I hope you “enjoy” reading this. It doesn’t do justice to what I saw and the experience of people opening their lives wide open and then looking at you to see how you respond. Galmi touched my heart.
Thanks for reading,
Galmi Part 2
After we had spent several hours in the OB/GYN unit at Galmi Hospital, our translator asked us if we wanted to visit the post-surgical woman’s ward.
The surgical ward is a crowded place. There is a tv at one end of each room, and there were 15 or 20 beds in the room we entered. And, like the OB/GYN unit, each person staying at the hospital has someone with them. Remember that hospitals here don’t have cafeterias or food you can purchase. If you are hungry, your family member needs to look after that need as best they can.
As we enter the room, my translator gasps and asks what has happened. I look over her shoulder and regard the woman on the hospital bed. She is sitting on the bed, naked from the waist up. She has no left ear, there is a hole and a bit of cartilage where her ear used to be. She is scarred from her hairline to her waist on the left side of her body. The breast area looks the worst, with some very difficult to look at burns. It hurts to look at this woman. She looks at Yop and then, past her, into my eyes. Our gazes hold steady; I do not look away from her. I will call her Hadiza. This is her story.
Hadiza is married to a man of the main faith here. After they were married, he took a second wife. Hadiza did not object. She thought that she and the second wife got along well enough. Then, one day, while the second wife was cooking, she took the cooking oil that was boiling over the fire and she threw it at Hadiza. Later, she said that she did it because she wanted to take Hadiza’s beauty. She was jealous. Hadiza had given birth 40 days before. It has been 10 months since the day she was attacked. The second wife is now in prison. There is a two-inch by six-inch bandage covering a red rectangle on Hadiza’s right thigh where the doctors have taken skin to begin grafting over an area of her burns.
I listened as Hadiza spoke softly to Yop and as Yop translated for me. When Hadiza finished her story, we sat for a few moments in silence. What could I say to this woman? She had suffered greatly at the hand of another. I prayed. I had been telling women that Jesus knew their name, that He wanted them to know he loves them. I decided to tell Hadiza a bit of my own story. I told her that when I was young that I, too, had lived with someone who had hurt me, someone whom I should have been able to trust. That the police came and arrested this person and took them out of my life. I said that made me really look at this man, Jesus, who taught forgiveness. He never kept anger and grudges in his heart.
I told Hadiza that she needed to forgive this second wife. Even if she never saw her again, if she did not forgive her, it could make Hadiza a hard and mean woman. I said that the forgiveness was not a gift to the other woman, it was a gift to herself, so that Hadiza could move forward with a soft heart and love those around her.
Our conversation had only lasted about 20 minutes, but two things happened that astonished me. First, Hadiza started to cry when I spoke of forgiveness. Nigeriennes do not cry. If they cry, it is never in public. It is simply not acceptable. Children are slapped if they start crying. Crying is not allowed. I dared not look up for fear that she would think I was judging her, but I hoped it signified that she still had a heart capable of loving and forgiving.
Second, at the end of our conversation, we were praying together. We asked God to give Hadiza a spirit of forgiveness, an ability to move forward with peace and joy in her heart. We asked that she would see in Jesus that she was loved and that she could still love. When we finished, we looked up. The entire room full of people had silently left their beds and gathered around Hadiza’s bed, leaning in and listening to us. I was startled, looking up into all of these silent faces, wondering if what we said was heard with acceptance in this room of people who did not believe as I did. As Yop looked up, she said, “Julie, look how many people needed to hear the message of forgiveness!” As I got up to leave, a woman who had been sitting on the floor beside the bed got up and spoke to me. I asked Yop for help. This woman wanted to hear more, but she was leaving the hospital that day. Yop promised her that she would get her an SD card before she left. I had just given out the last one I had, but there were more at the guest house.
It was an experience that I won’t soon forget. Hadiza, if she doesn’t get an infection, will go home to her husband and child. Yet, because she had been so hurt, she and a room full of people got to hear about the healing power of forgiveness. God used what someone had intended for evil as something for good. I don’t wish Hadiza’s physical pain on anyone, yet I hope that someone was listening who discovers the idea of forgiveness is life-changing.