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Sunday, September 10, 2006

Of Spears, Bricks, and The Right Thing

We asked you to pray for Monday, a desperate man. . . . Probably not unlike the types that Jesus calmed and healed. He’s most likely schizophrenic, and can spend long periods of time relatively functional or benignly off-balance. In recent weeks however he’s had escalating episodes of threatening and violent behaviour. He lives in close proximity to the mission. Most mornings he comes to the health center, interrupts me on rounds or Pat in support groups, demands money or food, talks about God and healing and lots of other disconnected subjects including his delusions of threat from other people. He’s usually dressed in many layers of brightly colored clothes, with multiple fetishes and charms on his arms and around his neck. More alarmingly, he also usually carries multiple weapons—a spear in one hand, a bow and two arrows over his shoulder, and a stick or a panga (machete) in the other hand. When he comes to church he’ll disarm at the door, come forward for prayer, and re-arm on the way out. He survives by demanding food and money and soda as he goes up and down the road, from duka to duka, a little here and a little there. No one refuses him because they are afraid of him—it seems to me for spiritual reasons they don’t want to cross him, as if he’s possessed by a powerful spirit. But for physical reasons too they don’t want him as an enemy, he’s fit and strong and armed and unpredictable. In the last week there were two mornings at the health center when he was clearly more agitated—once he came partially clothed, yelled at us, threatened to kill his faithful little dogs who follow him around, an took his panga and whacked repeatedly at the metal poles that support the porch. That day George, a mission worker, calmed him and talked him out of a couple of weapons, and Scott bravely approached him and got back my backpack of medicines he had grabbed. Another day when he came agitated I called Scott on the phone, and he brought the police down to arrest him. However the police are as frightened and ineffective as anyone else and basically hid behind a building while Monday threatened Scott with his spear then ran out the gate and down the road. It was a few days later that we watched the movie “Beyond the Gates of Splendor”, about the Saint family and the missionaries who were murdered by Waorani (Auca) Indians in Ecuador in the 1950’s. Then the nearness of Monday’s spear became more chilling. And I noticed that Monday usually tried to deal with Pat, or second choice me, and avoid men. He seems more threatened by men, which was the point of the Rachel Saint and Elizabeth Elliot story, they were able to re-enter Waorani territory and trigger an entire cultural revolution from killing to peace because they were women (maybe that’s why God calls more women than men to missions??). Certainly this story of martyrdom was about a whole culture of spearing, not about one mentally ill person. Even so, I don’t think we have the love and courage for sacrifice that those men did. We may put too much faith in our own wisdom and action. This weekend things escalated, with Monday throwing rocks from behind a high brick wall to lob onto the roof of another mission family’s home and wake them in the early hours of the morning, while yelling aggressively at them. One rock hit the window bars just as the mom was shutting the shutters. We are thankful that no one was hurt. Because of that incident we as a mission have supported the rock-attacked dad in pressuring the police to take action. We may have pressured too hard—this morning (Sunday) the police fired guns in the air in another ineffective arrest attempt. Having just lived through the terrible motorcycle saga in which Magezi ended up killed, we certainly don’t want to inadvertently have a role in another death. This man needs help, medicine, prayer, a family who cares about him, restraint from his own dangerous actions. But what is the Right Thing for us to do in the face of a family who fears him and obstructs his arrest, a police force which is passive, a medical system which is horribly inadequate, and a culture of fear of mental illness combined with reluctance to take action? Certainly we don’t want any of our missionaries (especially our kids) in danger. Nor do we want Monday beat or killed. In pushing the police to act, are we lacking trust in God to care for us? In the midst of all this, kids nearly killed our dog today. We really don’t normally live with this kind of hate expressed so openly towards us, in nearly a decade of having our yellow labs we’ve seen that the children tease and yell and get reactions, but our dogs haven’t hurt them and they’ve never hurt the dogs, at least not seriously. Our kids were playing out in the yard. We keep Sundays as a family day, quiet, no neighbor friends coming over. We need the Sabbath rest. The sides of our yard have a chain link fence with a hedge, though the front is open and freely accessible. Some boys (8-14 age range) had gathered in a group on the side fence and were yelling, taunting our dogs Angie and Star to come running at the fence. I’m sure they were mostly just curious watching our kids play badminton and feeling jealous . . . But one decided to open a hole in the fence by destroying the chain link, then when he got the dogs near enough he threw a brick at Star. Hard. Star fell down, tried to get back up, couldn’t, and started shaking all over, panting. Our kids yelled and we came running. Star was seizing. The crowd ran. Scott thought she might be dying. Caleb and Julia were weeping openly and hard, Luke and Jack ready to attack Star’s attackers. We held her and stroked her head, wiped blood off her nose, prayed. She tried to get up once but fell back down, unable to move her back legs. Then Scott carried her back over closer to the house as our children continued crying. A minute later she tried to get up again and was OK! Now she seems fine. A concussion? A rapid answer to prayer? We think she’s not quite out of the woods. Scott visited the father of one of the perpetrators in the crowd, who immediately blamed another boy. Luke heard kids talking in Lubwisi and pieced together the name of the other boy, so Scott asked our friend Baguma to visit his house and explain his actions to his parents. Yes, it is just a dog, but Star is a huge part of our kids’ lives and sense of home, and it would do great damage to their relationship to neighborhood kids to see her killed by them. So what is the right thing to do, how do we turn the other cheek, how do we pursue healing, how do we practice tough love, in these situations . . . JAM

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