2006-08-28

The Tree Attack

The Tree!

Part 1 - Position Available
Part 2 - The Year was 1999
Part 3 - Red Dirt or Green Grass
Part 4 - Preparations and Going the UK
Part 5 - But I's Dark and it's only 4.30pm!
Part 6 - Laying Out the Fleece
Part 7 - Oh, That's Why We're Here!
Part 8 - Shakin in my long skirt and sandals
Part 9 - You won't mind teaching history will you?
Part 10 - Gas Canisters on the Roof

In my last post I described a situation I found myself in one day which involved a riot on the bridge in Niamey. That was one example of a situation that may confront short-termers when they are living overseas. It doesn't mean that this will happen to every short-termer as some don't experience anything like this.

There was one other occassion where we faced danger during our time in Niger. I will describe this to you but be aware that this wasn't a normal situation and was quite a rare event. It happened while we were visiting the city of Parakou in Benin, a country bordering Niger on it's south-western edge.

We were travelling with some very experienced missionaries, Jonathan and Bonnie had been in Niger for many years and knew fluent French and other local languages. They know the culture and what's acceptable in Niger. Benin however is a different country although it does have similarities. We hadn't been on the SIM Parakou compound for long when we decided to all walk down the road to the local markets and see what we could discover. In our little group was ourselves, Johnathan and Bonnie and their 4 year old son. Two minutes down the road we came across a magnificent tree which is common in Africa (see picture above). Jonathan offered to take our photo in front of the tree and we happily agreed. (picture right - also got a flat tyre)

In Africa there are certain things you don't take photos of but trees are not one of them so we were very surprised when shortly after our photo was taken a man yelling in French emerged from behind the tree. He and Jonathan spoke for a few minutes and while they were sorting this out I was standing off to the side holding our camera in it's bag. It was an expensive pentax camera, one we'd saved up for a few years before but before I knew it a rather large woman appeared out of the growing crowd and latched onto the camera bag which was slung around my neck. She was inches from my face and she was very scary and she wouldn't let go. I tried to pry her fingers off but she was so strong.

The crowd had grown to around 100 people by now, taxi's were stopping, motorbikes were stopping and the crowd was closing in. I was separated from Michael and before long Bonnie realised what was happening to me. She came over and started doing a sort of karate chop on the lady's arm to make her let go. Now, this is where it gets blurry. It all happened in about 5 minutes but in that time I was grabbed by the back of my top, my sunnies were ripped off my head (I grabbed them back and they snapped), my string bag with our cash in it was pulled till it snapped (I also held on tight and they wernen't successful in getting it but I got a bit of a burn mark on my neck from the string) and I started sweating from head to toe.

Somehow, and this is only the Lord's doing I found myself free from the crowd and pulled the camera from the bag and gave it to Michael. Bonnie and Jonnathan yelled to us to quickly go back to the compound and they'd sort this out. I was worried about their son, where was he in this mess?

As we departed the very strong lady started to follow us and Michael bravely turned around and said to her 'NO!'. She stopped for a moment and then a prominent African man emerged and stood in her way and we walked quickly back to the compound.

I was shaking all over, covered in sweat and was worried about Bonnie and Jonathan and their son. About 10 minutes later they arrived back safely at the compound and explained what had happened. The man who originally yelled thought we'd taken a photo of the palace building which was in a different direction to the tree and this was forbidden. The man who stopped the lady from following us was some kind of official I think and he apologised profusely to Jonathan and Bonnie. He said that they were all very wrong to attack us like that and the lady was very wrong to grab me. The situation was calmed and the people dispersed and they returned to where we were.

Looking back at this event I know that it could have had a very different outcome. It took me quite a while to share this with my family members and I didn't really want to go off the compound the next day. I did however make to to the markets two days later even if I was a bit jumpy. (pic: Beninoir lady we met)

The Lord once again showed how he will protect us. This situation wasn't anyone's fault nor could we control it. He made sure we made it safely back to the compound and we still have that camera today!

Short-termers may find themselves in dangerous situations and they need to be aware of this BUT if you have agreed to follow God in what he is directing you to do you must trust that he knows what he's doing. The SIM staff on the Parakou compound by the way told us that this had never happened before so I do wonder why it happened to us. All I can say is that I learnt a great lesson in trust that day and no, it hasn't put me off going back to Africa.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Jonathan D. Moore said...

Thanks, Amanda, for telling that story! Though it was scary at the time, it does bring back good memories of that vacation with you and Michael. I think, though, the lady's problem WAS that we took the picture of the baobab tree. There are a lot of superstitions and other beliefs about baobab trees in West Africa, stemming from the animistic traditions. Many believe that their ancestors and other spirits can inhabit baobab trees.

Did you know that little 4-year old Timmy is now in Grade 5?!?! It is hard to believe that so much time has gone by since you guys were here.

6:52 pm  
Blogger Amanda said...

Hey there! Didn't know you read my blog! Thanks for filling me in on that, we never did find that out (about the tree) as all I remember was that we thought it was about the palace. I can't believe little Timmy is in grade 5!!!! Time really flies. Michael also remembers a few other things that happened on that trip - namely the hitting of the guy on the bike and the time at the police station!

7:23 pm  
Blogger Ladybird said...

WOw! What a geat story! How exciting yet so scary! Thank you for sharing. It always amazes me what God works out for us when we are walking with him.

3:11 am  
Blogger Amanda said...

Hey - thanks, glad you enjoyed reading it!

10:47 pm  

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