Every day we’re constantly faced with choices and dilemmas. Last week was one of the strangest dilemmas I had ever faced in my life. Although I’ve hesitated sharing this story, I think it’s served to stretch me in many ways and therefore I believe it to be beneficial for others to hear.
Last week I went into work at the school on a regular Thursday morning. I had taken public transportation to get in and was a bit distraught at the amount of time it took because of all the traffic, but nonetheless, I had made it and went into the office to greet my co-workers. It seemed as though less people were around for some reason. A few were outside sifting through maize and stirring githeri as usual, but normally I would come to find everyone outside the kitchen working on something. I went back into the office to drop off my bag and when I opened the door to the first aid office/intern office, there was a child laying on a mattress pad on the floor who appeared to be sick, with a few adults that I had never met before standing over her muttering words that I couldn’t make out. There were also two students that appeared to be her age, about 13 or 14, sitting next to her by her head. I quickly closed the door, not wanting to draw attention to myself. The room seemed pretty serious and I didn’t want to be the Mzungu who caused some kind of problem to occur.
I threw my bag on a chair in another room and stepped outside. I found Patrick out there, the supervisor for First Love at the school, and decided I could ask him what the deal was in the office back there. He proceeded to tell me that the young girl was an orphan that they had little history of, but she had been sitting in class that morning and had fallen unconscious. They took her into the first aid office and Patrick said she regained consciousness, but began kicking and flailing her arms, complaining that somebody was choking her. She had been in the room for about an hour at this point, and Patrick mentioned that in his attempts to pray for her she would show discomfort and start shaking.
I was pretty interested by this because I’ve heard plenty stories of demonic possessions (aside from the corny American horror films that have been made), but even through the stories it is something that has always been pretty confusing to me. Scripture speaks many times of demons and people being possessed, and although it’s not seen very often in the US today, I believe that it is still something that occurs. I spent a while sitting outside of the room, wondering if I should step in and try to see what was going on for myself, or lay back because it wasn’t my place to get involved. The door kept swinging open and closed as people were going in and out between their work. Eventually, however, everyone had left and the door was open, only the sick girl and two of her classmates remained in there with her. As a firm believer that you should enter in when God opens doors for you (this time very literally), I opted to go in. I started off by having one of the young girls read a passage of scripture out loud while I assessed the situation, doing some simple first aid surveying I learned when I was a lifeguard and boy scout. The problem was that I couldn’t tell if anything was medically wrong because she was breathing, albeit very heavy, her eyes showed movement, her heart was beating, and her pulse was fine, though a bit fast.
After a few minutes, the school’s headmaster, a teacher, and one of the First Love cooks came in. They began muttering back and forth whether or not this was something for a doctor or if it was a spiritual matter. They debated back and forth until I suggested we just pray over her, which turned into just me praying as nobody else volunteered. When I finished praying, she was still shaking all over and reaching for her neck as if being choked. At this point, I was called to go help in the kitchen, so I left.
The next chance I got, I went back into the room. This time the teacher was in there with the girl’s aunt, her closest relative still alive. A few boys no older than 13 years old had also been called in. I asked the teacher what was happening and he said that they had decided to have these boys carry her over their shoulders back to her shack in the slums. They would deal with her over there. I was very much not okay with this at all, but it wasn’t my decision to make. I questioned what would happen to her there and the teacher said that they would have a pastor or local minister come see her, he was sure it was something spiritual. I still didn’t like the idea of this, but I didn’t really have an alternative myself, so they picked up the girl, who was like dead weight, and began the hike with her over their shoulders. The teacher told me he would let me know the status of her the following day.
The dilemma I faced was that in this circumstance the problem feasibly could have been a spiritual or medical concern, but, in my opinion, there was nobody qualified to make that kind of assessment. We still have no qualified nurse on staff at the school, a problem that continues to plague us each passing day, and an orphan in the slums wouldn’t have the kind of insurance to get a qualified doctor to look at her. Even if a doctor had, they would likely operate under the assumption that spiritual possessions such as this do not exist, and proceed to search for something they simply could not find. On the converse, people at the school had mainly jumped to the conclusion that she was possessed because they didn’t know what else it could be and had little exposure to medicine. In this regard, I believe our ideologies are a bit opposite between the US and Kenya. In the US, we almost always turn to science or medicine first, denying that spiritual occurrences could be the reason behind something. In Kenya, they tend to turn to spiritual occurrences as the reasoning much earlier on, sometimes without fully considering that there may be real medical concerns.
The next day, I never found the teacher, but Patrick told me that the last he had heard was that she wasn’t much better. I don’t know where this girl Sharon is right now, but what I do know is that she is facing a matter of life or death and most of the people around her are responding nonchalantly. Sharon is not the only child in this situation. There are many children I have yet to face who are in situations of medical or spiritual concern without the proper attention being given to them. I call you to pray for these children. My hope and my prayer is that God will show me what can be done, but ultimately it will never be me that is going to make the change, it is going to be God and how he chooses to work through the hearts of the Kenyan people as well as myself. Sorry if this story has seemed crazy, but the events that occurred are true, and I am still searching and praying for a just solution myself.