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The bad men come at night

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Morgan McKeown helped us start the Nsoko care point a couple of years ago. And today she’s leading a group from her church to help meet the needs there. The pain in Nsoko is everywhere. My last blog gave you an overview of the situation in Swaziland, but Morgan’s story brings its impact home to t…
By Seth Barnes
Morgan McKeown helped us start the Nsoko care point a couple of years ago. And today she’s leading a group from her church to help meet the needs there. The pain in Nsoko is everywhere. My last blog gave you an overview of the situation in Swaziland, but Morgan’s story brings its impact home to the heart.
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met Eliza two years ago and instantly fell in love.  She was one of the
students whose education we were able to sponsor through contributions
from blog readers.  (Photo at the left is with Eliza on this trip –
taken by Paloma.)

The last day I was here in February she arrived at the carepoint with
open sores all over her foot and leg.  At nine years old she was
cooking over the fire and was burnt by hot oil.

After I left Swaziland Gift started investigating her injuries and the
World Race team here looked into what was happening to her.  It turns
out that there were more then just burns, Eliza had scars and bruising
all over her body.  I cried and prayed and felt utterly helpless being
so far away.  

All I could think about was her sweetness.  Every day I’m at the care
point she runs to greet me and sits with her hand in mine, refusing to
leave my side.   She knows her place, her hand belongs in my right hand
when I’m walking and when I sit her head gets nestled right under my
chin. 

On Thursday we had a few free moments so, Eliza, Gift, and I sat down to talk out of earshot of the other kids.

She leaned her frail body against me and placed her hands in mine.  I
didn’t know where to start, what do you ask when you suspect that a
child is being beaten. 

“How are things for you at home?”  I asked.  It took a moment for Eliza
to respond, her small shoulders slumped further forward and she didn’t
lift her head while murmuring a quiet answer in SiSwati, which Gift
interpreted. 

“Things are bad.” 

“What is bad?”  As I questioned her she begun to nervously run her short finger nails over my long thumbnail. 

“The bad men come at night and I’m scared.” 

Gift explained more to me.  “Her father just lost his job.  The
economic crisis has affected much more than people in the United
States, her father was one of the ones who lost his job.  Now he is
drinking a lot.  I think that the men she is talking about are some
type of loan collectors, or some men up to not good things.” 

My thoughts immediately flashed to Grace and Mswana both beautiful
teenage girls who have contracted H.I.V. through rape.  Unfortunately
their stories are brutally common in this place.  Eliza doesn’t show
signs of having been sexually assaulted, but if she stays in her home
the likelihood of her becoming a statistic and loosing her innocence as
well as her life to rape is astronomic. 

I tried to keep up the conversation but the words caught in my throat.  Gift encouraged me to continue with more questions. 

“Does your family have food at home?” 

Her back pressed closer into me as she sucked in a deep breath before
answering.  Eliza’s words came out, quiet and hesitant.  “We go with
out food most nights, all the nights I’m in school.”  At her answer a
tear slipped from my eye, before I could wipe it away it landed on her
short rough hair.  That meant that a majority of days the only meal she
was getting was the bowl of corn meal from the carepoint. 

Gift explained to me, “Her father has been here at the carepiont asking
for food for his family, since he lost his job he has not been able to
buy food.” 

I felt helpless, with only questions and no answers, nothing I could do
to ease her pain.  A gentle breeze blew through the tree we sat under,
and the sun provided enough warmth to be comfortable in a tee shirt. 
The setting was a stark contrast to our conversation.  No child
anywhere should have to go to bed hungry a majority of nights. 

“Can you tell me about what else is going on at home?” 

Her voice came out scared but she kept talking.  “My father beats my
brother and me when he comes home drunk.  My mom tries to get in the
way and stop him, but he just beats her as well.” 

“What does he use to beat you?”  Tears start streaming down my cheeks,
I was thankful that she’s leaning against me and can’t see my
reaction. 

“He uses a shoe or a log.”  The thought of someone touching this
beautiful, sweet spirited, girl in that way, made me shudder.  I looked
into her down cast eyes and somehow despite everything they still look
hopeful.   

Gift continues talking with her and translating for me.  He asked if
she would want to go to school away from home.  There are some funds
available to send her to a place for abused children in Swaziland,
unfortunately spots are limited and Eliza’s case may not be severe
enough for her to be admitted.  The social worker has decided that her
case only counts as negligence not abuse.  

The cell phone rang and Gift leaves to take the call.  I wrapped my
arms tighter around Eliza’s small frame while praying over her.  All I
want to do is shelter and protect her forever. 

Eliza had to walk back before dark, and the afternoon shadows were
getting long.  Loosening my grip and letting her go home took every
last ounce of my strength.  As I watched her slight frame walk away my
head fell into my hands and the tears tumbled down.     
 
A postscript: The good news is that people like Morgan (and maybe you) can make a difference. It doesn’t take a lot – just a willingness to go for a few months and hug a few orphans. The Bible tells us it’s true religion. If you’re interested in helping, contact me.

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