Taahira’s Story

Scarification is used as a form of initiation into adulthood, beauty and a sign of a village, tribe, and clan.

People stare at me because of the tribal marks on my face.  I wish I never had them.  I wish I knew what I looked like without them.  Before I left Nigeria, I asked my mother about them.  She said that she and my father were merely upholding traditional practices. I wished that I was born in 2012 when a law against such markings was introduced.  I told my parents that I hated the marks.  They are ugly not beautiful.

My mother got angry and said to me, “Those marks you hate so much helped some tribes avoid becoming slaves, because the slave-traders viewed faces without scars as a sign of good health, and so did not seize tribesmen with facial scars.  People without facial scars are descendants of slaves, immigrants or refugees.  Those marks help people to know which region you come from.  You should be proud not ashamed of them.  They are part of your heritage–of who you are.”

Nothing she nor my father said could convince me to accept their warped area of beauty.  After I graduated from school, I was happy to leave Abuja for London to study at Queen Mary University there.  I had a room in a Queen Mary hall of residence and I had no trouble making friends but I got tired of people asking me about the marks.  I explained to them that they weren’t accidental scars and that I wasn’t proud of them.  My parents marked me when I was a baby.  I couldn’t believe that they did that to me.  For a very long time, I was bitter about it and resented them.

Then, my life and how I felt about my marks and my parents changed.  It was when at the last minute, I decided to enroll in the English and History course and I’m happy I did.  Professor Ashworth was not only very handsome and the youngest I have seen so far but he was really nice.  I enjoyed his class and looked forward to going every week.  After class, I stayed and chatted with him for a while before I rushed off to my next class.

We never talked about my marks and he never stared at them like other people did which made me feel good.  He was seeing me not my marks.  One day, he asked me if I would meet him after school at Queen Victoria Park in front of the Queen’s Gate at five-thirty.  I said yes, of course and was so excited.  I couldn’t wait and at five-fifteen, I was waiting for him.  He came at exactly five-thirty.  We went for a walk.  I had never been to that park before although it wasn’t far from the university.  As we walked and talked, I didn’t worry about running into a student or faculty member.  And even if we did, we had nothing to feel guilty about.  We were just two people strolling in the park on a beautiful afternoon.

We stopped for a while and I leaned against the tree, facing the lake.  I could feel him watching me and I turned my head.  My heart skipped a beat when our eyes met. “Do you have a boyfriend, Taahira?” he asked.

I shook my head at once.  “No.  What guy would want to date me anyway?” I asked. “He’d take one look at my face and run.” I was speaking from experience.  Most of the guys on campus avoided me.

37f6b6a8-ffa9-478a-b7d2-3a80bf67446a“In front of me I see a lovely young woman with whom I would really like to be in a relationship,” he said, quietly.  And as if unable to resist, he reached out and touched my face.  “Will you have dinner with me tomorrow evening?”

I seemed to have trouble breathing and my heart was beating really fast.  “Yes,” I managed to say.

He smiled and his hand dropped to his side.  “I’ll pick you up where we met today.  Dinner will be at my country home.  Oxfordshire is beautiful at this time of the year.  Before dinner, I could show you around the grounds and then we could go for a walk to Winderton Village.”

“You live in Oxfordshire?”

“Yes.  It’s just less than a 90 minute drive to London.”

“Do you live there by yourself?”

“No, I have a live-in couple–a husband and wife.  He’s the head gardener and she’s the housekeeper.  Very nice people.  They have been with me for over ten years.  They are like family.”

My head was spinning.  I was going to have dinner with my English History professor.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was looking forward to visiting Oxfordshire because it was where Downton Abbey was filmed and George Clooney bought a house for his wife there.  “What time should I meet you at the gate?” I asked.

“At four.  Bring a pair of comfortable shoes with you for walking.  Do you have to go back to the university now or could we go somewhere and have something to eat?”

“No, I don’t have to go back to the university now.”

He straightened away from the tree.  “All right, I know this Italian place where they serve the best pasta.”  He reached for my hand and I let him hold it as I fell into step with him.  I was thrilled to be holding hands with him.  People looked at us but he didn’t seem to care and that made me feel good.

We went to the Italian place and enjoyed great food.  He took me back to the university campus.  I hardly slept a wink that night.  Saturday came and I was anxious for it to go quickly so that I could see him.  This time when I got to the park entrance he was waiting for me.  He smiled when he saw me.  “Good evening,” he said before he leaned over and kissed me on my right cheek where the big, ugly mark was.  When he drew back, our eyes met and what I saw in his, made my heart skip a beat. We held hands as we walked to his car.  Soon, we were on our way to Oxfordshire.  It was beautiful and very English.

My mouth dropped open when I saw the sprawling mansion and the immaculate grounds.  He obviously came from a wealthy family.  The front hall was enormous.  Everything was enormous.  The housekeeper, Mrs. Jenkins was a bit wary of me at first but she soon warmed up.  After he showed me around the mansion where a person could easily get lost, he took me around the grounds.  Thank goodness I was wearing a pair of runners.  There was so much to see.

