The Young Widow

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I knelt in the cemetery, my heart heavy with grief and sorrow.  My beloved had departed a fortnight ago, leaving me inconsolable.  Tears streamed down my face as I lifted my gaze heavenward and asked the Lord why He’d seen it fit to rob me of my happiness.  Why had He taken my Edgar away from me after eight months of marriage and made me a young widow with no children and soon to become homeless as Edgar’s family was determined to turn me out of the home we shared because I was a foreigner?  Oh, Lord, have mercy on me.  Let the ground open and devour me.

108 Words

Some times the Lord acts in ways we can’t understand but we have to continue to trust that He knows best.

young widow

Farida’s Story

In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles – Psalm 34:6, NKJV

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I was 13 when my parents married me off to a 36 year old rich Arab man.  He was the second man who wanted me to be his wife.  The other man was a neighbor and he knew me since I was a baby.  He was in his 60s.  He offered 40 cows but the Arab offered money.  My parents accepted the money.

I had no choice.  I left my village and went with him.  Before we got married, I had to spend 15 days with his family.  I hated it there.  They didn’t like me because I was African and dark-skinned.  It didn’t matter that I was a Muslim like them and that I spoke Arabic.  They would have preferred if he had married an Arab woman.  I think they had a problem with my age.  I overheard his mother ask him why did he agreed to marry someone so young?  His response was that I was very pretty and he wanted me.  I think it was because he was controlling and believed that a younger wife would be more obedient.

My life before marriage was a nightmare.  At night he would ravage me and the following morning at 7am, his mother woke me up to pray and do housework.  I felt like a slave.  I felt so alone and helpless.  Things continued and got progressively worse after we got married.  We moved into his home.  I continued to do the housework, cook and pamper him.  I was forced to have sex every night even when he knew that I was very upset or tired, he didn’t care.  He went ahead and had his pleasure and fell asleep afterwards while I lay there beside him in the bed, in the dark, crying.

My marriage wasn’t anything like my parents’.  I never saw my father mistreat my mother and she seemed to enjoy taking care of him.  It wasn’t like that for me.  I didn’t want to be married.  I wanted to be in school, getting an education.  I was hoping to be a doctor but that dream was squashed by a marriage forced on me by my parents.  My mother even said to me, “This marriage proposal is a gift from Allah, his way of keeping you out of trouble. If you say no, you will be showing your lack of faith in him, and you will be punished.  This man’s rich and he will provide well for you.  All you have to do is be a good wife to him.”

How could she expect a teenage girl to be a wife?  She didn’t even get married until she had finished school.  And she married for love.  Why couldn’t I marry for love too and when I was ready?  It seemed so unfair.  I came to the conclusion that my parents didn’t love me.  If they did, they wouldn’t have married me off to a man almost three times my age.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I imagined that my husband being so much older than me would take care of me.  He would be like a father to me.

arab-arab-culture-arab-man-arabart-757307I soon learned that a husband is never a father.  He expected me to be a wife, despite my age.  I was more like a slave.  He took great pleasure in telling me that he used to have hired help but dismissed them after he married me.  He expected me to keep a house which was very big with a lot of rooms.  I was exhausted by the time I finished cleaning it.  Then, I had to do the cooking, laundry and ironing.  I was exhausted by the end of the day but I still had to satisfy him in the bedroom.

I hated my marriage, I hated him and I hated my life.  I wished that I could run away but I knew that it would be pointless.  He told me once that if I did, he would find me because he had people watching the house when he wasn’t there.  And that life would be a thousand times worse for me.  I believed him.

Night after night, I prayed to God to help me.   I knew that what my husband was doing to me was against our religion. Islam prohibits all forms of oppression and injustice yet he felt that it was his right to beat me if I were disobedient to him such as refusing to have sex with him when he wanted it.  The Qur’an clearly teaches the sexual relationship between a husband and wife should be mutually satisfying but it was never like that for us.  As his wife, he demanded sex from me and whenever I refused him I was beaten and then raped.  He told me that God got angry with disobedient wives but I remember a friend once told me that when obeying a husband involves behavior that is hurtful or destructive to oneself or others, a Muslim wife must remember that her primary obedience is to God.

