The full moon can be so beautiful, even in a land as remote as ‘Alaocha’. A land far away from modern civilization but not untouched by its cruelty. The people had fourth for years to preserve the customs of their fathers. They’ve held on to ancient traditions for years, yet they bear the scars of our times. In this land steeped in the tradition of its founding fathers the people welcome the full moon with joyful celebration. It means everything to their way of life. The elders of the land believe that during the full moon, the spirits of the ancestors walk on the earth and bless the labours of their descendants. The gods were also said to favour the crops during the full moon. But this full moon was special because it coincided with the night of passage. It was the night that marked the passage into womanhood of some of the young girls in the village.
Israel looked through the window of his hut. The air was buzzing with excitement as everyone or almost everyone is heading to the village square. As he on, he could see young Bisi moving like a walking corpse. She had gone to the big city two years. However she returned with the illness of the big city. Many of the girls who had gone to the big city had returned to the village a few years after leaving only do die with the illness of the big city. The missionaries had a strange name for the illness; the local shamans said it was the curser of the gods. A cynical smile lit up Israel’s face. Indeed the land was cursed. How else could he explain the abject poverty that plagued the people? How else could he explain the fact that as early as age 10 the girls get pregnant? How else could he explain everything odd and creepy that goes on in this land of the weird and home of the strange?
Nma his niece walked past Israel’s hut. Tonight was her night. She was one of the young girls who would pass into the next phase of their lives. Nma had a name for Israel; she called him Jesus’ brother because he preached the white man’s gospel. Israel always prayed for her, that one day she would understand. However
Tonight a lot was on Nma’s mind. Tonight she will be crowned the “princess daughter of the earth’s spirit”, a title reserved for only the most beautiful girl in the village. “So the girl with beauty of an angel and the smile that broke a thousand hearts will carry the day”, Israel thought to himself. All the young men had begun to flock at the village square to check out the young ladies. The day after tomorrow, prospective suitors will be knocking on doors…but not on Nma’s door. Two nights ago Madam Aishatu had come from the big city, and promised Nma’s parent to take Nma to the big city. ‘She will see the entire world and become a rich and powerful woman like me’ Madam Aishatu had said to Mama. Nma was the most beautiful girl in her village and the surrounding villages but longed for the whole world to see her beauty. She was excited about going to the big city despite the gloomy tales she had heard. Anna, her teacher in the mission’s high school got into a little bit of a fight with Mama over it. Anna said stuff they could not understand. Nma overheard Anna say ‘…old women in this village send the young girls into the city to prostitute and they are dying with HIV, some are smuggled to foreign countries and sold into human slavery and sexual exploitation…’. Anna was one of the missionaries, she did not understand the native language of the people too well and her English sounded kind of complicated for Nma. Madam Aishatu promised to send Nma to school and get a job for her, which sounded kind of nice.
‘Oh well, I’ll enjoy tonight for all it’s worth. Let the gods take care of tomorrow.’ Nma whispered to herself.
That night as the girls began to dance; their bodies shook to the rhythm of the drums and glistened as the moonlight reflects on the drops of sweat on their bodies. Ecstasy fills the atmosphere and the girls dance with joy. As the young girls begin to dance, the young men shoot local pistols into the air. Joy is in the air and the excitement is palpable, until … the full moon suddenly turns red. The sky begins to rain down drops of blood. ‘The gods has cursed us’. Nma ran as fast as she can but she cannot run faster than the arrows that pierced the night’s sky with an uncanny rage. One pierces her side, and blood and water gushes out. She screams as darkness fills her eyes…. ‘Noooooh!’
Nma awakes suddenly gasping for air. Her nightgown and bed sheets are drenched with sweat. She’s dreaming again of home. Her little room in Amsterdam’s red-light district suddenly feels nauseating. Oh God! I have to work tonight.