As we headed over the rolling countryside towards Winderton Village, he told me more about his parents and his childhood here.  Like me, he was an only child.  His parents moved from London to here and when they died, the mansion, the land became his.  His father always expected him to follow in his footsteps become an MP but he opted to become an English and History professor at Queen Mary University instead.  I’m happy that he chose teaching over politics or we never would have met.  His mother used to be private secretary to a Duchess but left her position after she got married.  She was twenty years his father’s junior.

“Do you have a problem dating a man twice your age?” he asked me.

I shook my head.  “No.  Age isn’t important to me.”

He smiled and gently squeezed my hand which he had been holding since we left the grounds.  “I’m happy to hear that.”

Winderton was very picturesque.  It looked like a picture you would see on a postcard.  We passed by old farm buildings and visited the All Saints church which is at the center of the town.  It’s an Anglican Church although Roman Catholic services were also held there on Saturdays.  He must have arranged to have them open the doors for us because we were able to go inside.  The Nave and aisles faced north east.  It was a very modest looking church, not at all like the Catholic churches I have seen in photos or visited.  “Are you Anglican or Catholic?” I asked as we left and headed back to the mansion.  The sun was setting.  Winderton looked beautiful at sunset.

“I’m Anglican.  What about you?”

“I’m neither.  I’m still trying to find a church I could belong to, I guess.”

“They are having Carols ‘at the George’ in the Church at 7:30 pm on Tuesday, December 17th.  Would you be interested in coming?”

“Yes, I would be.”

“I’ll pick you up around 5 and we will have dinner at the mansion before coming over here.  Do you have any plans for Christmas?  Will you be spending it with your parents?”

I shook my head.  “No, I wouldn’t be spending Christmas with them.”

“Would you spend it and New Year’s with me?  I will take you home on New Year’s Day in the early evening.”

“Yes, Professor I would love to spend Christmas and New Year’s with you.”

“Taahira, now that we’re off the campus, I would like you to call me by my first name.  Do you know what it is?”

“Yes, I do.”

He stopped and turned to face me.  We were on the hill leading up to his estate.  “I’d like to hear you say it.”

“Piers.”

“Say it again…”

“Piers…”

His eyes darkened and he pulled me in his arms.  He kissed me and I felt a spark.  I put my arms around his neck and kissed him back.  I have never been kissed before and it was out of this world.  We stood there for several minutes exchanging passionate kisses and then, he raised his head, breathing heavily.  “We’d better stop,” he said breathlessly.

I was disappointed but I nodded in assent.  And lacing his fingers through mine, we headed for the mansion.

Dinner was amazing and afterwards, we went into the drawing-room where we spent the rest of the evening until it was time for him to take me home.  We officially started dating after that evening and by the end of January 2020, we were engaged.  I joined the Anglican Church.  In June, we had a small, intimate wedding.  Mrs. Jenkins was the matron of honor and Mr. Jenkins the best man.  We spent our honeymoon in romantic Tuscany.

My tribal marks don’t bother me anymore.  I have come to accept that they are and always will be a part of me.  I have forgiven my parents and am in touch with them.  I have informed them that their grandchildren will not be marked.  There comes a time in one’s life when they must break with some traditions.  I think that this tradition should be outlawed and I’m advocating for that through an organization other victims of tribal marks and I have found called, Scarred for Life.  The support has been tremendous and we are pushing for the Nigerian government to ban marking children in the name of culture.

This story is fiction but tribal markings are a reality in Nigeria.  There these tribal markings are given to young children  using hot knives laced with ash by a local tribal mark giver.  This is done for cultural reasons but Senator Dino Melaye feels this practice causes low self-esteem in the marked children and increases the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS because the sharp instruments used by the locales to inscribe the tribal marks were not sterilized.  He is pushing for Senate to criminalize the practice.  “These tribal marks have become emblems of disfiguration and have hindered many situations of life. Some have developed low self-esteem, they are most times treated with scorn and ridicule.”  Melaye was himself a victim of these markings.  His grandmother took him to get them while his father, who never wanted his children to have them, was away.

Although the tradition of tribal markings or scarification is dying, it should be outlawed.  The Nigerian government needs to put the rights of the children above this barbaric practice of preserving family identity.

Sources:  How Africa; NGO Insider; Face2Face Africa; Queen Mary University of London; Sher She GoesAll Saints Church Winderton; Queen Mary University of London; US News; Daily Post; France24

Toshiro Goes to Bunga

large-1553102039-540d93f2f5c1e1b733fcad18fe580f0bThe taxi pulled up in front of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Bunga and Toshiro got out.  Last night, he decided that he would pay a visit to Ife’s church.  He wanted to surprise her.  His heart pounded as he stared at the building.  He was nervous.  After the taxi drove off, he walked slowly towards the first set of doors which were wide open.  People were filing in.  There were two men standing there talking.  As he passed them, they warmly greeted him and he smiled.

There were a few people in the foyer, talking.  One of the women standing there, greeted him and handed him a bulletin.  He thanked her and went inside the sanctuary.  He glanced around at the pews, searching for an empty seat when he spotted a Japanese woman who was sitting beside the aisle.  There was an empty seat beside her.  He made his way over to her.  She glanced up when he said “Good morning” in Japanese and smiled.

“Good morning,” she replied

“May I sit beside you?”

“Of course.”

“Thank you.” He bowed before he gingerly squeezed past her and sat down.

