There are no family photographs, only memories. Memories of a five-year old imprisoned by Japanese soldiers. Memories of love, courage and most of all hope. Hope that there was a God who would walk through the valley of death, known as WWII, with her. And He did.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
It Wasn't A Bullet
It was already hot around 6:00am. There was lots of noise in the early morning. Children ran around and mothers were fussy. Everyone had their tasks to get ready for. Young girls scampered to the kitchen, others were dragged to the building where Japanese soldiers lived. Those girls cried and struggled to free themselves. I thought of Greta. Where is Sister? "Do not be anxious, do not be anxious. Trust in the Lord." Where is Sister? "Please, Lord, keep the soldiers away from her."
I walked outside with other children. Mammie was near the fence. I wondered how long she had been there. How do the guards not see her? I see her, and I know what's she's up to. "Keep her safe also, dear Jesus. Close the eyes of the guards." Mammie is very good at not being caught. With a little bit of help from God, we should have bananas tonight.
A woman called to me from the mandi bak (wash basin). "Mari mandi!" I nodded and walked towards her. A quick washing will feel good. Leave Mammie to do her secret work, she will be fine.
On my way to the mandi bak I saw a little girl, my age, standing on top of the cement sewage pipe. It is dangerously high and the cement must be burning her bare feet. She's not moving. Her hands are tied behind her back. Don't cry, Becca. They will let you down soon. Don't cry and please don't fall. I walked slowly past her.
"Mari mandi!" someone else called out.
Finally, at the mandi bak I waited behind hundreds of people to fill my small bucket with water. Sister always said to stay in line and be patient. Yet other children were playing, so I joined them. I am the fastest runner in Tjeweng. Nobody could catch me. But today that became my curse.
I ran and ran. We laughed and jumped onto old machinery and over the slippery sheets of zinc which covered everything--no one stopped us. Suddenly, I lost my footing and the sharp edge of the zink flooring slashed into the inner part of my left thigh. The world became very bright for just an instance, with a million tiny flashing stars, then almost black. I saw lots of blood draining from my leg yet I did not feel any pain. Don't cry, I thought. But then I felt a piercing pain.
The children who were playing with me immediately stepped into line at the mandi bak. Adults turned their backs but tried to hide me. The line to the mandi bak was now my human shield. If the soldiers knew I had been running they would punish me and anyone who dared to help. I heard the whispers. "Stand up, get up Laney." It was hard to stand, but I did.
My body seemed too heavy and the sounds of the world were strange. Voices whispered and echoed. I cupped my hand over my ears. My leg didn't feel connected to my body which scared me more than anything. The other leg trembled terribly. Mammie told me once to just call out His name and it would make me feel strong. I whispered His name--Jesus. God is with me. God is with me. Mammie was right. Though I was still scared, His name did gave me strength.
I walked on, dragging my leg behind me. I fell a few times in a cloud of dust, got up time and time again. Then I heard the clangs of old pots and smelled the old oil drums they used to cook rice in. I had somehow made my way to the kitchen. I crashed into the bamboo door leaving bloody fingerprints. Where is Sister?
Am I dying? "Is Sister here?" The last thing I hear is Greta's voice yelling, "Mammie!" And I let myself collapse into Sister's arms.