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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Why we're here

Today one of the boys who was implicated in breaking and entering a mission house last week resurfaced, audaciously delivering a note begging for money to a different missionary. Within a half hour he was seen slinking back around his home and pulled into a meeting with our local government and mission leaders. There is talk of caning (beating), talk of requiring work to repay the debt. There is not talk of jail, because the three boys who stole the money are juveniles, and there is no functional juvenile justice system beyond the wrath of the family (and that may be more dangerous than the police; I've known cases where the family burns the thieving child's hands to teach a lesson). The sad fact is that in this case none of the culprits have a parent who cares enough to administer a just punishment, or that feels enough responsibility or shame to force compensation. And in a country where neighbors steal the food right out of each others' gardens, three boys taking money from a missionary home just doesn't invoke a lot of public outrage. And this has left our team feeling betrayed by the slow pace of the response.

Which has left us also feeling discouraged. Loving Bundibugyo is like having a baby with colic. I know, because I've been there. The baby cries and is so unpleasant that no one else wants to be around him. Bundibugyo is that way at times: hostile, dishonest, unjust, apathetic, manipulative, unfair. It is not the quintessential community of mythical cooperation, where poor people work together for the common good, or where those who want to help are respected and welcomed. Centuries of fear and lies have driven wedges into every relationship. It is not just the physical harshness of bugs, bites, infections, rats, snakes, mud, heat . . . though those are painful to watch our team mates suffer. It is so much more the entire societal system that conspires against Heaven.

A couple of days ago I did some half-hearted CPR (because I was pretty sure there was no reversing this death) as Oscar, a 1-year old, faded out of life, those last gasps of breath signaling that his soul had slipped away, that his heart had petered out, as his mother threw herself in agony to the ground. He had been admitted for almost two weeks, and we thought we had caught his TB infection in time to save his life. But his reserves were too strained, his margin too slim. Today a frightened toddler with terrible malnutrition cried while I tried to understand her grandfather's explanations: he did not know the child's age because she had just been dropped off at his home, abandoned by her mother after her father died. Just two examples of how blatantly WRONG this world can be. Evil should provoke us, to tears or to battle. We should not gloss over the thieving, or the sicknesses. But to continue on we have to choose which wrongs God has called us to pursue, and know when to protest and when to merely accept the suffering.

Because that is why we are here: the world goes not well. But we serve One who has overcome, by love, the worst that evil can throw at us.


Dan said...

and HE ultimately does lead us in triumphant procession!

Heather Pike-Agnello said...

I remember the ways you loved your kids through those colicky days. My gosh but you needed loads of grace back then. As you do now, I pray that the Father will give it to you abundant and overflowing. Love and miss you SO...

Mary Gerber said...

What a fascinating and thought provoking post!