“You are a visitor,” she said as he sat down.

He nodded.  “Yes.”

“I’m Ichika Sato.  What’s your name?”

“Toshiro Kobayashi.”

“Did you come far?”

“I came from the Kampala Serena Hotel.”

“Oh.  My neighbor, Mrs. Basemara works at that hotel.  She isn’t here today but that’s her daughter, Miremba over there.  I will introduce you after the service.”

Toshiro followed her gaze and saw Miremba talking to a mature couple.  She was quite tall for her age and very pretty.  He turned his attention back to Mrs. Sato.  “How long have you been living in Kampala.”

“For about fifteen years.  My husband and I moved here after we retired.”

“He’s not here with you today?”

“No.  He died five years ago.  I flew back to Japan with the body for the funeral.  He wanted to be buried there.”

“I’m sorry about your husband.  Do you have any children?”

“Yes.  Three.  Two sons and a daughter and eight grandchildren.  My youngest grandson is currently here in Kampala.  He goes back to Kyoto at the end of the month.  What about you?  Are you from Tokyo?”

“No.  I was born and raised in Yokohama but moved to Tokyo after I graduated from Tsurumi University.  My sister moved to Tokyo last year but our parents are still living in Yokohama.  When I’m not abroad on business, I visit them every other weekend.”

“I have a niece who lives in Yokohama.  It’s a beautiful port city and is extremely close to Tokyo but you don’t get a lot of tourists.”

Toshiro smiled.  “I think that’s why my parents prefer Yokohama to Tokyo–less tourists.”

“The service is about to start.  I really would like to continue our conversation.  If you’re not in a hurry to get back to Kampala, I was wondering if you would have lunch with me.  I don’t live far from here.  I will invite Mrs. Basemara and Miremba to join us.”

“I would like that very much, Mrs. Sato.  Thank you.”  The music began and the congregation stood.  Mrs. Sato sang from a hymnal while he followed along on the screen in front.

It was a very good service.  He especially enjoyed children’s story and the special music.   The sermon, What’s So Amazing About Grace was powerful.  The two statements which impacted him were:  “Grace is anything that I need, but don’t deserve that I could never repay, but God gives to me anyway.   Grace is the face that God puts on when He looks at my failures, my faults and my flaws.”  

After the service, Mrs. Sato and he chatted for a while and then after the church sanctuary was almost empty, she signalled to Miremba to join them.  She immediately went over, a bright smile on her face.

“Hello, Mrs. Sato,” Miremba greeted her with a hug and kiss.  When she straightened, her eyes shifted to Toshiro.  “Are you a relative?”

Toshiro shook his head.  “No.  I only had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Sato today.”

“Miremba, Mr. Kobayashi is here on business and he’s staying at the hotel where your mother works.”

Miremba’s face brightened and she held out her hand.  “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Kobyashi.”

He smiled and shook her hand.  “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miremba.”

“Mom isn’t here, unfortunately.”

“I have invited Mr. Kobayashi to have lunch with me.  I would like your mother and you to join us.”

“Sure.  I’ll tell Mom.  Are you ready to leave now?”

“Mrs. Sato nodded.”

Merimba looked at Toshiro.  “Do you mind walking?” she asked.  “Mrs. Sato lives in the same apartment as Mom and me.  It’s about ten minutes from here.”

Toshiro shook his head.  “No, I don’t mind at all.  It’s a beautiful day.”

“Let’s go, then,” Mrs. Sato said and stood up.  She preceded Miremba and Toshiro out of the sanctuary.  At the entrance, she introduced Toshiro to the pastor.  He was very pleased when Toshiro told him how much he enjoyed the church service and he invited him to visit again soon.

They left and walked to the apartment building.  When they got there, Miremba left them and went to get her mother.  Ife was in the kitchen filling a vase of flowers with water.  She turned off the tap and carefully arranged the flowers she had bought in the vase.  “You’re home early,” she said.  “Usually, you would stay for a while longer.”

“Mom, Mrs. Sato has invited us to have lunch with her.”

“That’s very nice of her.”  Ife finished arranging the flowers.

“Guess who else is going to be there?”

“Her grandson, Kento?”  Ife took up the vase to take it to the sitting area.  With a smile, she walked past Miremba who followed her.

“No.  It’s isn’t Kento.  It’s Mr. Kobayashi.”

Ife almost dropped the vase.  She swung around and stared at her daughter.  “Mr. Kobayashi is at Mrs. Sato?” she exclaimed.  “But what is he doing there?”

“Well, he was at church and–”

“He was at church?”

“Yes.  He’s very handsome.”

“Why didn’t he tell me that he was going to be there?”

“Maybe he wanted to surprise you.  Mom, let’s go.  We don’t want to keep Mrs. Sato and him waiting.”

Ife turned and carried the vase over to the table.  After she set it down, she rushed past Miremba.  “I have to change,” she said.  Hereith bw

Several minutes later, they were in Mrs. Sato’s apartment.  Ife’s eyes immediately sought Toshiro who was staring at her.  She walked over to him.  “Mr. Kobayashi, I didn’t expect to see you here,” she said, feeling a bit flustered.  He looked so handsome in his suit.  And the way he was looking at her made her heart flutter.  “Miremba told me that you were in church.”

