When I first began writing Passport through Darkness I remember listening to a publisher discourse on how he might market such a book. He said, “Certainly, we couldn’t class it as a memoir because you’re too young to write a marketable memoir.”
My Appalachian father would have vehemently argued that case with him, as most of us are full of stories yearning to be yarned by the age of two—just as my precious granddaughter’s tiny body shakes with energy to get hers out and heard already. The question is not “Do we have a story to be told?” but rather, “Are we willing to bear the pain of letting our bones rattle it up from the cage of our bodies, and are there compassionate ears to hear it even as the thunder of our souls flicker out the tune of our sorrow with tongues aflame?”
13-year-old Faiza is certainly afire with story. Yet, when I call her face to mind, I see a feather-weight child sitting in the back of her classroom so still, so sullen, she’s like an ember pushed to the edge of a fire that will soon lose all its glow if not rekindled amidst the warmth of the whole.
Faiza lives in Nuba Mountains, Sudan, and is part of Our Father’s Cleft ministry. In 2015, we discovered a large tumor on her arm. We took her to the nearest “hospital” to our school called GED. They removed the tumor and we sent it off for testing. It came back benign. Still, I will never forget sitting in that disgusting so-called ward with little Faiza, where chickens commonly roosted on beds, doing their unbidden business on the sheets of those just out of surgery, and goats freely roamed the open-air wards, dropping their refuse along the floors, between the beds, and wherever came natural to them. EVERYTHING IN ME SCREAMED, BRING THIS PRECIOUS CHILD OUT OF NUBA. GET HER PROPER MEDICAL CARE.
Yet, while Faiza is an orphan, she is what is classified as a “single” orphan, meaning one parent is dead, one is alive. Her mother died long ago, leaving young Faiza responsible to care for her elderly and blind father. Together, these two have lived alone in a straw-thatched hut with Faiza being his primary care-giver as long as her memory takes her back. It is the only life she has known.
So, when our dormitories at Our Father’s Cleft were completed, she requested to continue to attend school and be fed, but wanted to remain in the hut with her father to carry him food each night (which we provide from our resources) and watch over him as best as she could. We have helped them both as best we could.
A few months ago, 12-year-old Faiza was dutifully walking home after school to carry food to her father and watch over him when a soldier caught sight of her along the lone dirt path she traveled. He forced her into the bushes, raped her multiple times, ate her father’s food, and left her there to die—feeling self-satisfied.
When young Faiza could finally move, she pressed onward, setting her face like a flint toward the care of her father. Worried at her tardiness, she told him what had happened and together they shared the horror of the vat of helplessness of war which only the young and impaired can know.
The very next morning, Faiza reported the event to our school and church leaders and they helped her with the authorities. She even knew the soldiers name, and reported that. The Chief promised to pursue the soldier.
At least five months have passed. Official Findings to Date: “Said Soldier returned to the frontlines. If he returns to the village he’ll be held accountable to take care of Faiza and the child she now carries in her pubescent womb.”
I cry. I wail. I mourn. I sorrow. For they shout, “Peace. Peace. When there is no peace”…or justice.
Faiza is now full with child. She weighs approximately 75 pounds and has recently turned 13. She has turned deeply depressed and although our staff visits her often begging her to return to school and assures her that we will take care of her baby alongside of her in the orphanage—just as we do our widows and cooks children—she will not come. Shame, fear, PTSD have enshrouded this tiny girl and threaten to snuff out the glowing ember of her life and story.
We asked her if she would be willing to join Roma and Ikibal and the other children we have on scholarship in Uganda, due to other medical issues, etc. At this question, we saw the first glimmer of hope. “Maybe she won’t always have to be known as the girl who was ‘taken’ in the bush within her own village; maybe her story can be rekindled and recast.” She is eager to come. Her old and blind father is eager to bless her on the journey, and is already offering prayers gratitude for “strangers unaware” who are “hosting” his baby girl.
Faiza’s journey will be long and hard as we will have to drive her across the bomb-riddled roads of Nuba to get her to Yida, where one of our loving partner pilots will collect her and fly her to our Safe House in Uganda. Faiza will receive immediate high-quality medical care and baby monitoring. When we are sure she is strong enough, she will live in our Uganda Safe House and her holistic healing will begin, beyond the body to the heart, mind, and spirit.
Faiza’s medevac and initial care will cost thousands of dollars. In addition, we will need to keep her in Uganda for an undetermined amount of time. Thus, I am asking two things:
- Please consider a general donation to our FHL holistic-care medical mission that we might have the needed extra funds to care for Faiza in her medical crisis.
- While Faiza has one regular sponsor, her ongoing expenses will be double or even triple of that cost. Would you please consider partnering with her current sponsor (at $105 monthly) to ensure baby and Faiza receive all they need. If she is able to return to Nuba after the baby is born, her sponsorship would return to our normal $105.
Click here to Sponsor Faiza and Baby.
Thank you for always being the Compassionate eyes to see and ears to hear the bone-rattling stories of the least of these.