Well. To put it bluntly, our family has had a hard couple weeks. It has been downright painful.
It started on a high note, a reason to celebrate, and quickly turned into a sad story….bear with me. It has taken me a while to write about it, as I needed to get my feelings more sorted out before I could share it with you.
It started with Matt’s birthday last week. We decided we would take a family camping trip to the entrance of a beautiful cave. We packed up everything, birthday cards and all, and headed out. Once we arrived at the cave and began setting up camp, I quickly realized my camera bag with my nice camera and lenses was missing….my heart sank more and more as I looked through camp, through the truck…..nowhere to be found. I began dissecting out drive out….when could it have gotten stolen?...when did I see it last?... We figured it must have been snatched out of the truck at some point. Matt went back, and retraced all of our steps, and spoke to people at each stop we made, seeing if anyone knew anything. At one point on the way to the cave, we reorganized all of our gear for weather….it was at this stop Matt spoke to a little mama who said she saw a bag on the roof of our truck as we drove away…… ugh… I was so disappointed! Taking nice photos for people here has brought me so much joy….I was hopeful someone would turn it in…as it had lots of photos of our family, and the last photos I took were a whole photoshoot of Helicopters at the office…..it would not be hard to find us at all….but no luck….on the way home from camping we checked the large local market outside of town….often times stolen phones/cameras/laptops are sold there…..hopeful…..still no luck. It is gone. The whole camping trip I felt kinda bummed about this…but tried to remain upbeat….it was a birthday camping trip after all!....We headed home….and that is when we found out the next blow that was worse than the camera!
On the way home we got back into signal for our phones….we stopped to grab some food…while we were waiting Matt got a text on his phone from our trusted friend and guard named Oten. It said “I am so sorry, but last night a thief entered your yard and stole Albert, I looked and looked, but I could not find him”
Let me tell you for a second about Albert. He was our pet cockatoo…I was not so sure about him at first with that big beak.…but that sweet bird wiggled his way into my heart and melted it! He was a total teddy bear. So gentle and loving. He was more like a dog, he got so excited when Matt got home, and he would follow me around the yard…waddling after me….I would turn around, and he would be right there….just to be near me… he would come from wherever he was when we called. He would laugh at us, and his laugh mimicked Matt’s. He would come over and lay his head on us, and lift up his wing so we could give him a snuggle….he danced…he barked like our dog, baulked like our chicken, he was so personable and loving….he was truly a joy and our little friend…
So as soon as I heard that text my heart started pounding!....”What?! NO!! We have to get home NOW and go find him!! We have to do DO SOMETHING….!” We raced home…hoping there was something we could do…..I was in go mode, I was mad!…….I was thinking “Someone has him!....I am sure there is a trail of information we can follow if we get people to talk to us and tell us what they know, then we can get him back from the people that stole him! My heart was pounding fast, and my head was spinning….someone came in our yard?! Someone stole my friend?! How dare they?! How COULD THEY?! I was getting more mad….thinking of who I could talk to…. In my head I wanted to go talk to every single one of our neighbors….tell them “I KNOW YOU KNOW SOMETHING….TELL ME NOW!” I felt trapped within the confines of a culture I don’t completely understand. Would people help us? Would they tell us if they knew something?!... I just wanted Albert back….but how? I blew past our local friends without the normal polite greetings… By this point I was crying red hot tears…. I was in a rush, it was a blur, but somewhere in the craziness while crying and still hoping, and trying to come up with a plan, I heard someone saying there was blood in our yard… Another wave of anger and losing more hope….I went outside. I saw the blood…as a bunch of people tried to give possible explanations for the blood….I think they tried to make me feel better saying it probably wasn’t Albert’s blood….but I had a sinking feeling…. During the middle of all of this….a group of about 10 local kids had climbed the tree right on the other side of our fence and were looking in and asking if they could come play….I stormed past the kids crying, but Matt stayed outside to see if they knew anything….one boy said he knew where our bird was…. The sound of hope!! We rushed outside to talk to them…. Once we were outside all information from the kids dried up….the boy who said he knew suddenly had nothing to say….and other kids said they knew nothing…..AHHHH!!! I was so irritated with cultural differences…..JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU KNOW KID!!! But I didn’t say anything….I marched back to my house….because I was about to start sobbing again….
Angry, Gut punched, Crying, every moment realizing we probably won’t see Albert again… but still wanting to go yell at everyone to tell me what they know and who has my little buddy….apparently the kids had decided to help us find Albert, they started investigating, and then started yelling wildly…….. “THEY ATE HIM! THEY ATE HIM! THEY ATE ALBERT!!”
Matt delivered the news...the kids looked in the honai (grass hut) right on the other side of our fence, and they found small albert feathers half charred, and next to the remnants of a fire….. and I came completely unglued. I screamed… I sobbed….I knew…I knew who did it….the drunk men who hang out in that little honai everyday…The drunk men who can see in our yard, and see me when I come outside… The men who intimidate me, but I have always been polite to…… I can’t remember what I sobbed about them…or maybe I can, but I shouldn’t repeat it… I was FURIOUS….more angry than I have been in years. It felt as though every ugly situation I have faced here, every hard thing I have been through here.....the pain of all of it came out…I felt like the wind was knocked out of me…I felt completely violated, I felt completely betrayed, I felt sick to my stomach…..I wanted to see for myself. The kids showed me what they had found…the evidence was pretty conclusive….the kids were very sober…I wanted to just scream…but instead I told the kids “these men ate my friend, and they probably sold his feathers for money,…but good character is worth much more than the money they got….I hope none of you grow up to steal.” They all had wide eyes and shook their heads in unison saying “yes mama Grace, yes mama Grace” I’m sure I was a sight to behold for them, this crazed westerner.