He smiled.  His fingers itched to touch her lovely face.  “Since I’ve been in Kampala, I haven’t been to church.  After you were kind enough to tell me about yours, I decided that I would come today.  I hope you don’t mind, Mrs. Basemara.”

“No, no.  I don’t mind at all.  I’m sorry I wasn’t there.  How-how did you find it?”

“I like your church.  I may visit it again.”

Mrs. Sato observed them with a smile.  It was obvious that there was something between them although they tried their best to make it appear otherwise.  “Let’s have a word of prayer and then eat,” she said.  She asked Miremba to pray and then they tucked into the tasty meal she had prepared the day before.  They talked and Mrs. Sato shared stories of her mission trips with her husband.  Soon it was time for Toshiro to head back the hotel.

He bowed to Mrs. Sato as was customary in the Japanese culture.  It was a sign of respect and expression of thanks.  “Thank you for inviting me to your home and for your hospitality.”

Mrs. Sato smiled.  “It was a pleasure having you.  I’m sure I will see you again.”

Toshiro smiled.  Then, he turned to Miremba and held out his hand.  “It was a pleasure to meet you,” he said as they shook hands.

Miremba smiled.  “Anata ni mo aete yokatta.”

Toshiro’s eyebrows rose.  “You speak Japanese?” he asked, sounding impressed.

Miremba looked pleased.  “Mrs. Sato and her grandson, Kento have been teaching me.”

Mzuri,” he replied and she laughed.

He turned to Ife who said to him, “I’ll come down to the lobby with you.”

He said his goodbyes to Mrs. Sato and Miremba before he followed Ife out of the apartment.  They didn’t say anything to each other as they walked to the elevator.  As they waited for it to arrive, he turned to Ife.  “Miremba is a lovely girl.  You must be very proud of her.”

“I am.”  The elevator came and the doors opened.  They stepped inside and she pressed the button for the ground floor.  “What did she say to you in Japanese?

“She told me that it was a pleasure meeting me too.”  He turned towards her and his eyes darkened as they searched her face.  Groaning, he reached for her and pulled her against him.  His lips found hers and plundered them.  They kissed for several minutes before he raised his head to gaze down into her upturned face.  “I’ve been dying to kiss you all afternoon,” he muttered thickly.  “I can’t wait to see you later.”

“I’ll be there at the usual time,” she promised, trying to catch her breath.  The elevator stopped and he released her.  They exited and she waited with him outside of the building until his taxi came.

Next up is Ife’s Loss.

Sources:  Japan Guide; Bunga SDA Central Church; EdarabiaSermon Search

Makena’s Story

D0g88WZXgAMP4QjI’m an only child.  I was 12 years old when my mother died.  My father was devastated.  A Catholic priest told him that I would be better off living in an Italian orphanage where I would have a good Christian education.  The father believed him because he was a priest.  He was a missionary sent to Kenya for a year and he visited our home when my mother was sick.  He prayed over her and when she died, he officiated at the funeral service.  He told my father that he didn’t have to worry about me.  He promised that I would be well taken care of by the nuns who ran the orphanage.

So, after we buried my mother and saying a tearful goodbye to my father, I went with Father Bernardo to a strange country whose language I didn’t know.  I was scared but Father Bernardo assured me that everything was going to be all right.  All I had to do was trust him. and if I had any problems or concerns, I could always talk to him about them.  It wasn’t until we got to the orphanage that I found out that he lived in one of the units on the grounds.

When we got to the orphanage, I was put to work as a domestic hand as well as carer for the younger children in the orphanage even though I didn’t understand a word of Italian.  I was also chosen to clean Father Bernardo’s unit.  He offered to teach me Italian after I finished my cleaning but things changed.  After I finished cleaning his unit,  had to sit on his lap, and while he taught me Italian, he played with my breasts.

I knew what was happening was wrong and I felt guilty because of my religious Priestupbringing.  Father Bernardo knew it was wrong too but he didn’t stop.  Instead, he made me go to confession and pray to God for forgiveness for my sins because I was making him do what he did.  And he threatened me that if I ever resisted his abuse, he would refuse to give me communion the next time I went to Mass.

As I got older, the abuse got worse.  He started to have sex with me.  While I was cleaning, he would get undressed and climb into the bed and wait for me to join him.  I couldn’t refuse because I knew that he would make good on his threat not to give me Communion.  So, I would let him do what he wanted to me, praying that one day it would end.  It was no use telling anyone about it.  Once when I told one of the nuns that I was bleeding down there, she thought I meant that I had my period and she gave me pads.  And Father Bernardo told me that no one would believe me if I told them about us.  They would accuse me of lying and beat me.

I got pregnant three times and all three times I was forced to have an abortion because he refused to use condoms or contraceptives.  I hated him because he was forcing me to commit murder.  As far as I was concerned abortion was murder.  Each time I had one, I cried bitterly in my room and begged God to forgive me.

I wanted to write my father and tell him what was happening to me but Father Bernardo wouldn’t let me to write or call without his permission.  He made sure that somehow he got a hold of my mail and if there was something in it that he didn’t approve of it was confiscated and discarded.  And I wasn’t permitted to leave the grounds of the orphanage or talk to any of the local boys or the even the gardener.  He got jealous and spiteful when I did.  I not only feared him but I began to hate him.  I wanted to run away from him and this horrible place.

