Is it Worth it?
As always, with Tenele, it’s one big step forward, two steps back…but those bigs steps are always amazing when it happens.
After not hearing from Tenele for awhile, I went with Johannes to Mangwaneni one morning after church to talk to Cedric. I was nervous, a bit scared, but I knew it was what I was supposed to do. Johannes showed me to Cedric’s door and knocked, talking in SiSwati with another man who opened the beaten up, wooden door. After talking for a bit, I introduced myself to Cedric’s friend. They called inside to Cedric and after a bit of time, he eventually came out to meet me. Cedric speaks very good English, so I knew having a conversation wouldn’t be a problem, but he never looked at me. He hung his head as I talked with him and wouldn’t look me in the eyes. But when I see him, I no longer feel angry with him…I feel sad, and I see him as a boy–a young man–who needs help himself. I talked with him about letting Tenele go and what they were going to do with the baby. We didn’t make much progress but he said he agreed with me to let Tenele leave Mangwaneni. They said Tenele wasn’t there, even though I had heard her whisper inside before. Though our actual conversation didn’t have much progress (because of course he will say that to my face) it was actually the start of more interactions with him to come.
My next interaction with Tenele was meant to be a joyful day. I took the kids to Mlilwane game park to swim. Unfortunately, it ended with the four teenage girls being upset with each other. Long story short, Tenele got into one of her stubborn moods and she claimed she was going to walk home…nearly impossible. But she refused to get in the car. After some frustration of my own, I threw my hands up, told Lydia to get in the driver’s seat, and slammed the car door as I got out to walk with Tenele. Tenele asked me what I was doing and asked me to not walk with her and keep driving. “Nope,” I said sternly. “If you’re walking…I’m walking…”
So Lydia took off with the other kids and drove on ahead, leaving Tenele and I to wal the highway. I told Lydia to drive for awhile and pull over to give us plenty of time to talk.
On the walk, Tenele wouldn’t really talk with me, so I talked at her. I talked about Cedric and her life. I talked about my frustrations. I told her how much I had done for her and how frustrating it was to see her like this and to not accept help. I told her I didn’t know what to do with her anymore. I said some things in frustration but at the end I told her I loved her. “You know I love you, right?” She nodded. “You know how much I love you?” I asked. She shook her head. I told her I loved her as my own child, that I’d give my life for her and do anything to help her. I told her that I wasn’t afraid of Cedric. I wasn’t afraid to help her. I said I would march into her “house” and take her clothes and things and take her and leave…if that’s what she wanted, I would get her out. I told her God had given me a mission to love her and help her and that just because I was leaving soon, didn’t mean the love would be gone…because the love is the Lord’s and he NEVER leaves. I talked too much, I teared up too much–showed my weakness and frustration with her. But maybe it was good.
That day was very distressful for me, and I was starting to believe the lies that have been thrown at me…that it’s impossible to help this child. That she’s only one girl and that she’s comfortable in her lifestyle, so just let her live it. Here is an excerpt from my journal:
Maybe her life is fine the way it is. She copes. She’sl learned to live that way. She’s learned to stuff the pain, to accept the beatings, to hide her fear, to lie like it’s her life. This is the only life she knows, who am I to think I can take her from it…to give her hope? I am so sick of the pain and tears. I just cried so hard. I am so homesick, but when I think about leaving them I cry so hard.
What do I do, Lord? I know…nothing.
But I cannot accept the lies that tell me to give up. I cannot accept the lies satan’s feeding me that Tenele should stay in her “comfort zone” lifestyle. I cannot believe that it’s hopeless. I cannot accept the lie that she is only one girl, and there are so many like her that live that life, sot it’s fin for her to live it. Though I want to give up, one life can truly make a difference. And if I can’t help all the girls like her, it is still worth it to try to help one.