Maggie was driving through Amsterdam’s red-light district. For her the night was still young in his city of uninhibited pleasures a world that had no taboos. She had to meet up with some new friends and smoke a joint or two with them and party all night. Maggie had left her hometown of Seattle, U.S.A three months ago, for a trip across Europe’s hotspots. She intended to spend three weeks but three weeks became three not so long months. She was on a quest to forget the experiences that have scarred her. She needed to forget that morning when she stood was stood up at the altar. They were both high school sweethearts. Maggie was head cheerleader and homecoming queen; Bobby was captain of the football team. Together they were the perfect couple until the morning of the wedding. After the morning of the wedding that never was , Maggie spent three days locked in her room refusing food and water, just attempting to cry away her pain. She cried until her heart and eyes ached but she found no healing for her broken heart. Her parents decided to give her a ticket to Paris and some cash to spend on a three weeks vacation. But from Paris Maggie began to travel across Europe, searching for fun and seeking to forget. She needed the parties, booze, drugs and sex; maybe it could mend her heart. She fell in love with Amsterdam the first night she spent in the city, five weeks ago. The people in this city had no boundaries. ‘I love it here’ she whispers to herself as she cruised the busy freeway in her rented Mercedes. She was here because she needed to escape the memories of her hurt. It’s being three months since that day, but her heart still ached. ‘Would I ever love again?’ ‘Can I ever trust once again?’ The answers are not in her, thus she must seek beyond her. “Oh God, why me? How come I get to be the one who dates the hunk who turned out to be gay? How on earth did he keep it a secret until the wedding?” ‘Coward, you didn’t even have the guts to say it to my face. All I got was a message on my answering message. You knew I would the night before the wedding at my mum’s…’
Maggie didn’t like church much, but when life overwhelmed her she always knew to turn to grandma’s God. But this night was about fun, enough of sober reflections, there’s a party to attend.
She stepped on the gas.
‘Help us! Help us! Please help us!’
Husseina followed the dark figure into the dark alley. ‘Wait on, I can’t keep up with you’, she cried out as she ran after the little girl. Suddenly the little girl just vanished into thin air. ‘Jesus, I think I’ve lost her’
Then she began to hear the moans again, but this time it sounded different. ‘Help me! Help me!’ she could hear the moan coming from behind the trash dump at the end of the alley. ‘ No longer us but me, this is starting to creep me out.’
As Husseina drew closer to the end of the alley, in the dim moonlight she could see the bruised and battered body of a young black girl sprawled across the floor. There was trash all over her body and she was bound in chains. ‘Only God can break my chains…’ Husseina looked closely, she wanted to get a closer looked at her face. But nothing prepared her for what she saw next. The girl was weeping, but tears were not flowing down her pretty face. Bright red blood had taken the place of tears. ‘JESUS’
The alarm clock interrupted Husseina’s scream…she realized it was just a dream. ‘God what’s the dream about? Are you trying to say something to me?
No time to ponder, she was late for work.
Maggie stepped on the accelerator, as she sped through Amsterdam’s red-light district.
She had to move faster…she had to step on it… she had to step on the brakes all of a sudden.
‘Jesus, some lunatic just popped put of nowhere and tried to run across the street. I think I’ve killed her.’
Husseina looked through the cab window as the cab cruised through Amsterdam’s night street. She worked as a nurse in a local hospital in Amsterdam’s red-light District. She hated working the night shift, but tonight she promised to cover for a colleague who had to travel and attend to some family issues. As the cab drove through the streets memories of home flooded her subconscious. ‘I miss Hussein, but one day I’ll hug you again. One day I’ll kiss your cheeks again and again. The devil cannot deny me this, neither can the fanatics who took you away from me.”
Hussein was her twin brother. He had led her to Christ after she had secretly followed him on one of his trips to an underground church in Tehran. A group of young radical fundamentalists found out about the church over a few sips of local beer they drank with a former member of the church. Hussein was murdered the night the church was torched. Husseina knew who the murderers were but whom could she go to? When word got of her newfound faith, her father disowned her, her mother cursed her and the day Husseina was conceived in her womb. Her half-brother turned her over to his friends who abused her repeatedly,sexually and physically. She had no choice but to flee the country. With the help of an American missionary couple she fled to Amsterdam. She requested asylum and she got it. With the help of the American couple she was able to further her education and become a nurse. Everything about her life was a miracle. In her darkest moment the hands of God were there to wipe away her tears. She got a job in the red-light district because she wanted to work with a missionary group in the red-light district.
‘So many lost, searching for answers, broken hearts in need of healing.’
During her life’s journey Husseina had come to realize that God does not mend broken hearts, He only heals them.
‘Goodness I’ve killed her!’
Maggie flung her door wide open in a split second and dashed out to see the young girl. Her hands trembled with fear and a cold sweat ran down her spine as she walked towards the body of a black girl lying in front of her rented Mercedes.
People began to gather around, but no one offered poor Maggie any assistance. She was totally clueless and the silent mob only heightened her palpitations. ‘Will somebody please call the paramedics?’ They all stared at her in return. A man slowly walked out of the shadows towards her. ‘Don’t be scared, she’ll live?’ She could hear the stranger’s baritone voice echo around her. ‘ What makes you so sure?’ Maggie asked. Her instincts was to flee the scene, and board the next flight home. Then she heard the baritone voice again. ‘Her angels are watching over her.’ “Angels watching over her? She looks like a hooker. Surely this is no mother Theresa in a mini-skirt.” As Maggie turned to look at the strange he was gone.
