Once again Abeni was sad; the day of her birth was coming soon. She dreaded this day very much. Every birthday now meant she would soon be given into marriage. Abeni’s father had already agreed to give her to Zikomo, the man who had brought the most goats. Her father said she should be glad that someone wanted her because she had been born with a clubfoot. Usually the girls in this little African village would be given into marriage by age eleven; Abeni was going to be eleven. Zikomo was old and had many wives. He said he would wait until she was twelve because the eleven year olds were too much trouble.
Abeni loved her parents very much, especially her mother, so she did not want to disobey but something within her said that this was not right. Her eyes told her the same thing, she saw the other girls her age now living with their new husbands. They did not look happy, some of them were fearful that soon their bellies would grow and then there would be babies. Abeni tried talking to her mother when her father was not in the hut.
“Please mother help me, I do not want to leave you.” Abeni cried.
Her mother eyes soften but she did not say what Abeni wanted to hear, that she would not have to go.
“It is your purpose in life Abeni, to be a good wife to your husband.” was all that her mother would say.
“But Mother, I heard the stranger at the mission say there is a better purpose for my life, that I was created in God’s image and that He sent his son to save me and all the people of the village. I am not sure what all that means, but every since I heard his message, I want to know more about this God and his son Jesus.”
“Why would this Jesus save you Abeni? A little black girl or this people? That is the white missionaries God. And save you from what? Your husband? It is your lot in life, be thankful that there is someone who wants to take care of you and you should be honored to have his babies. Please no more foolish talk, come and help me gather herbs for the evening meal.”
“Yes, Mother.” Abeni said, but she still pondered this Jesus.
After the evening meal Imani, Abeni’s sister stood in door. She was very heavy with child.
“Mother, it is my time and my husband is still hunting with the other men, please, I need your help.”
“Of course my daughter lay down. Abeni, hold her sister’s hand and I will get what I need to help bring forth this child.” she said. She started to hum and bustle about the hut fetching cloths, a knife, water and a bowl.
What started as normal labor, turned into the most horrible thing Abeni had ever seen. Her sister was just a year older than she. Imani, cried, screamed, and fainted from the pain. The water in the bowl soon turned crimson red. Other women from the village came to help, but the baby was too big. Abeni felt life flowing out of Imani.
Later, Abeni lay on her pallet weeping for the lost of her sister and the baby. A few days later early in the morning while it was still dark she was awaken by her mother.
“Abeni” she whispered. “I have packed you a few things in this sack. Here are a few coins, it is not much, but you must go now. “
“No mother, I cannot leave you” Abeni whispered back.
“Yes, you must, I will not bury another daughter. “
“Where will I go?”
“Go to the mission. Ask them to take you in. Beg them if you have to, but do not come back here.”
Abeni ran all the way to the mission, as she entered she saw a cross with a man hanging from it with painted blood flowing from his body. The man on his knees at the altar she recognized as the one who had spoke before. “Is he only the God of the white man?” she asked pointing to the cross.
The man got up and smiled at her. “No, my child, He’s the God of everyone.”
“How do you know? And will he save me?”
“Yes, because it does not matter the color of His skin, His blood was red.”
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