I Promise I Won’t Run

Monday, November 29th:

After speaking with Gugu on Sunday about Tenele and finding out about her background, I was very moved and encouraged to keep pursuing Tenele. I cried so hard for her…again, but this time with tears of understanding. All I wanted to do was find her and hug her and hold her and tell her how sorry I am for what she had to go through.

So, I went to Mangwaneni to see if I could run into Tenele there. I spoke to Pununu and asked if he could go see if Tenele was home, and if she was to tell her that I was waiting on top at the kitchen to see her.
Pununu, bless his heart, nodded in agreement and disappeared into the squatter camp. In the meantime, played some hand games with the kids who were fighting over me. I never knew I could start so many fights before! One of the girls wickedly told another girl that I was her “umlungu” and the other girl hanked my arm in her direction and said no, I was her umlungu! And they all started fighting over who I belonged to…then one girl came over and said to all of them in SiSwati that I wasn’t any of there’s…I was Tenele’s. I couldn’t help but laugh. But as the kids entertained me, I was starting to wonder if Pununu would ever return because he was taking quite a long time. Finally, I saw him coming up the path.

“She won’t come,” he shook his head.
“Oh,” my heart sank.
“I told her to meet you here and she said no, but that you can meet her down there,” he paused. I was bummed. I really didn’t want to go into the squatter camp again. “But I told her that you didn’t want to come because she just ran away from you,” he continued. “So she said she promises if you come she won’t run away.”

I was honestly scared to go down there; I don’t know why my heart was pounding so hard. I reluctantly decided to go to her. It was a good thing I happened to see Gugu on Sunday to hear about Tenele’s background because it made me just want to see her and hug her; if I hadn’t heard, I would not have been motivated enough to go through the squatter camp to see her. About a minute into the walk, I stopped with the two kids who were hanging on my arms and whispered a prayer. “Lord, I need your guidance, your protection, your prompting…” I really was nervous. I didn’t want to see Tenele drunk again and I really was nervous about the drunk guys. But I stepped on. Pununu paused to wait for me as he and Ayanda led the way. Slowly, VERY slowly I made my way to them. Tenele was in a green hat again and barefoot. Her eyes looked worn and tired, but she was not drunk at all. She gave me a weak side hug and didn’t smile like she usually did.

“Tenele, how are you?” I asked putting emphasis on each word.
“I am fine, Mary-Kate,” she answered without looking at me.
“Unemanga (you’re lying),” I whispered. You definitely could tell she wasn’t fine. She turned away and pointed to Nomphilo. I greeted Nomphilo very eagerly and she stood up to give me a warm hug with an at-first-awkward smile, but when I greeted her it became a genuine smile. Much better than last time. Then the woman who I am so angry at for what she did to Tenele came out and approached me. Alcohol was leaking from her breath as she gave me a huge, over exaggerated hug and said, “Oh, Mary-Kate! Do you remember me?”

I was very pleasant and loving to her, but it was so hard… I cannot imagine how a human being could do that to a young girl, especially my Tenele. I know it’s not the first time it’s happened to someone, but the first time it’s happened to someone I love so dearly and it disgusts and repulses me. This woman was SO drunk and she slightly scared me. She invited me to drink with her and some of the other young men who were there. When I denied, she tried to pull me with. Meanwhile, Tenele was standing aback watching it all. Her “step-mother” tried to talk many things with me and when she kept hanging on me and hugging me and coming centimeters away form my face I tried to pull away without offending her. Some other guys were there but they were younger and kept their distance, so I wasn’t afraid of them at all. Nomphilo sat watching us, too. At one point when step-mom hugged me, I caught Nomphilo’s eyes and I just winked at her and she smiled back like she understand what I was silently communicating with her. After step-mom’s invitation to stay and have “juice” I told her, “No, my friend is waiting up at top and I just came by to talk to Tenele and see her…and all of you,” I quickly added because I didn’t want to put Tenele in any more danger by favoring her. Step-mom has a real daughter of her own that she always tries to get me to talk to and such so I wanted to make sure it didn’t look like I was favoring Tenele in front of the evil woman.

