Villages Are Still At War Today
This is an account of what transpired in one of our students placement village in the month of November 2018. It has been adapted from the most recent field report. Translated by Paul Richardson.
Hi my name is Lydia. I am a graduate of Mustard Seed’s TransformNation program and am now in my second year of field placement. I teach at a small Christian elementary school, situated in the mountains. My life in the village has been wonderful. After school, I spend time with children from the village. Their parents are so grateful that their children are receiving education. As a gesture of gratitude, they bring us sweet potatoes from their harvest. Our students are eager to learn. Their enthusiasm motivates us to stay creative and improve our skills, in spite of limited facilities and equipment.
On November 16th, I woke up to a great commotion in the village. Men had taken up spears, machetes, bows and arrows. They were gathering to fight a battle with a neighbouring village. We witnessed some of our students and their mothers lost in the chaos, their faces were terrified. A village chief passed by and warned us to stay inside and keep our doors locked. The village became quiet as the battle was being fought two kilometers away. As the day went on, warriors returned to the village, carrying wounded men and slain bodies. We stayed in contact with our supervisors located in a distant village. A helicopter was on its way to evacuate us, but the pilot decided it was too dangerous. They were unable to rescue us.
The stillness of the following morning was quickly shattered by dozens of villagers screaming and running. An elder from the church pounded on our door, shouting at us to run for our lives and hide in the rainforest. We grabbed our bags and fled along with other women and children, afraid that we would be overtaken and murdered.
My friend Tirta, also a Mustard Seed teacher, was in front of me. We ran as fast as we could into the forest and up the mountain slopes. I fought back tears and tried to control my fear. We thought the other teachers ran with us, but everyone scattered. They were nowhere to be found, and we no longer had cell phone coverage. Tirta was also helping his elderly mother; at times he carried her.
Around noon, we made it to the top of the mountain and stumbled upon five huts and were greeted warmly. Feeling safe finally, I immediately collapsed to the ground and cried. I hadn’t eaten in 36 hours. Several women came to hug us and give us food.
I soon realized I was surrounded by children. I asked them where they went to school, and quickly found out they had never been to school. I asked a little girl, “What would you like to learn about?” To my amazement she answered straightforwardly, “I want to learn about numbers.” I began teaching her numbers by writing with my finger in the dirt. I looked up and 15 children had crowded around us. They couldn’t stop asking me questions, and they weren’t shy at all.
I taught them until their fathers returned from battle later that day. We spent the night there, and the next morning we ventured back down to our village where the military had arrived. We were transported by a truck to a nearby city.
All of us teachers are safe, but we worry about our students and pray for their safety. We are also praying that they will be the generation of leaders who end warfare in the mountain villages. As I write this story, the situation in our village is reported to still be dangerous. Please pray for us.