I returned to my house feeling flattened, shocked, deflated, and still angry… I wanted to go punch them all, to SCREAM at them…Have the police round them all up and throw them in prison…I wanted them to KNOW how much they hurt me…..It is a good thing the men were not around right then…….but they returned a few hours later…..the rest of the evening we could hear them from every corner of our house…singing and laughing drunkenly…. I sat in my house and cried. Insult to injury……be still my heart…
Over the next few days I felt sick to my stomach…I felt like I had no wind in my sails, and someone punched me in my gut. I felt so sad over Albert… I knew I needed to change my heart about these men who ate him…. These men have always hung out in the field next to our house…they are there everyday…walking around from morning to night sometimes, and always completely drunk.. A few months ago, a small honai (grass hut) was made in the field, right on the other side of our fence…the men now had shelter, and a place to hang out at night…the honai quickly became a hotspot, and the number of men coming was multiplying….many of my friends (local and expat) who had tried to go down the road were bothered by these men being aggressive.
I was struggling in my heart....It was difficult to comfort Gracie's sad heart, when mine was so upset too. It's hard to explain to her why these men ate our friend...….I texted this to my family:
|The honai where they found Albert's remains...picture taken from my deck.|
“… I want JUSTICE….but it probably wont happen. So I pray. And I secretly hope that the blood in our yard is from Albert biting them HARD…but at the same time I pray. Pray Jesus will get ahold of them…pray for my heart toward them, and I cry when I pray for them…because in my flesh I want to see them get justice served,….but all I can do is pray about my heart, and for their soul.”
Meanwhile our neighbors and friends were growing tired of the problems this group of men was making as well. The kids that live around us couldn’t come out and play when the men were in the honai, people could not pass by without being hackled. They occasionally threw rocks at my house which made me want Grace to stay inside… it was getting worse. A group of local men who were tired of this problem took matters into their own hands, they went out in the night, took their machetes for protection, and they flattened the honai. They told us they were going to try to destroy it, and in the morning we walked on our deck to see it flattened….I wondered what would happen when the men came back….but it was anticlimactic…later that day the group of men were sitting under a tree, drinking, and carrying on.
One morning reading my Bible, God made a verse pop out to me….He gave me this verse to encourage my heart, and to challenge me…..how was I going to respond?.... my insides kinda squirmed. My desire for justice was clashing with what I knew I needed to do...forgive them, love them. I AM THEM....I have never stolen someones pet and eaten it....but I've rebelled against God, I've hurt people, I have sinned over and over, I've known right from wrong, and chosen wrong....and still, despite the MOUNTAIN of things I have done wrong, God has forgiven me for ALL OF IT....He loves me fiercely. What a gift this has been in my life... I need to love these men who have wronged me....
|The Bible and Coffee Gift|
And all of the sudden I had an idea. I knew what I was going to do. I needed to give these men a gift. Even after the horrible thing they did to us.. A Bible, and coffee, and I would put it under the tree where they sit everyday......The thought of this excited me. I wrapped up a Bible, coffee and candy in a Ziploc bag, I wrote in the cover of the Bible that Jesus loves them, and He is stronger than ANY sin, and I pray for them, that they give their heart to Jesus. Grace and I had a long talk about why we were going to give the men a gift even when they were so mean. We talked about how we need to love them, love our enemies.
I shared my plan with our friend Otinus…I was thinking he would think my plan was very strange…..but he was excited, and he wanted to help! He instantly had ideas of his own…he wanted to make sure that nobody else would take the Bible….so he made this sign…..
|It says "greetings to the people who are always drunk here. You can read the Bible, it is a gift for you, and you can read Efesis 5:18."|
Otinus and Yali marched out to the tree as soon as the spot was vacant, and nailed the sign to a tree, and hung the Bible under it....
It touched my heart, it put wind back in my sails….it put some joy in my soul. These men of God cared too, and they thanked me for coming up with the plan…that meant so much to me…because I saw that they were excited to see these men be reached as well, they didn’t think my plan was terrible….they did say it was weird, but still good. =) haha
The Bible was out there for a whole week, and guess what…..PEOPLE READ IT! About 9 people (that we know of and saw) took it out of the bag, read some, and then returned it to the bag…..a couple of days ago a group of about 5 big burly men with big machetes came to the tree, they read the Bible for about 30 min, put it back in the bag and all saluted the Bible…hahaha! A couple of days ago the Bible disappeared, that’s okay! I just bought another one….and will be putting it out there tomorrow!...
My heart isn’t mad at those men anymore….my heart is calm about them. I want to see their lives changed, I want to see them know Jesus, to know how much He loves them, I want to see them not be slaves to alcohol.
I see God’s hand in this….as painful as it has been. A few weeks ago, when Albert was still safe and happy, I stood looking out my window watching the men stumble around the field…, and I prayed for them. I prayed that God would get ahold of them, I prayed for their wives and children, I specifically prayed that God would give Matt and I wisdom on what we could do to reach out to them and show them Jesus’ love.
God makes beauty from ashes, He makes beautiful things come from terrible things…I love that about Him. And He is using this terrible thing to answer my prayer for the men.
So, even though I loved Albert, and even though what they did to him and to our family was absolutely awful…..it has launched a series of chain reactions to show Jesus love to these men….and if it ends with them knowing Jesus….it’s worth it. I forgive them.
Pray for them with me. They think they just killed a bird…….but little do they know, they triggered an army of people from all over the world praying for them!