Wednesday, February 25, 2009

On the darkest of nights (corrected, now with a map!)

If you are prone to worry about me (for example, MOM! And Sarah Cool!), please read the bottom of this post first!

I was exhausted yesterday, so by 11:30 last night I was dead asleep when I heard it – BOOM! I was startled awake by a huuuge boom. Had one of the fuel stores blown up? What on earth was it? I got out of bed to see if I could see what was going on. Of course, pitch black (the moon has been rising around 3 or 4 am of late), I could see nothing, but heard voices in the not-so-far-off distance shouting and talking and whooping. I started towards the gate, but decided that I could be of no help, so just went back to sleep…

Amina is a shopkeeper in town. She’s very friendly and has lived in Korr her whole life, so she knows everyone. Yesterday, there were two warriors who came into her shop, which is not uncommon, as there are men in all their warrior finery around town all the time. But she didn’t recognize these two men, and they were not from around here, as they were speaking Samburu, not Rendille. They never bought anything, just hung around in the front of the shop for a while and then left. They made her a little nervous, as there are occasionally raids and robberies on shopkeepers by thugs from other tribes, so when dusk fell, she locked her shop up tight and just went to bed…

Around 9:30 last night, two students from the upper primary school (maybe class 7 or 8) were heading home from evening preps (study session) in town and were approaching the laga - a dry, sandy riverbed where water scarcely flows, flanked by acacia trees and, in this particular location, a network of about a dozen wells. In the distance, by the wells, they saw two flashlights moving all over the place erratically – not the bobbing light of somebody walking, but up, down, back forth, neither approaching nor retreating. Thinking things looked more than a little suspicious, they ran back to town to alert somebody. They went to a man named Hirkenna’s house and told them what they had seen.
(Click the map for a larger view if you need)

Hirkenna immediately headed over to the wells, about 3 km away, and crept silently along the edge of the laga. He got just close enough to see that the two men were warriors who were removing all their beads, headgear, and identifying clothing. They were now in plain clothes, their decorations and shoes removed and tied into bundles at their feet. He also saw that they had two very large automatic rifles. He left, heading off to tell somebody what he had seen.

Some men from the Tirrim project (the project Nick and Lynne started, the same project that my school belongs to) - Joshua, Ndoto, and a few others - were visiting on the front doorstep of Joshua’s house around the same time the two boys spotted the warriors at the laga. Hirkenna and the two boys met them and told them what they saw, so they decided to return to the laga – to do what, unarmed against two men with huge guns, I don’t know, but off they went. The group split into two and silently crept along the laga – all of them know this area inside and out, and the utter darkness was not a deterrent. One group approached from one side, the second from the other. Perhaps hearing the two groups approaching, the two warriors got spooked, grabbed their guns, and fled, shoeless, into the night. The men ran in, grabbed the bundles and the shoes the men left behind, and ran.

Now, you can’t get far in Korr without shoes. Every plant there is has wicked thorns – some one, some two, many three inches long – that cover the already rocky ground. Even the poorest of all poor Rendille people have shoes. The warriors could go nowhere fast, and I’m sure when they returned to get their shoes, they were plenty angry that they had been taken.

Meanwhile, the group of men had fled back to Joshua’s house to discuss what they should do next. Quickly they decided that the best thing was to go to Nick and Lynne’s house to ask for the truck to go to the police post. Once they got there, they shouted up to Nick and Lynne to wake them up, told them of the situation, and got the keys.

By then, the two warriors had made it past the air strip and were near the three houses on the other side when they heard the car start up. Not wanting to be chased, one man, no more than 6 feet away from the door of Joshua’s house, took his gun and fired it into the air. BOOM! It was deafening, especially to Joshua’s wife and a few others who were sitting just outside the door when the shot went off. Terrified, they locked the door and fled through the dark to Nick and Lynne’s, forgetting that they were leaving a sleeping baby in the house behind them. They decided that going back to get the baby was too risky, and besides, if he woke up and cried, the sound would give away their location, so they left the baby sleeping behind, locked safely inside the house.

