This week has been rough. Not just because of obviously crappy happenings like Jason getting his IPhone stolen but because of the heaviness I feel, the oppression I sense, and the ick that is hovering.
On Tuesdays we meet with our team to pray and Jason left a bit early to take Anni to school so he could be back in time. After everyone else arrived I got a call from a number I did not recognize but thought I better pick it up. It was Jason who in a shaky voice that gave away the adrenaline and frustration coursing through his body told me that he would not be coming back and that a mwizi (thief) stole his phone. Now I could care less about phones but for Jason he had saved every little extra money he had for 2 years to buy this phone and I knew it was his favorite “toy” that he ever owned. He had sold a bunch of stuff we had in storage to get the money to get this One Big Thing while we were home. I did not know any details surrounding how it was taken but I just felt completely wrecked for him.
The next few hours we met without him while we tried to call his phone over and over to run down the battery (thus making it impossible for said mwizi to rack up big charges that we would have to pay). Finally many hours later J returned home just to change into running shoes (yeah, they had been chasing this guy and his flip flops broke) and tell me a little about what had happened. On the way to drive Annikah to school a guy of about 20 something was flagging down the car. Now, here we often offer to drive people a short way if we are going that way (it is very common). But Jason thought something was bizarre about his over zealous waving and with Anni in tow bypassed the guy. After taking Anni into her classroom Jason returned to our car and started to text me something about Anni’s school when the guy appeared at the passenger’s side window. He asked Jason for a ride to the beach but Jason told him he was not going that way since he had to return for our meeting. Then the guy requested money and Jason said he could not give him money but if he wanted to come by and do some work we could pay him. In a split second the guy reached in and grabbed Jason’s phone that was sitting inches away from him. Jason saw his intentions and reached for it but his hand missed the guy’s hand by a millisecond. That is one of those moments that you relive in your head over and over. Jason slammed the car in park, jumped out, screamed mwizi, and started running after the guy who with a head start quickly disappeared into the thick trees. Some other people saw everything that happened and came to Jason’s aid trying to chase the guy. After realizing that he was gone with the phone people explained to Jason that they knew who this guy was and apparently he has stolen many things. Also, it seems like the whole incident was targeted since the thief apparently told people that morning he would return later with a phone. Soon a few people grew into a search party ready to hunt down this guy. They knew where he lived and many places he hangs out and for the next several hours they went on what can only be described as a wild goose chase even going to the port to try to prevent him from leaving the island. Jason called his friends that work in town and might get wind of someone selling a phone and they warned every duka owner they knew to let us know if anyone heard anything. How you get things down here is just so different and if nothing else it was Culture Learning 101. The police were involved as well but if Jason was going to get it back most likely it would be through searching himself. The search party had leads coming in all the time and several times they arrived at a place minutes after the mwizi had left. We have heard stories and friends here have seen vigilante justice carried out (one saw people stoned to death) and Jason actually became afraid of what they would do if they found this guy.
What was amazing is that in the midst of all of this both Jason and I (J while out looking and me while at home praying for him) felt an acute sense that God would redeem it in some way. Jason and his posse were out the rest of the day and most of the night. As the day went on and the search continued from place to place, hearing story after story about this guy (people had even tried to to set him on fire before because of his stealing) it became more about finding him and sharing with him and forgiving him and less about getting the phone back. Of course we wanted the phone but more than that we felt that God softened us to this guy. Now, 2 days later there are still reports coming in and I swear everyone knows about the incident resulting in many poles and tons of advice. As I type there are still some folks on the hunt but for us at this point we just want to move on. We are still hoping for some resolution and that something good will come of it. Lots of praying, reflecting, and thinking. And He is already using it in our lives. We know we have an awesome network of people here,both ex-pat and local friends who care about us and genuinely feel bad and want to help when something happens. More importantly we are learning that stuff is just stuff. We are fine, blessed even. Incidents like this are teaching us to grasp less and release more. It still stings though.
Other things hovering are adding to the stress of the week. Annikah is having nightmares almost every night. When we hear her we rush into find her still asleep and unable to answer us. Evy and I are taking turns feeling sick and there is a busyness and heaviness that we sense in a very real way. The power at our house decides to go out almost every time it rains requiring J to “fix” it many times. And other Stuff. And while I do not feel I have processed some of the things that have happened enough to write about now it is fair to say we know the enemy is real and involved. At the same time this is an exciting time for us right now. Our team is together, working hard and seeing tons of progress on our school (more later), we have had great visits and conversations with friends here, and just this week I started a “school” of sorts outside our house using a mat and some of Anni’s books for some of the kids in the neighborhood who really want to go to school but whose parents cannot afford it.
A few weeks ago a friend sensed that these verses were for me: Luke 21: 12-19. She specifically shared: “But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves … I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.” And a second promise: “But not a hair on your head will perish. By standing firm you will gain life”. Good Stuff.
So lots of Good Things that overshadow the crap. But all of this is real and we feel it in a profound and achy sorta way. Right now I feel like we are just holding our breath. We are bruised for sure but not beaten. The claims of Jesus are what we are clinging to. We are claiming freedom. And we are feeling more peace. And more purpose.
A couple weeks ago the water supply to our neighborhood was busted. Somehow. We have gotten various accounts and reports from neighbors but the bottom line is it does not work but we still have water (as long as there is power) since we have a pump that pumps it from an underground well and we also have a tank that collects rain water behind our house. We have told our neighbors they are welcome to come and everyday there is a stream of people that come over to chat and to vuta maji (pull water) from our tank behind our house. It is because they need water. Water is life. Jesus knew it. Everyday, every time all I can think is that we live in a world with thirsty people everywhere and yet I have the Water of Life. It is freely given with Grace and Mercy and not requiring Anything but Faith. It is within, it has changed me, it continues to empower and grow me, and I desperately want to share it. With everyone. Freely.