This is a story that has laid heavy on many hearts here at Riverside. It starts with a mother’s worst tragedy, a community coming together to care, and ends with intense prayers for her continued hope and survival. Due to the content of this material, please be advised before reading to children.
Through the mix of English and Tonga my mind wandered through the list of announcements at church. Depending on whose speaking, all the auditory mahem can kinda just blur together. That is, unless you make a concentrated effort to differentiate each accented word, and mentally puzzle the pieces of information broken up through translation. And so it was until this one announcement flagged my attention. We all sat quiet and were informed of three children that had been burned in a fire.
If only the information would have been just that.
We later learned the true horror of the situation. A family with 6 children was working in the bush making charcoal when the father asked his wife and three girls to go home and bring back a meal. It was in their absence that he killed his three sons, and as evidence shows, removed at least one of their hearts, cut off their private parts and then burned them to cover up the evidence. All this for the equivalent of $400 a child, and the products were to be used for ceremonial witchcraft and rituals.
Apparently this crime is not totally uncommon, and too many children have been lost due to this cause.
But to this mother, her world was shattered. Life before this was already hard. Now, her life is grief and yet she still has to figure out how to physically survive with her 3 young girls. Due to the beliefs of the locals, she cannot return to her house hut due to the spirits there that can curse her. So she left. At night she unwrapped the chintange cloth around her waist and laid it down to cover the girls laying on the ground to sleep. She had nothing.
For days she cried and would be found laying at the fresh graves sites of her 3 lost sons. She stopped eating and only drank water. At one point she and others in the village heard the sounds like that of her three boys crying and wailing from the graves. This was the mocking of demons and it tormented her so. She felt like she had abandoned them and didn’t do her job to protect her children.
Many people here in our local church and community pulled together to reach out and assist this young lady in putting back the pieces of her life again. Food, clothes, and blankets were collected. Many people generously gave what they could to help buy materials to build her a new home. And lastly, 3 workers from Riverside generously took the several long hours drive to spend 3 days in that village to deliver the gifts and organize a team to carry out the construction.
Some of you reading this back home were part of a monetary donation that was recently sent to us to be used wherever there was a need. Due to the Lord’s providence and perfect timing, you provided a significant part to finish raising the funds needed for this project. I hope you enjoy the pictures and see with your eyes the blessing the Lord let you be part of in this situation.
The meal provided here by our two friends, Winnie and Dorene from our church, was the first meal this lady had eaten in a very long time.
If you were to tour our area, you would notice that those who live in mud brick homes instead of thatched roofed huts have tiny little windows. Based on their belief and fear of curses, this is designed in mind to keep witches from coming in at night. But this lady had sturdy windows installed. Before leaving, the team of workers surrounded and prayed over the house and family. Praying that God would bless this house, and not let any evil enter.
This is just the beginning of a long journey of recovery. While she is set physically by her community’s standards, we all know the heart takes much longer to learn to live again. Pray for her. Some of us are discussing when to go back to surround her with love and comfort so she knows she is not forgotten.