One night I opened my Bible to the Psalms and found Psalm 37.  I read it.  These words jumped out at me, “Be still in the presence of the LORD and wait patiently for Him to act.”  I decided to do just that.  I had prayed to Him to rescue me from this private Hell and I know He heard my prayer.  Now, I will wait for Him to do something.

I didn’t have long to wait.  While Father Bernardo was in Rome, I left the orphanage and went to live in a house where I worked as a servant.  I was 18.  The couple with whom I lived were paid an allowance for having me and they had me accompany them on trips as nanny to their children.  Fortunately for me they spoke English, although by then, I knew some Italian.  I was happy living with them.  They treated me very well and I was very fond of their children.

Several times, Father Bernardo stopped by to persuade me to return to the orphanage but I refused.  He was taken aback and after his threats failed, he begged me to go back with him and promised that he would use condoms so that I wouldn’t have to have any more abortions but I told him to leave me alone.  He eventually went away and I never saw him again but he made the mistake of writing me a long letter in which he went off on a tirade.

In it he wrote that no man would want to marry me when he found out that I had been an older man’s lover and had three abortions.  He said that he wasn’t an evil man and that it was my fault that he did the things he did.  He said I bewitched him.  He ended the letter, promising that if I resumed our relationship, he would consider leaving the priesthood and marrying me.  I felt sick to my stomach.

I wanted to tear the letter to pieces and flush them down the toilet but I was impressed to show the letter to the couple whom I was working for.  Shocked and appalled, the man made several copies of the letter.   He mailed one copy to the orphanage, to the church where Father Bernardo did Mass, the Vatican and to the local bishop.  No response was forthcoming but the last I heard of Father Bernardo, he was no longer at the orphanage or at the church.  My employer said that they probably just reassigned him to another church instead of removing him from the priesthood.

I don’t hate him anymore but I trust in the Word of God which says, “For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.”

user_male_portraitI’m 28 years old now and happily married with two children–a boy and a girl.  My husband, Stefano was the younger brother of the woman whom I was working for.  We met when he drove from Florence to visit the family.  He was very charming and it didn’t take long for him to win my heart.  I wrote to my father about him and he was able to come to the wedding.

It was wonderful seeing my father again.  He looked much older than I remember.  My mother’s death really hit him hard but he has managed to pick up the pieces.  He stayed for a couple of weeks in Florence before flying back to Nairobi.  Next year summer, Stefano, the kids and I will visit him.

I still haven’t told my father about my abuse.  Stefano told me to wait until I feel like I’m ready to do it but I’m not sure I ever will.  Especially not after he said to me as we danced at my wedding, “I’m thankful that Father Bernardo convinced me to let you come to Italy or you wouldn’t have met your young man.”  I don’t want my father to blame himself for what Father Bernardo did to me.

I’m still haunted by the memories and after leaving the orphanage, I have never set foot in a Catholic church.  I have an aversion for priests.   I left the Catholic faith and am now a member of Stefano’s church which is non-denominational.  Stefano had left his faith years ago because of the sex scandals.

There are times when I feel ashamed of what happened and wished that I had done something–anything to prevent it but Stefano told me to stop blaming myself.  Who would have believed me anyway?  It was my word against a priest’s.  With God’s help, I am working through the lingering guilt and the self-recrimination one day at a time.  I still think about the abortions I had and will always regret having them.

This story is fiction but is inspired by true stories of women who were abused by priests as young girls.  One woman was abused for 13 years beginning when she was 15 years old.  There are so many stories of victims suffering at the hands of those who are in positions of trust and millions of people want to know, “what new steps will the bishops take to clean up — or clean out — the church after years of sex abuse scandals?”  The pastoral practice of transferring priest from parish to parish (priest shuffling) has to stop.

Priests suspected of abuse should be removed from their duties/their parishes until there is an investigation into the allegations and once it is proven that they are guilty, they need to be arrested and serve time for their crimes against the innocent.  The Church as a whole has to be held accountable and put policies in place to protect the victims.  Victims should not be treated as if they have done something wrong or be accused of lying.

Anne Barrett Doyle of the research group, Bishop Accountability said that what Pope Francis should do to protect children, is to order the Vatican to release the names of all priests who have been convicted under canon law of abusing minors.  Pennsylvania Attorney-General Josh Shapiro urged local church officials to “cease their denials and deflections” and accept the grand jury recommendations, which include allowing victims to sue the church for abuse that otherwise would fall outside the statute of limitations.  According to Pope Francis, church leaders need to be more concerned about the safety of the children than their own reputations.

No more talk.  No more cover-up.  It’s time for the church to take action and root out priestly sex abuse.

Sources:  The Irish TimesRoyal CommissionKnowing Jesus; USA Today; The Globe and MailWikipedia

Dance in Worship

Let them praise His name with the dance; Let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp – Psalm 149:3

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Now as the ark of the Lord came into the City of David, Michal, Saul’s daughter, looked through a window and saw King David leaping and whirling before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart. So they brought the ark of the Lord, and set it in its place in the midst of the tabernacle that David had erected for it.

