is over, about 90,000 of a nation’s best warriors are in eternity. And they are not just from the offending tribe’s side. A daughter of Israel died. More than this, an entire tribe is wiped out leaving just 600 hiding behind a rock. Israel mourns one of their own…and decide to rebuild that tribe. 600 young women are not asked whether they would choose to participate in this ‘noble’ endeavor…a town is wiped out of all its inhabitants save 400 ‘useful’ virgins. 200 hundred others are basically kidnapped as they dance at a religious festival. Decisions were made by their kinsmen…and they are the ‘clean-up team’. For life. They did well…Israel’s first king came from these chaos and ashes. Because in their day, Israel had no king, and everyone did as they chose to.
May my one decision, a breath at a time, always Lord, be an echo of Your Wisdom, and birth Healing, Life, Resurrection, Order, Peace…produce what is like You. Shalom.
vipslit@yahoo.ca
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Burning Un-burning

As this month ends, I hold God in great awe yet again. He preserves lives – does what He wants to do.

The house I live in and the flats behind us, hold a special position in our neighborhood by being right next to the electrical transformer. In the last about six months we have had three occasions where something happened to the poles and transformer and a fire, akin that of Moses’ Burning Bush, explodes on the line that connects our house to the main one and hangs low over the balcony. Its a Moses Fire as it burns big and bright, ‘speaks’ like thunder and yet does not seem to burn anything. It always happens when there is no one on the balcony and for that I am grateful, but each time, leaves us traumatized with the ‘what ifs’.

Last night was different and yet the same. 7:30pm finds us in the family room with Gio; Shukri was on the stairs coming up and saying something, Leroy was busy doing something in his room. The first explosion was very loud and the fire burnt bright, switching off our lights and then dying out as the lights came back on. All these must have taken place in a minute or two but it seems like hours to us who were caught in it. Gio was immediately on my side. The second and third explosion find me reaching down for him and partway down the stairs calling out to Leroy and Shukri to follow us outside. My feet felt like lead and for a second I wondered if there was anything in the house that I could go back for, but my arms were holding all they could – Baby Giovanni.

At the bottom of the stairs I put him down and he reached up to me and said “I am scared.” I carried him and ran out of the house as the fourth explosion came, wondering why Leroy and Shukri were not right behind me. It felt as though the house was shaking – but Shukri told me later it wasn’t. Outside the house Gio repeats “Dani, I am scared, let us go back into the house.” I quickly explain as I run to the gate calling out for Leroy and Shukri, that the house was about to catch fire and we were safer outside. Leroy was apparently in the middle of sending out that all important text, Shukri had noticed that I was carrying her son out barefoot and had gone back upstairs to get his little shoes. Gio and I were outside the gate looking up and then down at the lines that had come undone and were now on the bush that fences the house. I found out then the entire immediate neighborhood had been drawn out of their houses by the noise and huge sparks…

After about 20 minutes of traumatizing one another with frightening discourse among the group of neighbors gathered in the road in front of our house, we all went back to our houses. Surprisingly, we still had electricity, though a line of neighbors did not. We had a ‘normal night’ except for the baby that was especially clingy as I prayed and asked God not to allow us to die in an electric fire, but if this was what was coming to this house – to move us again. This morning the technicians from KPLC were telling me as they worked that it could kill someone, because its a live fire that searches for something to attach itself to…that we needed to switch off the lights from the mains when that happens…but thinking about how far downstairs was last night…I don’t know…if it even possible to reach there on time without God…I hope we never have to find out… I am just grateful for today.

“…When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, and the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”
Isaiah 43:2-3

They Return

They Return.
They rebel in the dark. Enjoying the companionship, laughing loudly into the night…they think themselves clothed, and luxuriously so…not tattered like those with whom they come into contact and discard as inferior. Those whom God Himself had stripped and caused to fall flat at their onslaught. They capture cities, in the dark. They are well fed, seemingly orderly, considered wealthy by the nations that watch them march past…predictably. They pass by seasonally, and at the sound of their approach the nations flee to hide, for a season. In the dark. They are terrible and fearsome…yet almost frantically, they carry the worship of the conquered and vanquished as cherished and practiced souvenirs. In the dark. Oh, they are mighty, impervious, in the dark. Round and round they march, dying off yet rejoicing at the new births – the greatness of their numbers, in the dark. They are a coveted and covetous army, Laughing loudly, they articulate in their criticism of their God and His chosen leaders, in the dark, they march round and round.
 
