“Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
– 2 Corinthians 5:17
I promised to continue writing The Saving of a Wilting Flower many days ago. However, a lot has happened and as a result, I have found myself writing about other things. For starters, we managed to visit Sister Bertina who agreed not only to forgive Diamond, but to visit him in prison.
Follow this link to read The Saving of a Wilting Flower.
And so it happens that Sister Bertina did deliver on her promise last Friday. It was the first time she has every visited a prison and it was so disconcerting to her, she found it hard leaving the prison immediately her visit was over. Despite her many years working as a social worker, visiting a prison, seeing some of the boys walk in the facility and meeting Diamond cut through her heart like a knife.
“James,” she said, “I’ve been to worst places, but none compares to a prison. Where do you and Elisha find strength to get involved in such a difficult ministry?”
“It’s God’s doing, Sister Bertina,” I replied. “I can’t do it on my own.”
“The boy wants to go back home,” she continued. “All we need is someone to vouch for his character as well as guarantee he will go back to school. I can vouch for his character and pay school fees for him. However, I really need your help.”
“Go ahead,” I said, already knowing where the conversation was leading to.
“Please find a place for him to stay,” she said, “I will also need you to accompany me to court during his future court hearing and cases.”
When what goes around seems to come around
“Let me tell you a story,” Sister Bertina continued as thoughts kept churning inside my mind. “I am not the one who Diamond committed a crime against. It is only that I am the only one he has known since he was a little boy.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“A long time ago before Diamond ever existed I used to offer free counseling to a young woman who was a prostitute by then. I only discovered she was Diamond’s mother many years later after we were relocating Diamond to his family,” she almost whispered. “It is home where Diamond’s has problems.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Diamond became a street boy when his mother got married,” she replied. “The husband isn’t ready to accept Diamond. That’s where the problem is. Much as the courts have given Diamond a free bond and he is free to leave prison, he has no home to go to!”
“Diamond used to do well at the school where we had taken him to,” she continued, adding, “This boy really needs your help.”
“Okay, I am not promising anything because I have no place to house boys,” I replied, my voice breaking. “How can I reach his mom?”
“I have her husband’s phone number,” she said, retrieving her phone. “Here it is.”
“That is a good start,” I said.
It is 5 days since this happened and I am yet to get through to Diamond’s step dad. I have been calling the number every day to no avail since the number is switched off. Part of me wants to believe that he will accept his wife’s son – even if he is another man’s son. I know I am dreaming too much but who knows, doesn’t the Bible promise that all things are possible?
The sins of the fathers
Are visited from old
In a never ending circle
Of people bought and sold
So the wretched of the earth
Would huddle from the cold
As a ship of fools go sailing
On an ocean black as gold
– UB 40, Sins of the Fathers
Paying for the Sins of the Fathers
Our prison system is full of people – most of them brilliant and yet helpless – who are paying for the sins of their fathers. Most of them will one day have children who will find themselves in a never ending vicious circle of coming in and out of prison. I have met men who are serving their sentences and either have parents who were once imprisoned or they were given birth to while their mothers were in prison. This reminds me of a visit Tracy Hanson, my wife and I had at the Animal Orphanage.
As we were being taken around, there was beauty all around us. There were beautiful and majestic birds and animals all going through rehabilitation before they can be taken back to their natural habitat. We saw and marveled at all of them, their current situation, future hopes and stories behind their being at the orphanage.
We laughed when a bunch of mischievous monkeys jumped all over the place, terrorizing and grabbing handbags from hapless women. We listened to the bird songs that filled the air with mirth and joy, hopes of dreams to be fulfilled in the near future. At about 3 pm a loud roar rent the air, and suddenly the mischievous monkeys, the buffalo that had spent the whole afternoon chewing curd, the Ugandan crane bird pecking at maize and the leopard that had been playing with a ball all stopped in their tracks.
Everything stood still. And you could tell that the lion is indeed, the king of the jungle. And one by one, the twenty lions at the orphanage, roared while every activity that had filled the space and atmosphere came to an abrupt stop. But don’t be fooled, there is a sad twist to all of this bravado and chest bursting roar.
All of the lions are here to stay because having been rescued as young cubs and having stayed in captivity, they cannot be released back into the wild. They cannot survive out there. What’s more, they are castrated and cannot bring forth future prides of lions that will continue their lineage. They can sex all they want to and have continue flirting with fantasies of seeing their children take over the mantle of roaring and still not see their dreams become a reality.
Long after all the roars had died down and all the activities resumed – chirping, grabbing of handbags, kicking balls and chewing curds – I never looked at the pride of lions the same again. Their pride in captivity suddenly turned into a source of shame, nothing to be proud about and in the words of Gramps Morgan and his siblings; there is nothing to smile about!
“Why are lions castrated?” I asked.
“Lions are the only animals that cannot be taken back to the wild,” our guide explained. “They are not wired to function the way they would have had they not been rescued from danger.”
“What kinds of dangers were these ones rescued from?” my wife asked.
“Most of them were rescued after their mother had been killed in a road accident while others had been rescued from a rival male lion that had killed their father and taken over the territory. And because they have lost their instincts to hunt, fight and protect their territory, these lions will live and die in captivity.”
“And leave no cubs behind to take their place?” I asked.
Well, I have been in forums where a motivational speaker used an image of a cat whose shadow is a lion. While that can inspire someone to find the courage to pursue their dreams and goals in life, the same cannot be said of a boy in juvenile prison – and especially if that boy has been told he is free to go home and has no where to call home.
That simply means I have to do all I can to find a place Diamond will call home. Sister Bertina has guaranteed she will find us a school and will accompany us to court whenever Diamond has court hearings. Because the court has given him a free bond, meaning he is free, finding a place to stay will enable Diamond to exit prison and successfully reintegrate into the community as we continue the rehabilitation and reconciliation process. Otherwise, the shadow behind the cat may laugh into our faces…