Then David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. And when David had finished offering burnt offerings and peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts. Then he distributed among all the people, among the whole multitude of Israel, both the women and the men, to everyone a loaf of bread, a piece of meat, and a cake of raisins. So all the people departed, everyone to his house.

Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, “How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!”

So David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me instead of your father and all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the Lord, over Israel. Therefore I will play music before the Lord. And I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight. But as for the maidservants of whom you have spoken, by them I will be held in honor.”

Therefore Michal the daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death (2 Samuel 6:16-23).

Some time ago, I read this message, “Be more concerned with what God thinks about you, than what people think about you.” David didn’t care how he looked when he was bringing the Ark of the Lord into Jerusalem. He was experiencing such joy that he couldn’t contain himself. He was leaping and dancing. Michal saw him and was critical.

This reminds me of some churchgoers who look down on others because they are more liberal in their worship—they shake their heads and murmur because people get up and praise God with their arms wide open and their faces uplifted. They feel that the conservative way is the only way to worship God. Michal looked down on David because he was not acting like a king. She likened his behavior to a base person. Her tone when she spoke to him implies sarcasm and contempt. David explained to her that he was dancing before the same God who chose him over her father to rule over the people of Israel, therefore he was going to play music and be even more undignified than that. And for the record, the people whom she claimed he had degraded himself in front of, they were the same people who would respect him.

David was willing to look foolish in the eyes of some people in order to express his thankfulness to God fully and honestly.  In contrast Michal was so disgusted by his “undignified” actions that she could not rejoice in the ark’s return to Jerusalem.  Worship had become so deteriorated under her father Saul’s reign that it had become stilted and ritualistic.  Michal could accept David as a military conqueror and as a king, but she could not accept his free and spontaneous expression of praise to God.  Some devoted people may look to us in their heartfelt expressions of worship, but we must accept them.  In the same way, we should not be afraid to worship God with whatever expressions seem appropriate (NIV Life Application Study Bible, page 627).

Michal cared too much about what other people would think and this led her to worry about how David’s behaviour would reflect on her and as a result she ended up without any children. People lose out on so much when they nitpick and criticize others. David was making a joyful noise and he was dancing and twirling because he was praising God. His heart was in the right place. There are times when we should be on our feet, praising God. God accepts that kind of worship too.  As long as we worship from our hearts, that is all that matters.  Worship is an expression of our love and thankfulness toward God.  It should not be suppressed but expressed in a way that will glorify and delight God.

Worship should be a joyful experience.  We are encouraged to praise the LORD with the timbrel and dance, with stringed instruments and flutes and to come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms (Psalms 150:4; 95:2).

Toshiro Learns About Miremba

Toshiro

When she showed up in the suite on Saturday afternoon and saw him wearing a red tee shirt and a pair of jeans, she was shocked.   She wasn’t used to seeing him in casual clothes.  It made him even more attractive and irresistible.

He smiled when he saw the way she was looking at him.  It was obvious that she really liked what she saw.  He should dress more casual whenever he was with her.  Perhaps it made her more comfortable and less class conscious.  “I’m so happy you came, Ife,” he said, holding out his hand and when she put hers in it, he pulled her against him.  “I hope it wasn’t too much trouble for you to come today.”  Yesterday when they saw each other, he arranged to see her regularly on the weekends as well.

She shook her head.  “No, Mr. Kobayashi.  It wasn’t much trouble.”  Fortunately,  Miremba was spending the weekend at her cousins’ house.

“I wish you would call me Toshiro,” he murmured huskily before he lowered his head and kissed her.  They kissed for several minutes before he took her by the hand and led her over to the sofa where they sat down.  He was still holding her hand.  His eyes met hers as he laced his fingers through hers.  “Why did your husband and you divorce?”

“We grew apart.”

“How long were you married?”

“Ten years.”

“Do you have any children?”

His question startled her and she looked at him warily.  “We have a daughter.”

“How old is she?”

“Thirteen.”

“What’s her name?”

“Miremba.”

“Why didn’t you mention her to me when I asked you if you were married?”

“I don’t know,” she said.

He excused himself, got up from the sofa and walked over to the desk.  He returned holding two tickets which he gave to her after he sat down.  “These are for you and her.”

Ife glanced at them and saw that they were tickets for the ballet.  She looked at him.  “You didn’t have to,” she said.

“I wanted to,” he replied.  “Please take them.”

She got up and put them in her handbag.  “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.  You look so beautiful.  That color suits your lovely complexion.”  He reached for her hand again.

“Thank you.  This is the first time I have seen you dressed so casual.”

He smiled.  “I know.  I saw the way you reacted when you walked in.  You were shocked.”

She smiled.  “I was.”  950969-500w

He reached for her hand, the same time he lowered his head and kissed her on the shoulder, making her catch her breath.  He raised his head.  “Let’s go to bed,” he said, his eyes restless on her face.  He stood up and pulled her to her feet.  Still holding hands, they went into the bedroom.

“How old were you when you had Miremba?” he asked some time later as they lay next to each other.

“Seventeen.”

“That’s pretty young to be a mother.”

“A mother and a housewife.”

“If you hadn’t gotten pregnant, would you have gone to university?”