Then…The Light dawned on them…and they realized that it had been long since they marched. The ancient chains that had anchored them to a mountain, had reached its limit. That they were hungry, wretched, that their decaying and shredding cloths covered patches of their bodies – just enough to keep them sufficiently deceived that they were luxuriously covered, in the dark. At the full stretch of their chains their left feet were captured tenaciously by concrete pits that produced maggots which crept up their legs, eating through their mobility rendering them dead even as they lived: laughing loudly, raining criticisms on those they could make out in the dark, believing themselves covered, fed,marching as they slowly died.
 
And The Light came and beckoned them, He broke them, crushed some, and then deliberately mended their hearts, their lives. The Light opened their eyes so that they could take Him in. He soaked into Himself the stench of the rot they had become in the dark; took over the dust that had imprisoned them causing them to tug their left feet free of it and take a step forward. Then another. They walked away from the stench of their own graves, God Himself stripping them of their grave-cloths; He embraced them, washed, refreshed, fed…then dressed them in true luxury…cloths that could not wear out, could not be stripped off them, did not attract decay, armors made to fit – that could not be stolen from them.
 
Now an army marches into the Dawn, limping as they re-learn to walk. They laugh deeply, cry deeper still, speak healing gently into wounds – their own and those of others. They speak and their hearers are no longer condemned but strengthened…they march away from their ancient path, forsaking ancient, rusty chains their heads raised and focused towards The Light. As they come…their true majesty is visible, strong, healed, prosperous, loving, kind, invincible…a people come destroying the feigned valiant, an army that heals the land they march through. Home is beckoning. They Return.
vipslit@yahoo.ca

The Child Would Not Die or Be Silent

How long does it take for one to forgive their mother or father for what they did to them?” the little girl asked me. I smiled, but not from amusement. I was trying not to cry. Which was impossible anyway…because ever since I had walked into this children’s home and rescue center in Nairobi my whole system had frozen. God had taken over…I had known to be in prayer about this particular assignment the whole week. I had been invited to replace Pastor Terry Gobanga who was away – and it was not really about filling her really large and excellent shoes. It was about being asked to share wisdom with about 67 children…who were there not because their parents were no longer alive, but had allegedly become predators that orphaned the children they had borne.

This was the second rescue center, mostly inhabited by children who were healing from sexual violence, that I had been asked to speak at in a month. I wondered about that. But as I held a five week old baby girl in my arms, then later looked around the circle of about 30 eyes (the rest had been excused from my session for a play session with other members of the group we had gone with), I wondered how I could answer that question. Most of us, resent those that call us to account for the way we raise our own children: Mostly because they catch us at a moment, and make it about our entire parenting. But these were not ordinary parenting moments…although it seemed that it was becoming more normalized, this was a crisis.

In this particular home, all ‘except one’ (and I shudder at the use of those two words – because it was still one too many) had been assaulted by a mother, father or uncle – biological. Most of these children were in delicate security situations since their parents’ cases were still ongoing, and there was need by some clans to either “mute or get rid of the evidence.” Most of them were girls…but there were boys too…one too many. There were others who were or had been admitted in hospital, to undergo multiple reconstructive surgeries to lend their lives some semblance of normality. Most of the girls were first borns of at least one of their parents, or their only female child. I looked at their Mum1 – the founder of this home…fourteen (14) years of mothering other people’s children in their worst states had not dimmed her life Light.

