Wiping the perspiration from my brow with one hand, I reach for my glass of tart fruit juice with the other and lean back in my desk chair. It's far from mom's ice cold lemonade, but it's the closest I'm going to get here in Togo. I'm not sure if it's the heat or if it's actually growing on me, but I feel refreshed as I return the glass to the desk and reach for the last medical file I need to review about the new students who will arrive at the Village of Light school in a few days.
Clouded, unfocused eyes stare blankly back at me from a smiling mahogany face. Most of the students' eyes are not disfigured like this, and I skim through his records to find whether parasites, disease, a birth defect, or accident had taken such a toll. My stomach clenches, followed shortly by my fists, as angry tears brim. I had heard of this evil, but seeing its horror in a precious little boy's face for the first time sends a geyser of rage through me that is diametrically opposed to the compassionate faith that led me to Kpalimé as a missionary nurse. I envision myself charging in to this village, smashing every idol I can find, and shattering every vessel of "medicine," or maybe pouring some in the healthy eyes of the fetish priest and seeing how he likes the result. It was cataracts, only cataracts, which could have been removed at the mission hospital, leaving him to lead a normal life, not one consigned to learning braille and how to weave chair seats from sea grass, or using a cane to navigate, completely vulnerable to the venomous snakes of which a cane was no warning.
God, how can You let something so bad happen to an innocent little one!
I know all of the correct theological answers I learned in college, but none of them seem good enough at this moment--for this child. My eyes peruse the shelves of medicines and first-aid supplies across from my desk, but not one of them could undo the damage, not even the vial of anti-venom.
Closing the folder, I gather the rest and return them all to the file cabinet, then turn to gaze out the window over the school's grounds.
The fiery red blossoms of the flame tree which shades my window take my breath away anew each time I see them. This time, they start to dowse the fiery rage within me, reminding me that God's incredible creation was perfect, that it was mankind who fell to temptation and brought sin in to it--sin, superstition, and tragedy. I head outside, pluck one of the crimson blossoms, and start walking. I find myself at the front of the school, reading the verse next to the front doors, in both raised letters and dots.
"I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them. Isaiah 42:16."
The goodness of God's promise seeps through me, until I am saturated with peace that the Creator of the fire in my hand, and the Quencher and Forgiver of my fire within, empowers me with love and compassion once more, even for fetish priests, knowing that this verse is living truth that will hopefully reach not just this precious little boy, but the rest of his village with the Light of God's love.
"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:21
This story is fictionalized. To read about the real Village of Light go to:
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