“Yes.”

“How did your family feel about the situation?”

“If my parents were still alive, they would have been really upset.  They were strict Christians.  Irumba was very disappointed.  He’s been encouraging me to do something worthwhile with my life.”

Toshiro rolled on to his side, his expression tense as he looked at her.  “Who is Irumba?” he demanded jealously.

“He’s my older brother.  He’s married and has two daughters.”

Toshiro relaxed.  “What does he want you to do with your life?”

“He thinks I should quit my job here at the hotel and find a better one.  He told me about a company called Paper Craft Africa.  Their products are sold in local hotels and gift shops.  They employ young, single mothers like me and the company’s right here in Kampala.  I promised him that I would check it out.”

Toshiro became tense again.  He got out of the bed and walked over to where his robe was.  He put it on.  “Why haven’t you already checked it out?”

“I don’t have the time,” Ife said, watching him.  “I only have half-hour for lunch and I can’t go after I finish work.  And by the time I leave here, the company is probably closed.”

He turned to face her.  “Have you called them to find out what their hours are?”

She shook her head.  “I don’t have the number.”

“Didn’t your brother give it to you?”

“No.”

“Would you like me to look it up on the Internet?”

She shook her head.  “No.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t want to quit my job at the hotel.”

“Why not, Ife?  It would be the opportunity for you to get out of our arrangement.”

Agitated, she threw off the covers and climbed out of the bed.  She hurriedly got dressed.  “I have to go,” she muttered before she quickly left the room.

He followed her into the living-room.  “Do you really have to leave now?” he asked.  “I was going to order dinner for us.”

She avoided looking at him.  “Yes, I have to go.  I’ll–I’ll see you tomorrow.”  And she was gone before he could say anything else.

 

Next up, Ife Gets Jealous

The Kimono

large-1553101402-8f48644e0975da7f3a5204b6f24bd2f3Since he made the proposition, they had been seeing each other regularly every afternoon, excluding weekends.  She would arrive at his suite at five and he would let her in.  There were the odd occasions where he would be in the suite, waiting for her in the bedroom when she went to clean it and after she was finished, she would join him.  Afterwards, she finished cleaning the other rooms and suites before going home.

Seeing her during the week wasn’t enough for him.  He wanted to see her on the weekends too.  Today, after he was finished with his business and they were together in his suite, he would arrange with her for them to see each other on the weekends, preferably in the afternoon.

Right now, he was sitting in the lobby of another hotel, waiting impatiently for the others to show up so that the meeting could start.  He was always the first.  As he sat there, he thought about Ife.  He was relieved when she told him that she was divorced.  He wondered how long she was married and why it ended.  Was her ex-husband living in Kampala?  Did they have any children?  He hoped not.  It would only complicate things.  Maybe they didn’t.  Surely she would have mentioned if they had when he asked her if she was married.

It drove him crazy that she kept calling him Mr. Kobayashi.  He wanted her to call him by his first name.  It made things more intimate between them.  Right now it what they had was a business arrangement.  In exchange for not reporting her to management for using his toilet that fateful day when he caught her, he received her services.

He was a businessman.  He was used to making deals which benefitted all parties involved.  In all honesty, in this arrangement with Ife, he was the only one benefitting.  He was getting what he wanted while she was doing what she had to in order to survive.  He was exploiting her and he knew it.  His conscience wouldn’t let him forget it but he wanted her so badly and this was the only way he could think of to make sure that he got what he wanted.

His thoughts were interrupted when a group of men came into the lobby.  He rose to greet and introduce himself to them.  After exchanging pleasantries, they made their way to the boardroom where they spent the next few hours before breaking for lunch.  After lunch, the meeting last another few hours and then they adjourned.  He was anxious to get back to the hotel.  He glanced at his watch. He had just enough time to take a quick shower before Ife got there.   His heart skipped a beat at the mere thought of being with her.  She was so incredibly beautiful.  He was hooked.

When Ife got there, he was wearing a black Japanese Kimono Robe with red lapels, cuffs and sash.  It had an embroidered dragon and oriental motif on the front, the back and the sleeves.  It looked expensive.

hpaul_profile“I didn’t know that Japanese men wore kimonos,” she said.  “I thought only the women did.”

Toshiro smiled.  “Men wear kimonos too.  They often wear them to weddings, tea ceremonies and other very special or very formal occasions.  I have several.  This happens to be my favorite.  Do you like it?”

She nodded.  “Yes.  It’s beautiful.”

“Would you like me to buy you a kimono?  I think you would look very beautiful in one.”

“You don’t have to, Mr. Kobayashi.”

He moved closer to her.  “I want to, Ife.  I will buy it when I return to Tokyo and bring it with me the next time I’m in Kampala.”

Ife stared at him.  Why did he want to buy her a kimono?  What did it mean?  Was it a sign that he was developing feelings for her?  Or was he doing it out of guilt?  If that were the case, she didn’t want anything from him.  “Mr. Kobayashi, I don’t think you should…”

“Let’s not talk about the kimono any more,” he said as he pulled her against him.   “As a matter of fact, I would prefer if we didn’t talk about anything right now.”  His lips found hers.

Unable to help herself, Ife put her arms around his neck and kissed him back.