How could I answer the children? What would forgiveness look like for them? How do you answer a child who in one moment, or a hundred, had endured war in their genitals to satisfy the hungers of a parent who temporarily forgot that they were supposed to protect not prey on them? Does forgiveness mean that what happened to them was ok? That it should be forgotten? That the children should repent of these (Because they were so often stigmatized – Mum1 shared for instant how one ‘church’ had denied them baptism after going through the classes under the excuse of not being able to afford T-shirts.) Many of these children bore the brunt of these shameful acts against them again and again as they lived each breath with the rejection of the extended families to which they had once belonged – who had perhaps initially celebrated their births and birthdays – who now wanted to forget them for the shame they are accused of bringing home. “For why hadn’t they just died instead of crying out, or getting pregnant, getting an important benefactor and family member whose quaint habits could be ignored into ‘disrepute’ or incarceration for ‘just’ a moment? Why wouldn’t they just let this go and keep up the facade?” This seemed to be the attitude their families had towards them.  What exactly would forgiveness mean for these?

The nightmares needed to end, the healing to come. Forgiveness may be about the offender (e.g. When God forgives our sins it puts us in the best place with Him), but it’s more about the offended (Humanly speaking). You forgive even when the fault is not confessed or admitted to because if allowed to – one offense can define the rest of your life in the worst ways possible. Unforgiveness often translates to meditating on an offence and giving it the power to shut down the functioning of what is still functional in us to hit back at the offender and survive the offense. Meditating constantly on what was done to you gives a grievous injury even more power over you than  it had initially. It can colour, darken everything…take away your smile…your life. I cannot remember what I said to them, because I was praying a lot, and asking God to speak to His little ones.  But they smiled…and they spoke…and they gave me strength as well. There was nothing God could not heal. It was hard leaving the home, leaving them behind to go be with my own household…I had intended to leave by 2pm. I was there till 6:30pm. It was hard to leave these little ones that because they still suffered from parenting wounds had become part of my own story. Their hugs, the whispered stories after the main session, the tears they allowed me to see, and the feel of them as they held onto me while I prayed for them – made them mine – indelibly. As I left though, I realized that they were indeed in the best place they could be for now, having been rescued and that for this moment were truly safer because they cried out and refused to die.

But somewhere in this same neighborhood, in this country, in this globe, other children were unfortunately starting the journey they were walking. I prayed that their parents would be hit by Heaven’s Might, that they would not put their babies through this, and that the babies who had gone through this, would find Hope again, find God, in parental touches by those in whose hands God would place them in. I don’t know…

vipslit@yahoo.ca

Strike Your Shepherd Scatter Your Brethren

The LORD IS my Shepherd.
Recently, Leroy (my son) and I were standing side by side early morning on our balcony, looking out mostly quietly at…just about anything that passed. Its where and how we bond many times. Suddenly a flock of sheep bust into our view (yes we live in Nairobi city) running in one direction in a way that reminded me somewhat of a waterfall. We watched, partly because there was nothing else to see at that time, but for me, because I sensed deeply that God was speaking to us about something.
 
Leroy remarked on the beauty of the flock, I agreed saying that God often spoke of us as Sheep. We noticed that a few of the sheep broke off in two groups, running in different directions from the rest. Suddenly the shepherd rushed into our view as well. He was a short, slightly built man wearing tan trousers, a luminous green shirt and a pink cap. I smiled. He had this long cane, that I believed could reach the from one end of the flock to another [his rod and staff – they comfort me].
 
Apparently the entire flock had herded and were eating from a place he did not want them to be. He rushed first at the majority of them. I marveled at his agility…knowing that this was a daily and day-long activity for him. He rounded the sheep…in my mind it seemed he chased them, rod in hand to the direction he wanted them to be facing, before running after the other five that we probably eating somebody’s house plants some way up our street, before finally coming for the two standing before our house.
 
Somehow, his activities made me think of leadership… of church leadership, and my spirit was humbled within me. Each one of those sheep had a mind of their own…but most tended to head towards the direction that the ones in the front row were headed. Some more independent ones got up to their own devices, in their own directions. Two things stood out for me from this morning scene – the passionate resilience of the shepherd in re-channeling the flow of the sheep to his way, and also, that as long as they were not following the way he wanted them to be on, despite their independence, the greenness of the meadows they ended up at, they were ALL wrong. And then my friend sends me this sadly hilarious video clip :). It reminds me of the biblical proverb – strike the shepherd and scatter the sheep. And that its not always an exterior enemy that brings down the shepherd, but a sheep in his or her care. Thanks Nyar Ruoth.
 
