Widows, Streetkids, Injustice, and Transformation
Mama Ntonda is a church leader in Bundilya, a mother of 5, and a widow. For the past three years she has struggled valiantly to provide for her family. Her church family has farmed her fields for her, and other church leaders from the Magu cluster have contributed to help her financially. Through it all, her hope and faith have remained strong.
But two weeks ago, she was put in jail. Why? Because her two sons, Amos (16) and Paulo (13), have not been attending primary school for the last year. Tired of their hard life and the extra burdens placed upon them, they have run away, perhaps to the city of Mwanza. So the head teacher from the village school had the authority to round up some police, put her in jail for two days, and fine her an amount equivalent to half a year’s income. No one seemed to know or care what God spoke in Exodus 22:22; there was no recourse possible, she has to borrow the money from the local savings group, and make her first repayment by selling the only thing she had: a large gunny sack of rice. Her food to last her family until spring.
It could have been worse; she could have been named a witch. Then all of her children would now be orphans. Such is the plight of a Sukuma widow.
I used to think poverty could be solved by shopping at Ten Thousand Villages, buying fair trade coffee, and wearing a white bracelet. Sadly, suffering is not so easily undone; the prince of this world is underwriting it, after all. And though many amazing things have been done to promote justice for the oppressed (I think of my friends working with International Justice Mission or World Renew), at some point we cry out, “Maranatha!”… “May your kingdom come!”. Because we need something, someone, to transform society, to lay down the weapons of exploitation used against the defenseless, and instead to show love, honor, and protection to the least of these.
However, my first gut reaction was not so holy (besides helping financially, which I and the other church leaders have done). Inside, I wanted to see Exodus 22:23-24 fulfilled, wanted to go find everyone involved in this injustice and find a way to expose them, cause them to lost their jobs, whatever it took. But not only would success have been unlikely, I might have found myself deported, and unwittingly increased the persecution faced by Mama Ntonda.
Instead, we prayed, pleading for God to bring his justice. And praying for God to bring these boys home. And praying that this community might be transformed. And that our churches might have some role to play in that transformation. Please pray this along with us.
by kevin linderman