Next up is Toshiro Learns About Miremba.  

Source:  Kyotokimono-rental

Pit Toilets: Death Traps?

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Shoddily built pit toilets made from cheap metal are often left uncovered.  CORBIS/GETTY IMAGES

Many of us have more than one flushing toilets in our homes.  We have access to proper sanitation facilities.  When we use public washrooms, we can lock the doors of the stalls we use and when we’re done, we have running water and soap to wash our hands.  Sadly, this is not the case for many people.

For Hunaineh who lived in a collective shelter in Arbin, Syria, access to sanitation is still in the distant future. Attiya Hirji of Oxfam Canada shares Hunaineh’s story:

When nature called, we used to listen carefully to make sure there were no close clashes and then run to the nearest empty space to pee. Even now in this crowded shelter where the sewage system is not working properly, we still lack proper latrines. We sometimes have to queue for almost an hour to use the same dirty toilet that tens have used before.”

Oxfam is asking for donations to install water pumps and latrines.  They have organized water conservation and hygiene promotion sessions. Oxfam has also distributed hygiene kits across Syria containing washing powder, soap, shampoo and hygiene pads to help prevent the spread of disease.

Having access to a clean, working toilet can change lives and save them.  In South Africa, two children have drown in a pit latrine. Last year, three year old Omari Monono died in the outside toilet at his aunt’s house in Limpopo province, the same region where five-year-old Michael Komape drowned in a school toilet in 2014.  Omari’s mother, Kwena Monono said that her son “was pulled out of the toilet head-first at about 16:00 on Wednesday”, after having gone missing two hours earlier.  This mother was hurting over the loss of her son.  She was quoted as saying, “I’m hurting. I cannot eat or sleep.” and “Every time I see something my son loved, my heart breaks and I just cry.”

In March of last year, the death of 5-year-old Viwe Jali in a pit toilet at her school was a tragic accident waiting to happen, according to Section 27’s, Mark Heywood.  The little girl is believed to have drowned on Monday in her school toilet in the Eastern Cape.  She lay there overnight and was only found the next day.  Heywood says, “We know there is the danger of children falling into them because they are not protected properly.”  These toilets are a threat hygiene and health.  He went on to say that,  pit latrines in and of themselves are not the problem in rural areas where there is no water for example. It is the lack of safety measures that is the issue.  “It is the safety and the method of construction and the hygiene of the pit toilets.”  

Listen to this radio interview with Mark Heywood as he explains what the real problem behind the pit latrine deaths is and what his plans are to resolve it.

Last year, five year old Lumka Mkhethwa went missing at school in March and it was feared she had been abducted.  Her body was found the next day.   She had drowned after falling into a pit toilet in the grounds of Luna Primary in Bizana, South Africa.  Her tragic death caused an outcry prompting the government to announce that it will get rid of “hole-in-the-ground” toilets at more than 4500 state schools within two years.  “This is an initiative that will save lives and restore dignity to tens of thousands of our nation’s children, as our constitution demands,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said on August 14, 2018.  “It will spare generations of young South Africans the indignity, the discomfort and the danger of using pit latrines and other unsafe facilities in our schools.

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This is the pit latrine where 5 year old Michael Komape died at his primary school in 2014.  Photo by GALLO

Pit latrines, sometimes called long-drop toilets, are a type of toilet that collects feces in a hole in the ground.  They are poorly constructed and are dangerous for children to use.  This is why young children like Omari, Michael and Lumka should have been accompanied by an adult.  Lumka’s father, Vuyani Mkhethwa said: ‘We do not understand how this happened. We were under the impression that children are escorted to the toilet at that age.” 

Omari’s aunt left him to relieve himself outside the toilet as usual while she was busy with her house chores when she noticed she had not seen the toddler for some time.  So, even though Omari wasn’t using the latrine, he should have still been monitored.  Maybe he got too close that time and fell in because as mentioned earlier, these latrines are often left uncovered.  What a heart-wrenching tragedy for his family, especially his mother and his aunt.  It was the aunt who called the police when she searched for the boy but couldn’t find him.

Pit latrines are considered basic sanitation yet, according to Water Aid, an estimated 27% of South Africans don’t even have access to basic sanitation and that is slightly lower than the global average of one third.   The UN defines basic sanitation as:

  • a flush or pour-flush toilet linked to a piped sewer system
  • pit latrines with a slab, septic tank or ventilation
  • a composting toilet.

About one in five South African schools have pit latrine toilets – BBC

According to spokesperson, Zukiswa Pikoli, the death of little Omari reinforces the need to eradicate pit toilets which and to provide communities and schools safe and adequate sanitation.  And this happened after the unfortunate death of five year old Lumka.  President Cyril Ramaphosa said that her death forced the government to act and ensure that decent sanitation is provided at all schools.  Eastern Cape has more than 1500 schools with pit latrines and 61 with no toilets at all.  “Schools should be places where children have fun, get educated, where they are safe.” He also said that schools should be the “heartbeat of wholesome communities”.

This World Toilet Day, Oxfam encourages all of us to take the Pay2Pee Challenge by donating $2 every time we use the toilet.  Together let’s “flush” this problem for good!

Sources:  BBC News; Oxfam Canada; Their World; 702