 
#HeWhoHasEars
vipslit@yahoo.ca

Station 007 line 23 – My 2017 Voting Experience

My election story: Was woken up by whistles and vuvuzelas at 2:30am, so I prayed and was on the line, with my entire household, including Gio, by 4:30am. At around 5:45am the administration of the polling center decided that the gate, in front of which we had been lining up for hours, would not be used and we had to go round almost a kilometer and a half to enter the school by an alternative gate. I saw here, the manifestation of the last being the first and first being last 🙂
 
I finally got in, and spent quite some time looking for my line. As the lines were not arranged in order, I got to walking almost every spot of the station. I saw God in this too…dedicated it to Him. I finally found my line, 23, and settled to chatting with those in adjustment lines. My line and 7 others were to enter a building by a single door; whenever the security allowed for people to enter, we knew there was progress by the screams of the women in front, and the violent surge forward. It seems like, no, it was factual that the eight lines ‘dissolved’ into a tight bottleneck closer to the entrance, where it was survival for the fittest. Occasionally a pole would emerge from inside the room, a security person trying to beat people into order but the crowd roared back so they gave up on them…at least for a while.
 
Anyway, we gradually surged forward until I was now a part of the bottle-neck. I found out first hand why the women screamed at this point. Somehow God kept me in His Peace despite the pushing, shoving and lifting…at some point I felt someone trying to pry my rings from my fingers, addressed them from midair and, then removed them and kept them safely away. A woman cried out and the young people literally carried her to the front. A young man pushing on my right asked me why I wasn’t crying. I said to him in broken kiswahili “Sina Pums” meaning, I had no breath to spare. An elderly woman, perhaps a few years older than me, squashed and sweating profusely on my left gasped at me “Siwezi toka…” She just wanted out. I told her to hold on as we were almost in. I wondered about my advise even as I spoke out. There was nothing in me that even remotely considered getting out of this situation without first voting. It wasn’t really about those that I had chosen to vote for, I had no vested interest in them really…but it was more about Kenya, and loving her…quaint…
 
I noticed after about five minutes more of being pushed, lifted, shoved in all directions so that I felt I would snap at the middle that the woman was no longer moving. Her head hung to her chest. Then, I made noise. A policeman had found his way right behind me and I turned somehow to him and said to him “Help this lady, please. She is in a crisis.” The youth around me took up my cry and somehow a way was made. It seems they noticed then that I was not young either, so they also ushered me forward. The lady was received by police officers at the door, and I stood on my own, trying to clear the blackness that was drawing me to the ground.
 
A voice urged me forward…and I obeyed, not really sure that I would make the next step. The IEBC staff on my line were fast, efficient and friendly. They recognized my plight and shared their water with me, allowed me to cast my ballot and then sat me down to somehow get it together. There were no first-aid personnel. I beckoned the officer who seemed in charge and asked him to go take care of the women in the line…he complied saying he would inform the security at the door.
 
As I left the station – I noticed that the eight lines were orderly, quiet, dignified, with security personnel forming a barricade at the door. I hope the other lady is feeling better too.
vipslit@yahoo.ca

Races Lost

Calla Lily - Series 2 - 01“Mami, have you seen the body the neighbors have been staring out since morning?” Shukri greeted me one afternoon in March. “People are saying he committed suicide, but others think he was killed.” I was tired. It was 4 pm in the afternoon. We had just gotten home after a shoot and several interviews, and I just wanted something to eat and a place to retire and worry about whether or not this article would be published, how I would manage food and rent and how to keep the landlord and his caretaker from calling me – without sinning. But I put on my sandals and went back out. I walked the about 100 meters to where a police truck was now parked, and several uniformed and un-uniformed officers were milling about. One of them, a lady greeted me, with a hug. I remembered her from a child’s right issue that had taken us to the Post recently. She, her colleague and I had accompanied the minor to hospital in the dead of the night, for first aid before we surrendered her to their care.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

Ina kaa huyu muyu amejinyonga.” She said pointing towards the unfinished tinned accommodation a few feet from where I was. “Si ukuje uone kama ni mutu unajua?” She wanted me to go see if was someone I knew. Sleep had been difficult in coming so I declined her offer thankfully when her colleague asked if I had a bed-sheet I no longer needed in my house. They needed it to carry the body into the waiting car. I scooted as fast as my 100 kgs could carry me back to my house and came back about five minutes later. By this time, curious neighbors were gathering around the scene but the officers kept them away but insisted I go see the man. “You never know.” Said one.

