In Nigeria, there is a popular saying that goes “it takes a whole village to raise a child”
I saw this saying in action yesterday. I live in a small community…a village actually which is where my parents work as missionaries. The mission base is at the border of the village and there has been peaceful interaction between the villagers and the missionaries for the past 23 years. Amongst the missionaries and those attending the mission training school we have couples and families. Last week the mission trainees were taking out of the base on an outreach. One of the families had little children ages 5, 3 and 1 respectively. They went along with the one year old but left the other two in the charge of the mother’s sister who was only 15years old herself. It was not until yesterday that we realised she had not been sleeping at home; she left those poor babies alone. A search was made and she was discovered holed up with a boy she said was her boyfriend. Now, a lot is tolerated in my country but that sort of blatant irresponsibility is not. The boy, who was only 16 years old himself, was hauled to the police station with his girlfriend where they were given the beating of their lives.
The average Nigerian believes that there is only one thing which can drive sexual immorality from a young child and that is to beat the devil out of that child. The Police in Nigeria is quite different from what obtains in other countries…they not only keep law and order, they keep morality. So if a child is difficult at home he or she is hauled to the police station for an overnight stay from which he or she comes out sober and more respectful. Go figure. Anyway, this young girl and her beau did not have the luxury of therapy and counselling which their western counterparts would have received; instead they had the devil beaten out of them.
I watched helplessly because I knew I could not interfere. How could I? That is how children are trained in Nigeria, I even got some of the same treatment but that’s another tale for another day. I waited patiently and when the girl was brought back to the mission base I took her with me to my house. After a long and sober talk I discovered some certain facts:
1. She did not have sexual intercourse with him
2. She was in love with the boy
3. She had been raped a year ago
All these made me think. I tried to talk with her, to let her realise that loving someone was a huge responsibility. The boy spent the night in a holding cell…what kind of love was that which got the loved one into trouble? I wanted her to realise that she was not cheap; her mother carried her in the womb for 9 months, went through labour and Jesus died on the cross for her – she was certainly NOT cheap! I don’t know if I got through. I hope I did. However, I’m keeping her with me for awhile; some neighbours took the babies in. The boy is still in the holding cell but I am going for him later today. I will try and talk with him…I found out he is the product of a broken home and practically raised himself; he also dropped out of school. I don’t know what I’m going to say to him but I trust the Lord to put the words in my mouth. After my talk, I’ll write about him later. Meanwhile, I covet your prayers. I don’t know if this was why I was led back to the place where I grew up. Surprisingly, it has a high record of people infected with HIV/AIDS. It is a near epidemic and is something to pray about.