A Good Friday and a bad Friday

I should apologize for not keeping this up as well as I should have, but our internet cable was stolen again two weeks ago and Ghana Telecom is still deciding whether or not they are going to replace it.(We think that they might finally place an armed guard out there.) So that makes it five times in the past four months I think.
Anyway, let me tell you about my Holy Week and Easter. We decided as a house that we would attend all of the masses and services during Holy Week at St. Peter’s Regional Seminary in Pedu, Cape Coast. I had heard of the place many times, but I had never actually seen the place.(For the group that came here last July-August the Seminary was right down the road from the Church that you attended for the Fante Mass.)
So we traveled out to Cape Coast on Thursday afternoon for the 8pm Mass at the Regional Seminary. When we arrived on the campus it was dark and you could see all these seminarians walking around in quiet contemplation. I remarked to Fr. Bob that they looked like ghosts floating around in the night wearing their white cassocks.
It was a beautiful night with a nice breeze blowing every now and then. The moon was full and the stars were out in their numbers. We took our seats in the back of the chapel since the rest of the seat were going to be full of seminarians. I found out that the Seminary currently has about 277 seminarians. I think Moreau Seminary at Notre Dame has about 25.
So eventually the place was full of the young seminarians and in the back five rows were all of the visitors and Roman Sisters. I leaned over to tell Jude, one of the young men in the pre-novitiate for the Brothers, that is was pretty inspiring being around all of these pious men.
Well, I think that was the reasoning behind going to the seminary for Holy Week. The liturgy was flawless and traditional. The singing was superb. The experience was wonderful.
I do not have many memories of going to stations of the cross or veneration of the cross on Good Friday, but the memories I made form this past Good Friday will be very important ones for my future.
Some people out here call Good Friday crying day. It was definitely an emotional day for me. I kept thinking throughout the stations if I would be one of the people who condemned Jesus after welcoming him joyously into Jerusalem. Would I have had the courage to cry out against the murder of an innocent man? These kind of questions ran through my head all day long. It made me feel like crying since I wasn’t sure if I would have stood up for Jesus. He gave his life freely for me and for all…how have I said thank you?
I kept thinking about that subject for the next couple days. I began to apply it to my life and my work here in Ghana. Am I doing everything I can out here? Am I standing up for those marginalized? How much am I really giving of myself? Am I seeing Christ in the poor, the afflicted, and the sick?
It was this kind of critical reflection that honestly made me feel that so much of what I do is selfish and inadequate. So on Easter Sunday I resolved to myself to change all of that. I will give even when it hurts. And when I fail in doing this I will try again and again.
I will prepare myself to risk much for the well being (spiritual and physical) of my brothers and sisters around the world.(It is funny how this all worked out.) I resolved that I am going to prepare myself for a life of selfless service.
So the following Friday the day started out rather strangely. I came out of my room at about 5:30a.m. to see a mad man running up our hill to the house. He was screaming, “I’m not crazy Teresa! Hey, white man! There is a dead body down there. Come and get the body!”
Now ever since the Damien Mental Health Clinic in Fijai shut down many of their former patients have not been receiving any medication so they have really been losing control and wandering all over the area since their families refuse to care for them. On more than one occasion they have come to our house. There isn’t much we can do for them when they come and sometimes they are so hysterical when they arrive that we just have to send them away. It’s a sad situation.
That morning at school I heard that two of our students got into a fight. One boy badly injured the other after hitting him in the face with a t-square. We took the wounded boy to the hospital and the other boy was nowhere to be found.
At around Noon that same day I heard a loud ruckus outside the school library where I was working with a student. I turned to see a few students running across the assembly area towards the canteen just outside the campus grounds. As I walked out of the room I saw about a hundred of our boys gathered around the canteen outside the campus.
I knew what it was before I got there. It was what I feared…Ewee. In the Fante language Ewee means thief. Now why does that cause me to fear? Stealing in Ghana, or in Africa, for that matter is a pretty serious crime. The thing is thieves aren’t turned over to the police, in fact, the police sometimes don’t ever hear about the incidents. When a thief is caught he faces mob justice which usually ends up with the thief being beaten, humiliated and then lynched, drowned, or burned to death. The general justification for such brutal punishment is that to steal something that someone has worked their whole lives for is like taking that person’s life; so you should be killed for doing such a thing.
Anyway, the story is this. A young man was caught trying to steal a TV. antennae in Anaji, where our school is located. The small mob stripped the man naked and beat him severely. They walked him down the road humiliating him in front of all who were present until the thief ran toward our school for some vain hope of refuge. His accusers continued to beat and insult him outside our school grounds.
When I finally got to the scene I was overcome with anger. There were my own students laughing, insulting, and encouraging the other men to beat the thief. Once of the students ran up to me laughing like a jolly fool, “Hey Bro…look look Eweeo!” I shoved him to the ground and started screaming at the tops of my lungs for the students to go inside. I don’t think they ever saw me that angry because they all scattered and ran inside. One of the teachers came out behind me and helped me to get the rest of the boys back inside.
I turned back to see the thief crying and begging for his life whilst bleeding all over. His accusers stood over him holding big sticks and shovels. They were shouting insults in the vernacular and slapping him across the face.
They wanted to kill him. I felt sick. I couldn’t stand it so I stepped up to the accusers and begged them to let him go. At first they didn’t mind me at all. Almost as if I wasn’t there, but eventually they began to move away from the thief until there was only one man left. He still stood there holding his stick threatening the thief by slamming it on the bench behind where the thief was sitting. I looked at the man and told him he was sick.
All of the students were still watching from inside the campus. I had to do something for the young man. I took off my undershirt and gave it to the poor naked criminal. We made eye contact for about one second before I turned and headed back inside the school.
As I walked back into the school all of my students with impatient tones demanded to know why I would do such a thing. “Bro why would you give that man your shirt? He is a thief.”
I was so bewildered by my mixture of rage and discouragement that I could hardly speak, but I did manage to answer their question. “Because I am a Christian.”
I don’t think they understood me.


Anonymous said...

hey Jay, that sounds pretty scary. We are all really proud of you and what you are doing. You are doing a great job of living your faith. What happened to the criminal? Did they spare him? We will all keep praying for you and all your boys. ~cousin Bethy

Anonymous said...

Dear Jay, How sad this must have been to see your boys go along with the mob mentality. Do not let yourself become discouraged. You are planting the seeds of Christian living. God will see to the rest. Keep planting Jay, the fruit will come. We love you. May God continue to keep you in His arms until we can hold you in ours. All our love, Aunt Eileen & Uncle Steve

Erin said...

"He lifted up Himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground."

"And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst."

I immediately thought of this story from John's gospel after hearing about what you did. Jay, I think plenty of us can agree that at times we feel like we don't give ourselves whole heartedly to God and his son's teachings. But what you did for that man, and putting yourself at risk was truly amazing. Even if your boys can't understand you and your actions now, one day they might, and they will look back on that day they saw their teacher stand up for what was right, and perhaps do the same. I'm proud of you Jay... Erin