May I tell you a real event that seemed to me a mighty parable of a lot of what we are doing with God’s help?
Kananga has no ambulances, no medical squads. Two weeks ago as we drove to the office, we saw a crowd on the road, rather agitated. We stopped, as we thought we might need to take care of a traffic victim.
As we worked our way through the crowd, we saw that a woman had fallen
in a pit of about 1m deep and 2m long filled with liquid tar. She could barely
keep standing. She tried, but could not climb out, and cursed and cried
bitterly. The crowd was abuzz with comments, some people ridiculing her, some
cursing her as a witch. We learned from some comments that she was homeless and
considered psychotic, even though we doubt she really is.
We decided to drive off and get organized with petrol before attempting to extract her and wash her. Jean, two helpful police officers, and I scrubbed her gently, and Jean shaved off her hair that was caked with tar. Three hours, 15 litres of petrol, and two runs home for water and soap later, and we had her untarred, but stark naked.
Our driver had fetched some nice clothes. As we offered her the clothes, she stood up for the first time, smiled in triumph, dressed and started a dance of joy. I joined her for a few steps giving thanks for the liberation. The crowd, until then rather hostile, laughed in joy and empathy. The psychodrama had ended in catharsis.
So we took her with us up to Butoke’s office, so that she was free of the crowd. We bought her some doughnuts. As we took leave at the office, she blessed us and offered us a part of a doughnut. A true paradoxical sacrament.
You may ask a practical question, “Why the tar pit along a major road?” As public works have insufficient containers for tar, they heat it on a sheet of zinc roofing and drain it into that pit. There was no protection around the pit, and in the early morning hours, the poor woman had run scared on the road because of some strangers pursuing her and fallen into the pit.
What does this parable mean to us? Like most parables it can mean many things. But to me it is the parable of a victim of an uncaring society, incapacitated by the tar of comments and blaming, which we help almost against everyone’s will and against their own despair, and restore to a new wholeness. In the process, all onlookers learn about themselves and the truth of liberation, the love of God. In the end the ex-victim ministers to us in turn, and gives God’s blessing.