I wanted God to help me.  I wanted out of this nightmare.  I couldn’t continue living like this.  I felt like I was caught in a trap and nothing or no one could get me out of it except God.  For 25 years I was trapped in an abusive marriage and then my husband died.  He left nothing in my name and his family denied me everything, including the dowry I was entitled to.  He and I didn’t have any children together and that was why they were able to rob me of my inheritance.  I had wasted 25 years of my life.

I’m 38 now and a part of the ActionAid supported women’s group working to advocate against FGM and child marriage.  I don’t want anyone to go through what I did.  A girl should have the right to decide when and whom she wants to marry.  Education should come first.  Marriage should be a healthy, happy and safe choice for us.  Islam teaches that each person has been given freedom of choice and is accountable for his/her own life.  Today, I am pushing for girls to be independent and to choose their own future.

I don’t know if I would ever get married again.  I had such a horrible experience.  I’m just thankful to God that I’m no longer living in an abusive marriage and that I can focus on empowering girls to understand and live out their rights, including saying no to child marriage.

This story is fiction but child marriage is a disturbing reality.  I was inspired to write this story after reading Aleyna’s* story in an email sent to me by Equality Now.  She was 13 year old Lebanese girl and forced to marry a 36 year old man who abused her for 40 years before he died, leaving her nothing.  Equality Now’s partner in Lebanon, LECORVAW (The Lebanese Council to Resist Violence Against Women) is working with women like Aleyna who need legal support to access the justice they deserve.  Aleya says that, “I have a lawyer who works for LECORVAW, she is defending me in court and that is very important. LECORVAW is giving me psychological and legal support. I feel so much better thanks to them as before I was struggling to cope.”

Child marriage is an evil practice which has to be eradicated from society.  Girls should be allowed to finish their education and to decide when they want to get married.  Marriage is for adult men and women NOT adult men and children/girls.  We need laws to protect girls from child marriage.  Let’s raise awareness and support the organizations which are working to end child marriage.

 

Sources:  Religion Unplugged; Faith Trust Institution; ActionAid

 

Toshiro Returns to Tokyo

Z8VeQHoI_oToshiro was back in Tokyo.  He returned two weeks ago.  It was hard being away from Kampala.  All he could think about was Ife and how much he missed being with her.  All along he knew that what he had been doing was wrong but he couldn’t help himself.  He wanted Ife so much.  She filled him with a desire that was so potent and raw that it scared him.

He could tell from the way she responded when they made love that she wanted him too.  And that realization was what he used to rationalize his actions.  But his conscience continued to trouble him.

And he felt badly about Asuka.  They had been going steady for some time now and still he hadn’t broached the subject of marriage with her.  His family expected him to pop the question soon and he imagined that her family might expect the same thing.  He knew that Asuka was in love with him but he realized that he didn’t feel the same way and that was before he met Ife.

Speaking of Asuka, he was supposed to meet her for a coffee at the cafe where they usually went.  It was within walking distance from his apartment.  No doubt she was already there waiting for him.  She was always very punctual.

They hadn’t seen each other for months and when he was in Tokyo, he made sure that they spent time together.  This year, however, it was different for him.  He didn’t look forward to coming home anymore.  For him, Kampala was home.  It was where Ife was.  He closed his eyes briefly.  Oh, Ife, I wish I could be with you right now.  Was she thinking about him?  Did she miss him?  She’s probably glad to be rid of you for a while because of what you’re doing to her, an accusing voice retorted and he flinched.

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As soon as he walked into the cafe, he spotted Asuka.  He went over to her and she stood up, her expression one of delight.  She was obviously very happy to see him.  She put her arms around his neck and kissed him on the lips.  Then, she sat down.  “I ordered you Hot Tea.”  She put it in front of him.

“You’re welcome,” she said.  “You must be happy to be able to speak Japanese again.  How are things in Kampala?”He attempted a smile.  “Thank you.”

“The usual,” he said.  “Well, while I was there, journalists were protesting alleged abuse by the police.  They saw what was happening as an attack on press freedom in Uganda.   Then, there’s growing concern among some Ugandans about Chinese funding because of the debts they see other countries struggling with.  And then there’s the charcoal trade which is decimating forests.”

