Q is 17 years old and in 10th grade. About 9 months ago she left home to go live with a classmate. She wasn't getting along with her foster mom - the mom claims that she's a liar who can't be trusted. She claims that she wasn't being cared for properly. From her description, think Cinderella. There's probably some truth on both sides. But that's neither here nor there.
She had lived with this classmate in a shack behind the house in Hani Park. We've written about Hani Park many times in the past. It's the roughest part of the township. In the last 8 years we've seen many improvements - electricity, sewer, proper houses built. But that was never the problem to begin with. The problem has always been that we're sinners. Last week Q came face to face with that problem.
The classmate has an older brother - 26 years old. He lives at home and apparently isn't quite right in the head. This whole time he'd been telling people that Q is his girlfriend. She kept telling him she wasn't. She has another boyfriend. Both of them claim to be Rasta (same religion as Bob Marley). But the brother wasn't getting the message. A week ago he came home, began berating her, asking if she knew how much money she was costing the family and demanding that she become his girlfriend. He turned violent and began to beat her. She probably weighs 110 - very slender and athletic looking. He beat her into unconsciousness and only stopped because his mother returned and he turned his anger on her.
Q called Uncle Jim on Tuesday this week. She didn't sound good. She wanted to see Jim and Kim. Jim said "Are you in ok?"
"No" was her reply.
"Are you hurt?" was his next question.
So Jim and Kim went straight to Hani Park to find her. They were horrified by what they saw. Bruises and swelling are still evident, although it's gone down somewhat. A tooth was broken and so painful she hadn't eaten in 5 days. She'd left that house and was living in a shack behind another house around the corner.
Jim and Kim took her to a dentist, and it's a good thing they did! The dentist took one look and said "The jaw's broken." Sure enough, x-rays confirmed this to be the case. He said after 72 hours infection sets in and it had already been 5 days. But for some reason the infection wasn't there.
That night Jim and Kim helped Q file a police report. After they took the details they loaded her in the police truck and headed out to Hani Park. They knocked on the door and he opened. They turn to her and say "Is this the guy?" With her positive ID, they ask him why he would do such a thing to a young girl. His answer? "She needed some discipline." With that admission they slapped on the cuffs and took him to jail.
The next morning her jaw was wired shut, a procedure so painful Jim was nearly in tears to watch it. Q is one tough girl, though. Halfway through the procedure the dentist turned to Jim and told him there's no way this type of damage was done by a fist. The only way this type of injury could be inflicted was through stomping. Q couldn't remember, but then she was unconscious.
|The jaw is wired shut in front and in the back on both sides.|
She can't open her teeth at all, so she'll have to find a gap
big enough for a straw to fit.
|This little nail was the only thing keeping the door shut. I could pull it out with my fingers.|
Since her desire at the time was to stay in the shack, and since we can't keep someone against their will, we felt her request was reasonable. So Tolu and I went out and installed a lock right away. Last night Jim sent out an email to his prayer supporters detailing the situation. She was sitting next to the computer when one of the supporters sent a reply. When Jim came back in the room she was sitting there in tears. Jim asked what was wrong and she said "I'm sorry. I read your email."
Jim asked "Did I say anything wrong or anything that hurt you?"
"No," she said. "But why would anyone care?"
Clearly there's a lot going on that we don't even know about. Why she wants to stay in the shack when we've offered to look into alternatives, what exactly has gone on between her and the foster mother, what's her relationship with her boyfriend, where does any money to survive come from? But have any of us walked a mile in her shoes? Orphaned, bounced from caregiver to caregiver, raised in a culture where various types of abuse are rampant and even acceptable!
To borrow a thought from "When Helping Hurts" (one of the best books on gospel-centered poverty relief, by the way), we can never forget that people are broken themselves and are victims of broken human systems around them.
We need wisdom. Lord God, do we need wisdom! Please pray that we will have grace, discernment and patience as we continue to minister to Q in this situation. Pray specifically for the Heffners as they take the point on this relationship! Pray that the gospel would break through to her hurting and blinded heart so that she could see the glory of God in the person of Jesus Christ!