“Oh, here for me,” the step-mom slurred her words while she hugged me again. I nodded at Tenele, who was watching me, as if to say I’m here for you, Sweetheart. I reached out my hand towards Tenele and stepped away from the drunk woman. Tenele came over to me and gave me a more sincere hug this time.

“Tenele, so some kids up at the kitchen were arguing over me. One said, ‘this is my umlungu’ and another said, ‘no, she is mine’; and another piped in and said to them all, ‘no, she’s Tenele’s!’”

At this ice breaker, the beautiful smile I am used to returned to Tenele’s face as she lit up into joyful laughter. I cannot begin to describe how wonderful it was to hear her laugh! She tunred to Pununu and joyfully relayed the story in Siswati. Tenele became herself as we talked and she grabbed my hand. Then, a few girls walked past and Khanisile was one of htem. I had been wondering about her for a LONG time. (Khani was the first friend Tenele introduced me to…she was the one who apparently go Tenele into prostitution with some other girls they lived with this past year.) She saw me and hesitated, but she couldn’t pass by my surprisingly eager greeting, “Heeeey!!” She stopped as the other girl walked on.

“How are you?” We hugged.
“Fine,” she lookd to the ground.
I complimented her on her hat and said “umuhle.” Then I asked if she still wanted to go to school.
Without missing a beat, she replied, “No.”
“No?” I was surprised at her honest and quick answer. “Leni?” (Why?)
She just shrugged and couldn’t look at me. “Leni?” I asked again. It looked like she wanted to say something but she didn’t. “School is good, right Tenele?” I turned to touch Tenele’s arm. “Tell her schoool is good for her.”
“Yes,” Tenele smiled and looked at Khanisile.
“What if I taught you? If I could be your teacher, would you come?
Khani didn’t move her gaze from the ground and Tenele and her exchanged a few short words in Siswati and Tenele said, “yes, that would be nice.“

Then very seriously I took Khani by the shoulrders and said, “hey,” and waited till she looked at me. “If you ever need anything or you want to go to school or anything…you know where I stay and you just come and get me, okay?”

She nodded and returned a smile. We hugged and she carried on. I thought it was weird the way Tenele and Khani interacted, or rather DIDN’T really interact, but I didn’t think much about it then. All I could think about was what perfect timing the Lord has in brining Khani by at that exact moment so I could talk to her no matter how brief it was.

I turned back to Tenele, and I addressed the last two situations when she had run away. I told her that I had run into Auntie Gugu and that she told me more about her background; I told Tenele that I cried and cried for her.
“Okay…” Tenele didn’t know what to say.
I told her that I loved her and that I wasn’t going to yell at her. I told her, “Tenele, you don’t have to be scared of me. I am here to love you. I am not going to yell at you or do anything to do.” She nodded and smiled. “Now, I do not agree with what you do, but I am not here to yell at you for it. I just love you and want the best for you.” Again she broke into a huge smile and gave me a big hug.

Then Tenele said with a bit of embarrassment, “Mary-Kate…I don’t have any shoes.” Her feet were dirty with the mud from the rain. And she had told Ayanda she was afraid to meet us for lunch on Friday because she didn’t have shoes and didn’t want to be made fun of. She asked if I could bring her some and I arranged to come back the following day to meet her at the kitchen to take her to town and get some shoes.

As I turned to leave, she wanted to walk with me as we headed back to the top, and it was so wonderful because it was like my ol’ Tenele was back! “Okay, tomorrow two o’clock?” I asked to confirm plans.
“Yes, two o’clock at the kitchen.”

As we said good-by, we hugged and exchanged “I love yous.” As she turned to leave she said, “I miss you,” and I knew how much she meant it.

And immediately I went home and prayed praises to God for this day. And I wrote the following in my journal:

Lord, I still canot imagine what she goes through. I cannot imagine all the pain she’s standing on top of. Thank you for showing me this and showing me that the only thing I need to do is to love her–love her like never before and show Christ’s love–that she can cast away her anger for you God and see that it’s you that’s pursuing her. Holy Spirit, move her to the kitchen at 2 and prepare the prayer, tears, hugs, and converatsion we will have together tomorrow! Protect her from evil. May the blessed mother herself hold Tenele and carry her to our Lord! Amen!

Nomphilo and Tenele came over one day and we were reading together outside my house.

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