Monday, February 23, 2015

Life as I knew It

This post was originally posted on 2/5/11

Prejudice–What does that word mean?

 “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all” Romans 10:12


Awudi came to live with us when I was about three months old. We lived in Joinkrama at the time. She was a new convert to Christianity. Before becoming a Christian, she was married to a man who beat her often. She bore him three children. One day she fled his beatings and in so doing, she lost her home and her children and she was never allowed to see them again. She was banished!

So she came to live with us. While both of my parents worked at the hospital, Awudi stayed at our home with us children. She was like a second mother to me. All of my first memories are filled with Awodi’s presence. She bathed us, dressed us, fed us, and loved on us. For her part, she was happy to be around children again. It made the loss of her children a little easier to bear. She poured her love on all of us. I was a newborn when she came to our family. She called me her baby. As I grew, she changed it to her “big baby”.  I can still hear her saying in her broken (or Pigeon) English, “You ah ma Beeg Bebe!”

After a few years in Joinkrama, the mission moved my family, first to Oyo for language school and after that to Ogbomoso, the home to most of my childhood memories.

When I was ten, the Biafran war broke out. This was a difficult time for everyone in Nigeria. The Eastern part of Nigeria which included Joinkrama waged war against the rest of the country in a futile attempt to gain its independence. At its core, this was a tribal war. The Igbo tribe living in the East was at odds with the other tribes. The conflict hit home at our house because Awudi was Inguini (a small tribe closely related to the Igbos and supportive of their cause).  But Ogbomoso was Yoruba land, home to the Yoruba tribe.

Fearing for Awudi’s life, my parents arranged for her to travel back to her region (the part that was trying to become Biafra). This was a wise and gracious move on the part of my parents and God blessed it. Awudi made a safe journey back and lived many more years among her own people. But it was devastating to me!

I could not understand it! My parents tried to explain to me that Awudi was in danger if she remained among the Yorubas. They tried their best to help me understand the term prejudice, a word I had never heard before. But I had never experienced it and simply could not wrap my brain around the idea that a person might harm another just because of the tribe they belonged to (or the color of their skin, or all the other equally absurd reasons people have for hating one another). I begged my parents to let Awodi stay! She was the embodiment of love to me and I simply could not understand why anyone would want to hurt her.

You know, to this day I do not fully understand prejudice. I was a white minority child in an African world and knew only love from those around me. To this day, I do not fully understand how people can hate others they do not know. I hope I never outgrow this aspect of my childhood.