During my road trip last week, I started reading Trish’s book, In Rebel Hands.
For those who don’t know, Trish and her husband Roy (my directors) were taken hostage by the RENAMO rebels some 20 years ago during the Mozambican civil war and a few years back, she wrote a book about it.
This book recalls the fears of nightly attacks, their raid and capture, and then their 3 month trek through the Gorangoso mountains as prisoners, until their eventual release.
It’s moving and insightful and I’m honestly wondering what took me so long to read it. But more than that... It has helped me to understand both Roy and Trish a bit better and has given me a clearer view of what the RENAMO are after and why they fight.
So... last Friday with these ideas still bouncing through my head as I de-bused from my ridiculously long ride back from Maputo, Roy was there to pick me up.
As we drove up the short drive towards Maforga, we chatted about nothing in particular. Maputo. The Bus. My exhaustion, etc. But eventually, the mundane topics petered out.
As I looked over at Roy driving, I could see he had something to say... but wasn’t sure how to begin.
Finally, he spoke.
-- “So we had a strange thing happen today that I think you need to be aware of.”
-- “Oh, yeah?” I said flatly. I was too tired to put any more effort into my response.
He waited a few moments then added, “We had a visitor today that nobody recognized. Long beard. Muscular. A maluco that no one paid much attention to at first...”
I nodded in the dark for him to continue but... he couldn’t see me. So he turned his body slightly to see if I got the full impact of what he was saying. I didn’t.
So he continued. “This maluco (or madman) was wearing bad clothes and looking through all the windows. He seemed particularly interested in the clinic.”
By this point he’d got my attention. So I prodded for more: “What do you mean?”
-- “Once he had carefully looked at everything, he said some troubling things to the guards which made them think he was RENAMO military in disguise. So we called the police to report it.”
-- “Oh, Okay.” I stated coolly but my mind was racing with Trish’s book. Then I asked, “So you think they might cause problems here?”
-- “It’s hard to say,” he said softly, than paused. “I just need you to be aware that if they come to attack us... you and the Bells (another American missionary family on the farm) are the most attractive hostages.” He paused a moment, then added, “I worry about those little kids.”
Instantly my mind raced back to the book. In it, I’d learned that Roy and Trish were not the only ones captured during that raid. There were seven adults and three kids, but only one American.
The American hostage gave the RENAMO greater negotiating power as it forced the US government to officially recognize them at a political power.
-- “I see,” I said a bit absentmindedly, my mind racing ahead to the news I heard in Maputo the night before. Another medical clinic in Tika (a few hours drive from here) was attacked and raided. No one was hurt, but everything that could be stolen was.
Linens. Medicines. Buckets.
By this time we had reached our destination, but neither of us got out of the car.
More questions. More confirmations.
In the end, he explained the details of the day once again and I thanked him as I opened my car door to go.
-- “There’s one more thing...” he added. “If you hear anyone outside your window or door trying to force their way in, please just try to sneak out the back and hide in the bushes.”
This was what they had done during the war. They escaped more than one raid that way. Trish talks of it now and again, sometimes pointing out to various bushed or trees on the farm and saying, “Oh.. see there? That is where we hid from the RENAMO during the attack which killed four rebels. When we woke the next morning, a dead man was lying just there,” she said pointing to a grassy knoll.
That night, I confess I had moments of halting fear and plenty of “What ifs”. But then I prayed and God gave me peace. I also asked you all to pray and now the fear has gone completely.
If they attack, then... well... they attack. I can’t control that. If they decide to take me hostage... not sure I’ll have much say in that either. So why worry about it now?
The next day, however, I spoke to another team member about it. He reminded me that only government clinics are being attacked. “It’s unlikely that any private clinics will be bothered”, he assured me.
So there you have it.
Malucos. Rumors of raids. Wars. Etc.
I don’t now if we’ll have any troubles... all I know is that God fights for us. I feel His presence; I breathe in His peace.
Nevertheless, please be in prayer for this country and the many skirmishes that are fought in it every week. The government won’t allow most of it to be reported. Many are in the dark about it all --including me.