He was unknown to me, and from the identity card found in his back pocket, just a few months older than my son. My heart broke as I looked at his peaceful, oddly frozen face, with a neat cut – presumably from a rope, across his adam’s apple. The brain is merciful, because I cannot remember much more, except that his body sounded embalmed as it hit the back of the police car. One other item was found on his person – a medical card indicating that he had just had his first doze of ARVs. I went home and prayed for those he loved, and those that loved him…and for those I love, and those that love me…that none would ever feel so alone that they would choose to end their lives. That there would always be someone that cared.

So today afternoon, Leroy rushes into my bedroom just as am about to get into prayer and bible study. Our neighbor needed us urgently. Either a thief or a snake. I again left the house wondering how I was going to be useful in either situation. But again, it seemed as though my feet had two brains of their own. I found my neighbor handling the issue of the snake – I didn’t even want to see it. She insisted I go check on the thief. He husband was already there, with one other man. I went hoping to convince them to take the alleged thief to the police post, as opposed to killing him in my other neighbors’ plot. The young man had stolen some metal building materials, some things that looked like old chimneys, and a set of nearly rusty sufurias. Ok, this was going to be serious since my neighbors had had their water piping materials stolen and another apparently a gate or something. I asked God again, what my role was there. I noticed that the men were uncomfortable talking to the young man in my presence and at one point my neighbor’s husband closed the gate between me and them and then descended on the young man with slaps. I called him out and talked to him calmly, about what would be the right thing to do. He went back in, and came out shortly after and went back to his plot, to deal with the snake issue.

Before he left, he had called the owner of the paraphernalia, and continued to interrogate the man loudly. Another man had joined them. He knew the young man, in fact, he described him as a hard working builder that he had hired from time to time. The young man changed his initial story that he had been hired to pick the wares up, to the truth, that he was hungry, that his house in the Soweto Slums had been locked and that he had not been able to find any work to do in the past week. He said he had never stolen before and loudly begged for mercy. My heart broke.

Then came the owner of the paraphernalia with a friend and a rock. I asked him not to kill the man. He ignored me and rushed in. He came up about three minutes later, sweating, and shared his frustration. He had been robbed too many times, he lost his gate, all his clothes from the line, he was tired and this guy would pay for it. Other men came to see what was going on, and the interesting thing is that they stood afar, not willing to get involved. They commented on the affair, “that is hunger, that is hunger.” They should not kill him, they should discipline him and then let him go. I prayed, God why are you allowing me here? I do not want to witness this man dying. I called the owner of the paraphernalia, he was my neighbor. I asked him to just check, the man may be innocent…to take him to the post and check out the story about someone else sending the man for this things. He said it was alright. He went in and then asked the man to carry the things he had stolen back into his compound. He had by this time, confiscated the man’s identity card. The man carried the things into the compound and then dashed out. He ran, he ran, he ran…he run into two women, and told them he was running from a mob that wanted to kill him. I don’t think anyone, not even the one who he had robbed was sad he got away. In fact they locked up and went back to their days as though nothing had happened.

I looked around at the men and women as they dispersed…I saw their pain, and their perspective of this particular situation. It spoke of things that united us all – the hunger, homelessness, the pain, the fatigue…the despair. We go through the motions of living, hoping that someone, God mainly, would decode the language of the stream of our unshed tears, and free us. If we could all run…run, run away…it would be understood. God was in that place. He is everywhere, but in this place…about 75 meters from where the body had been found a few weeks ago, God had come and dispensed His Justice.

vipslit@yahoo.ca

“Moreover as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against Jehovah in ceasing to pray for you” 1 Samuel 12:23

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