The sound of an ambulance siren interrupted her bemusement. The paramedics were on their way.
The team at the accident and emergency room was always prepared for casualties
The nurses and doctors looked at the injured black girl.
‘Replace the IV Fluid’
‘ Set up another line, she’s going into shock’
‘Take some blood samples to the lab for grouping and cross matching, screen for HIV 1 and HIV 2, Hepatitis B and syphilis.’
‘We need an abdominal ultrasound…’
They were not taken any chances. Her arms and hands bore told a story of long-term drug use. Her choice of clothes was suggestive of her line of work although most of it was gone. Her abdomen was littered with multiple deep stab wound. Her face was swollen and bruised all over. There was trauma around her thoracic cage and she could barely breathe. ‘We’ve got to pass a chest tube drainage’. ‘God, please don’t let us lose her’.
Husseina drew closer to look at the young lady. As she looked at the bruised and battered face, Husseina went pale with shock: ‘I’ve seen her before, she’s the girl in my dreams…’ A doctor turned to face Husseina. His dark eyes told the story before his lips parted to speak, ‘She may not make it. She’s lost a lot of blood, she’s still bleeding and her spleen is shattered. We’ve got to take her into the theater and hope for the best.’ Tears began to flow down cheeks Husseina. She was never one to get emotional over a patient, but this was different. ‘Father, she has to survive’
Maggie sat in the waiting room.
‘Why the heck am I here? I don’t know this girl and the cops have taken my statement. For all I know she’s probably a hooker. Maybe something went wrong between her and her pimp or john or s, what do I care?’
A nurse of Middle Eastern origin interrupted her chain of reflection. ‘ I’m sorry to bother you, but do you know the young lady who was assaulted?’
Maggie looked up at her, ‘No, I don’t. I hit her with my car. The cops told me she was also assaulted repeatedly. Is she going to make it?’
‘She’s just out of the theatre. It looks good. I think she’ll make it.’
Maggie let out a sigh of relief. ‘Thank goodness’
‘ Maybe we should thank God on this one. Did you know that there’s a serial killer who has been stalking and murdering girls in the red-light district. This is his 12th victim but the only one who has survived the ordeal. Perhaps God has a purpose for protecting her…’
Maggie had to interrupt the nurse at this point; she was staring to sound like her grandma back home.
‘ Please forgive me, I’m not into this religion and stuff.’
‘Christianity is not a religion; it’s about a God who brought us hope. We no longer have to be burdened by our pain, He wants to take it all away and replace them with His strength. Life will bring storms and challenges our way, but with God’s strength we can walk through our storms standing tall.’
‘What do you know about pain? What do you know about broken hearts? What do you know about thinking you’ve found true love all of a sudden you realize you had nothing?’
Maggie had no idea why she was pouring out her heart to this stranger. Besides the girl’s situation had nothing to do with her. ‘How could I be so self-centered? It’s not about me.’ Maggie thought to herself.
‘ I don’t know you and I don’t know what you’ve been through. But I do know that God does not mend broken hearts, He only heals them and His love is the genuine article.
I know what it feels like to lose the most important person in your life, to be left broken and hurt. I’ve been there. I know what it feels like to be violated by someone you trust. I’ve been there.
I know what it feels like for your own parents to turn their backs on you. I’ve been there.
But guess what, I did not remain there because God pulled me out.’
Tears began to gush down Maggie's cheeks. The nurse sounded real, she sounded genuine not like one of those religious freaks. She also sounded like there was hope for Maggie…
‘ I had a Christian upbringing and I was a Christian until my last year in junior high. Can God ever take me back? I’ve done stuff I’m ashamed of. Stuff I never thought I’ll ever do.’
‘With open arms, Our Father is longing to welcome his princess back home,’ as the nurse said those words tears began to form at the corner of her own eyes, ‘The father is waiting with open eyes. Will you pray for me?’
‘Yes, I will’
“‘Please hold my hands and say after me: ‘dear Jesus, please take me back…’”
Husseina said goodbye to the young lady, Maggie at the waiting room. She had to check on the black girl who was recovering from surgery.
She wanted to pray for her quietly. She usually didn’t do this at work but tonight was an exception to the rule. As she tiptoed slowly towards the young black lady, she slowly opened her eyes. The girl muttered slowly: ‘help me! Please help me!’
‘You’re safe now, he’s gone and he can’t hurt you anymore. What’s your name?’
“Nma! Please will you pray for me.’
‘I would love to...’
How could Husseina decline, God was up to something. Maggie had gone back to her hotel room, but she had promised to drop by the hospital. Tonight was the beginning of something special in the lives of the three young women. God had touched three of them in a way they could never have imagined.
‘I’ll pray for you, if it’s the last thing I do...’