When somebody first comes to Togo they are confronted and overwhelmed with needs all around them. Poverty seems to scream for your attention, and it can be very overwhelming to figure out what to do and how to help. It can affect you to the point that you make quite foolish decisions and start handing money out to just about everyone who asks, including the door-to-door scam artists (yes, been there done that).
Living here for a while, though, can have just the opposite effect. After seeing poverty day after day, it becomes normal. After hearing of yet another husband abandoning a wife and little kids with absolutely nothing to live on, it seems strangely ordinary. I don’t want to use the word “callused,” but I could say that after a while “ordinary poverty” and other related problems cease to have the shock value that they once did.
But from time to time, situations arise that are simply so terrible that you can’t help but be deeply moved. Just recently, two such cases have come up that we feel are necessary to share so you can lift up in prayer the people involved.
Casualties of Selfishness
Down the street from our house is a family that is being torn apart by selfishness. The wife moved down south a couple years ago, leaving the father to raise four children. The dad, meanwhile, has pulled the kids out of school so he can have them dig for clay all day long. He uses it to make clay pots, which he then sells to feed himself—just himself. He literally feeds the kids table scraps, if that. To anyone who asks, he claims to take care of them, but the kids reported to the neighbors just a few days ago that their dad had given them nothing but a single bowl of day-old, spoiling rice. Everyone in the neighborhood is angry with the dad and doing all they can to help out. This is difficult, though, because any help given in the past has been taken by the father and used for himself. On top of all that, the youngest is often sick and doesn’t get the medical attention he needs.
An orphanage in town has already taken two of the children, and we are working hard to get another orphanage to take the other two. Currently, there is only a nine year old girl and a four year old boy left alone all day while the father is out. It looks like it may be necessary for us to help out with the costs of putting them in the orphanage, since many orphanages here run on a shoestring budget. In the meantime we are helping Yvette, our close friend, neighbor, and housekeeper, feed them every day. And of course we are feeding them plenty of moringa to get them much needed nutrients.
Generations of Destruction
While we were at Yao’s house a couple days ago, he told us of a family he has been talking with recently. They explained to him that they have had nothing but problems over the past decade, and they believe it is directly related to the fact that their father brought the atingali fetish to their house over a decade ago (read here for an explanation of atingali). The father died about ten years ago, at which point the management of the fetish fell to the oldest son. After only a couple years, he died. The second son took over, and he died shortly after. Finally, the third oldest son began managing it, and he died just recently. The youngest and last remaining son is now petrified for his life and has fled the house to live elsewhere. This has left three wives and twenty children to run the household.
Just about a week ago two of the children, each from a different mother, were playing around with a machete. The older boy told the younger boy to put his hand on a rock then pull it away before he struck the machete on the rock. They did this a couple times, but on the third try the younger boy was not quick enough and the machete severed his ring finger and nearly severed his middle finger. With it hanging on by just a bit of skin, the mothers attempted to put it back in place and wrap it up rather than taking him to the hospital. Once this episode was over, the mother of the older boy was so distraught by this and all her other problems that she ground up glass bottles and put them in water to drink so she could kill herself. Thankfully, somebody saw her about to drink it and called the others over to help stop her.
Yao has been urging these women to abandon the atingali fetish and begin following Jesus, the only one powerful enough to liberate them from the demonic oppression their family has been under for so long. They have told him that they want to be free from all this, but that they don’t know how. He has invited them to come back to his house on Saturday when Tchéou, Andrew, and I will be there again so we can all speak to them.
This is obviously a very complicated situation, and one that we don’t have a clear or easy solution to. We are praying daily for wisdom and direction to know how to proceed, but above all that God will bring this family to know Jesus, the only one worthy to be called their Master and Lord.
Please pray with us for this family, and please keep Tchéou, Yao, Andrew, myself, and all our families in your prayers as we enter a situation in which we may possibly be involved in some very serious spiritual warfare.