After they heard the shot, the med decided to drive the car round the back way to drown the sound, and, keeping the headlights off, headed to the police station. “Police station” is, of course, a bit of a misnomer. There is one man appointed by the government to keep a post in Korr. When the men arrived and woke up the ‘police man,’ he took the bundles of belongings, but said something to the effect of, “Well what do you want ME to do? I’m sure not equipped to go after them!” Again heading the long way around, they drove back to the safety of Nick and Lynne’s, over the desert road in total darkness.

In the meantime, everybody from the surrounding houses had escaped to Intaynoy’s house, just across from Nick and Lynne’s. She has a metal hut with a door that locks, so everybody crowded in there and locked the door tight. Those who didn’t fit in the hut came into Nick and Lynne’s yard and the guard tied the metal gate closed. The few home guards in town – men hired to guard the villages and given a small revolver and a one month training course on how to use it – were alerted and were on the watch. Nobody slept that night – they stayed awake talking, and listening to the pop-pop-pop of the odd home guard’s gun shooting into the air to let the warriors know that they were there and they were armed.

One more BOOM was heard off in the distance an hour or so later, back out by the laga, and then the night grew quiet.

How good to have a God who protects us even during the darkest night.

“He will not let your foot slip
He who watches over you will not slumber;
Indeed, He who watches of Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep”
Psalm 121:3-4

Where I stay, there is a fence and an iron gate and a night guard. These warriors come very seldomly, and are looking for money from the shop keepers - they couldn't care less about the missionaries. They come in the middle of the night, and never am I out and about after about 9:30, and even then, after dark, I am always with other people. Now go back up to the top and enjoy the story!


sarah cool said...

I haven't read this yet, but when I read the first line, I thought, "OH GOD." And not in a taking-in-vain kinda way.

sarah cool said...

Oh, Hillary. It is a different world. Keep telling its stories. Love you.

nachtwache said...

OH that got my heart thumping. I take it everyone and the baby was alright? With the personal items of these would be robbers as evidence, has there been an arrest or some form of government investigation?
Thanks be to our wonderful Lord who protects us in the scariest situations.
Stay safe!!

Jean said...

Wow Hillary!! How amazing these stories and God's protection!

Carrie said...

How scary. I'm so glad you are ok and that you can bring us these stories. We need to know what is happening in the world, even though it is very uncomfortable knowledge.

Carrie said...

How scary. I'm so glad you are ok and that you can bring us these stories. We need to know what is happening in the world, even though it is very uncomfortable knowledge.

anne said...

I love that you were protected and able to just sleep on through the insanity! :) I remember when I lived in Jerusalem and the fighting had just started. My dad told me he wanted me to come home when I could hear I didn't tell him! It's interesting how your perceptions and feelings of safety are different in a different setting. I never worried for my safety at the school.

You are never going to run out of crazy stories. And God is going to keep protecting you every step of the way! :)

Hillary said...

Anne - that's exactly right! Thank you for putting it into words - perceptions of safety change!

Nachtwache - hehehe... nooooo. No governemnt investigation, no evidence, no forensics. They'll probably just sit there in the "station" or be sold off or something. It is a different world, indeed!

Echojuliet said...

Hillary, your story telling skills are fabulous. And what better place to put them to use than in Africa? Glad to hear you are having such a good time.

Anonymous said...

My dear, you amaze me. Even through all this, you write with such flare, description and confidence! Your words make you sound safe. I'm glad God is keeping you safe, for sure! Love Auntie Connie.

Brad said...

I love your map! Hillary, it's just like the maps in kids' story books!

Sorry I don't write you more often. My stories seem so boring, and you are such a good story teller. Let's see... metro Van is in a gang war, and people are getting shot a few times a week. Also, it snowed this morning, enough for the city to close the hills near my office. I spent the afternoon re-organizing the office, and the evening drinking beer, watching re-runs, and starting my taxes.