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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Holiday (04/05/12)

TITLE: An Easter Campfire
By Dannie Hawley
04/09/12


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“Tomorrow is Easter. We will toast the goat!” Applause and cheers erupted around the long table at Mr. Thomas’ announcement. Shortages of food and medicines for the famine victims in our camp had been such a burden for weeks; a celebration would be fantastic.

“So, that’s why the poor thing has been tied to that short leash near the kitchen; they’re fattening him up.” My colleague whispered into my ear as the rest of the announcements were made.

“What do you suppose they mean by ‘toasting’ the goat’?” I asked as we walked, glancing at the captive who didn’t look any more well-nourished than our patients.

“Who knows? I don’t see a barbecue pit.” My American tentmate was a bit skeptical, but the resourcefulness of these dear Ethiopian people was legendary.


Turning away from the Easter service stragglers, I caught sight of the roaring fire blazing in the center of the gathered camp personnel. Where were Hannah and Esther? I veered away from the moving mini-throng to check out the kitchen area. Sure enough, that’s where they were, busily slicing strips of goat for the waiting flat pan. The pungent aroma of the powder Sarah sprinkled on each morsel alerted my senses that the meat would resemble the fiery stew normally consumed twice-daily.

“Happy Easter, Ladies! So, Sarah, are you slipping some medication onto the meat or just helping them prepare?” The Ethiopian pharmacist was one of my closest friends.

“I volunteered to help. I’m enjoying my role as a cook’s helper today. You’re gonna love this goat, Sister.” Indeed, I probably would since my lips and digestive system had toughened up over the months of eating such highly seasoned foods.

“Let’s get started.” I hurried over to find a seat in the circle as the MC for the event banged away on the empty pot. “Okay, who wants to be the first to tell a dirty joke?”

“Is he serious?” My shocked colleague gasped in my ear. Squeezing my arms against my sides, I clenched my intertwined fingers and hoped my smile was still in place. These folks were committed Christians; we must be missing something.

“Let’s let our American friends go first.” Eagerly nodding heads turned to smile at me.

“Uh, I don’t really know any dirty jokes.” My heart was racing and my face burned hot like the fire before me. “Perhaps, Mr. Thomas should begin since he is our leader?” I choked out the proposition, pleading eyes connecting with the Ethiopian Project Manager.

“I’ve got one; I’ll go first.” Sporting the familiar broad grin with those mischievous eyes, Nurse Adam impatiently jumped to his feet; Thaddeus grabbed his arm to stop him.

“Oh, no. You can’t tell that one! We have guests.” Thaddeus pleaded, but the rest of the group cheered Adam on. With raised eyebrows, I searched the faces of my American colleagues, who responded with a quick shrug of the shoulders.

“Well, this is what happened to Thaddeus.” Tension eased, genuine grins returning as we listened to the unfolding story. We joined the hoots and howls as Adam shared the practical joke he had played on Thaddeus. One-by-one, the group recounted these dirty jokes or some other funny thing that had happened to a teammate, including the Americans. While I laughed at the tales, my heart ached as I recalled the flip-side of each recent history.

Thaddeus, our Chief Nurse, had suffered beatings and unthinkable horrors for ten months, including long periods of being bound and suspended upside-down. His jailors declared he would be tortured until he denied Christ. Ultimately, they released Thaddeus because they tired of tormenting him. His crime? He refused to stop a Bible Study for university students held in his home.

Sarah, mother of three small children, spent one horrific year in prison when her twins were three and her first-born just five. Sarah’s only food came from her mother’s Sunday visits, unless the guards refused. Her crime had been to speak the name of Jesus to a pedestrian as they waited for the stoplight to change on a capital city corner.

Everything suffered for Christ, my Ethiopian friends counted a privilege. They set aside painful memories and reveled in telling delightful camp tales. Their joy was infectious.

The hilarious story-telling ended when the flat pan was removed from the fire, delicious, hot pieces of goat passed around the circle with two slices of orange for dessert. Easter, celebrated during a famine, wasn’t really about food; it was about family.


____
Authors’ note: This is a true account of my 1985 Easter, though the names have been changed.


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This article has been read 363 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Rosamund Bunney04/12/12
I found your entry moving and challenging. I can't help hoping it wins!
CD (Camille) Swanson 04/12/12
You have a beautiful style of writing and easy flow to your stories.

Excellent job of bringing the "horror" to your readers of what some Christians endure in Jesus Christ's name. I thank God all the time for being able to express it in a country that allows us to do so.

Powerfully executed. Thank you. This will be noticed by the judges.

God Bless~
Genia Gilbert04/12/12
Wonderful and inspiring! A unique Easter celebration indeed. Thanks for writing it.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 04/12/12
This is such a touching story. It has a powerful message that we who are fortunate to live in a safe country often forget. It reminded me of my daughter telling of her mission trip. They went to meet a lady who had raised all of her children while living in the city dump. When they first arrived, my daughter wondered how she would ever see God in a horrible place like that. Her hostess changed it and she said it was the closet she had ever felt God. I'm sure you, too have looked into starving people's eyes and seen God. What a gift and how wonderful to share it with us.

I will admit it took me a few readings to realize that a dirty joke is what we might call a practical joke but even though it took me a bit to realize it your story shined through. I could empathize with the language barriers and one of the messages in this story is that the language of God's love is universal.
Leola Ogle 04/12/12
"...during a familne wasn't about food, it was about family..." We are so blessed in America, and so often take it for granted. This was an excellent story and well written. God bless!
annie keys04/13/12
Beautifully written! A heart moving story, even before I knew it was non-fiction. The fact that it was 'real' made it all the more precious.

Well done.
Joe Moreland04/14/12
Thanks for sharing this with us. The entry was such an effortless read that I simply started and, before I knew it, I was at the end. I got just a small taste of these characters and wanted so much to read more abou them. Very nice job!
Graham Insley 04/17/12
I enjoyed being reminded that each culture sees things so differently; and it's because our experiences are so different. Would we be able to turn such a horrific experience and simply look at it as a 'dirty joke'? One wonders?

Well written and thought provoking.
Colin Swann04/18/12
An interesting and challenging read, and very well written.
Laura Manley04/18/12
Your entry moved me to tears; talk about these people's "reasonable service!" Your article was very well written with your ability to bring the reader into what's going on and equal dialogue between your characters. I enjoyed this very much. Excellent!
Verna Cole Mitchell 04/18/12
This excellently told story will linger in my heart.
Pam Ford Davis 04/19/12
Your personal missionary experiences are opening my spiritual eyes to God's work in distant lands. This is such a beautiful illustration of those who have suffered for the cause of Christ. They literally rejoice always!

Wing His Words...