“Last week Tuesday was World Toilet Day so I was reading up about it online and came across an article which said that there’s a toilet crisis in Kampala.  It said that there aren’t public toilets for about 1,200 people, I think and that mud tinged with feces washes into homes during heavy rains.  How disgusting!”  She made a face and shuddered.  “How could people live like that and why isn’t the government doing something about it?”

“Yes, the sanitation crisis is growing worse.  It’s not only happening in Kampala but in South Africa, India and other places.”

“We’re so lucky, Toshiro.  We have access to clean toilets at home and in public.  I think that sometimes we take these things for granted.  I wanted to help so I sent a donation to one of the charities which is helping to provide clean toilets for the people in Africa.  Using public toilets isn’t safe for the women.  They could catch diseases or even get raped.  Can you imagine that?  And children aren’t safe either.  I read about four children who drown in pit toilets.  I still get choked up just thinking about them, especially, the three year old. ”

“Let’s not talk about this anymore because it’s upsetting you.”  He couldn’t bear to hear it anymore.  It made him think of Ife and how she could have lost her job if it had been discovered that she had used the toilet in his suite that day when he caught her.  He wondered if she was one of those people who didn’t have toilets in their homes.

“You’re right.  Let’s talk about something else.  The hotel where you stay, is it nice?”

“Yes, it is.  It’s a 5 star hotel.”

“What do you do when you’re not on business?”

“I go sightseeing or I stay in my room and catch up on the News.”  That wasn’t true.  He hardly went sightseeing and in the evenings, he was in his suite with Ife.

“Maybe one of these days, I will visit you there.   I read that it’s a relatively safe place for tourists.  Besides, I won’t be alone.  You will be there to protect me.”  She reached over and squeezed his hand.  “It’s so good to see you.  I always miss you so much every time you go away and I count the days when you’ll be back.  When do you go again?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe next month.”

“But not during Christmas and New Year’s I hope.”

“I don’t know.”

“Why do you go there so often?”

“Business.”  That wasn’t true anymore.  Ife was his reason for going to Kampala now.

“Well, I hope you plan to spend Christmas here.”

He didn’t answer.  Instead, he sipped his tea.  I wonder what Christmas is like in Kampala. 

“My parents are wondering what your intentions are.”

He stared at her blankly.  “What do you mean?”

“Well…we’ve been dating for five years now and they are wondering if we are going to settle down anytime soon.  We’re both in our thirties now.”

Toshiro sighed.  “Asuka, I have something to tell you.”

She looked wary now.  And she set the cup of coffee down on the table.  “What is it?” she asked.

“I haven’t been completely honest with you.  You asked why I go to Kampala so often and I told that it had to do with business.  Well, it doesn’t–not entirely.  This year I have been involved with a woman I met there.”

Asuka stared at him.  “What do you mean by involved?”

Toshiro could feel his face getting warm.  “I’m in a relationship with her.”

“But you’re in a relationship with me.”

“I know–”

“Does she know about me?”

“No.”

“Are you sleeping with her?”

“Yes.”

Asuka’s face was pale now.  Hurt and pain etched her features.  “Are you in love with her?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t believe this.  I have kept myself pure for you because I believed that we were going to get married.”

“You told me that you couldn’t sleep with me because you’re a Christian.”

“Is that why you’re sleeping with her?”

No.”

“Well, I guess this is it for us.”  She got up and pulled on her coat and scarf.   Grabbing her handbag, she muttered, “Goodbye, Toshiro” before she turned and walked away.

He sat there for a long time, feeling terrible.  The last thing he wanted to do was to hurt Asuka.  If he hadn’t met and fallen in love with Ife, he would have married her.  In time, he would have grown to love her the way she loved him.

He finished his tea which had gotten lukewarm and then got up and left the cafe.  He didn’t go straight home.  Instead, he walked for a while, thinking.  He had to sort out what he was going to do about Ife.  He hadn’t banked on falling in love with her.  Initially, it had been an extremely strong sexual attraction which he thought that he would get over after a while.

He knew what he ought to do but he just couldn’t bring himself to do it.  This whole thing had turned into a great mess.  He needed to talk to someone.  Miko.  He called her immediately on his cell.  Her voice mail came on.  He left a message asking her to call him.

She returned his call a couple of hours later.  He asked her if he could stop by her place the following day because he really needed to talk to her.

Next up is Toshiro’s Exploitation.

Source:  AP News

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).