The Coup – And a Salvation


Red dirt littered the outside of the Land Cruiser as we rolled down the unpaved road. Smoke billowed from beyond some of the buildings, and we knew exactly what it was from.

“Do these skinnies really think it’ll help ‘em?” Jonah asked from the passenger seat. “How’ll this change anything?”

I kept my gaze on the road and my left hand firmly on the wheel. The coup had started, and we were in charge of the ambassador’s escort. The embassy was still another five-minute drive, and since the mob blocked the roads by lighting tires on fire, we would probably have to change our course once or twice.

“I don’t agree with the tactics,” I said, “but I can empathize with them. They want an opportunity. Just a chance at a life where they don’t have to wake up hungry.”

Jonah rolled his eyes. “What does that mean? You’re only saying that cause you grew up here! What a sympathizer! You’re emotionally attached t’these… these… people. That’s what’ll get you killed, bro.”

“I’m not attached. It’s more of a respect. I know many of them personally. They’re good people.”

“Yea good people.”

Black smoke poured from a group of locals. I slowed down as I neared them and searched for an avenue of escape. Just as I noticed a hole, the group hurried to throw a few tires and douse them in gasoline. I brought the vehicle to a stop and put it in reverse. A few of the men from the mob ran at us. They slammed their machetes against the metal hood of the Land Cruiser. One man threw a rock barely missing the driver’s mirror.

“Find me another route,” I exclaimed as the vehicle’s engine revved and threw us backwards.

“Ay turn right here. Don’t see any smoke this way, hope they haven’ hit the alleys yet,” Jonah said as he messed with the GPS.

I whizzed down the side road as quickly as the SUV could, hitting bumps and unintentionally testing the suspension system. My view to the rear was a barrage of red dust, and if we were being followed, I couldn’t tell.

A thin man came running into the road and forced me to slam on my breaks. Jonah hit his face on the dash, and cursed a few times with my name in mind.

“Don’ stop. Don’t ever stop!” Jonah yelled.

“I know him,” I exclaimed. “Samuel! Samuel, it’s me!”

The man stopped running and jogged over to the car. “My friend, I am so glad,” Samuel said through a bright white smile. “I did not know if you were not going to get through. Many people out here is very violent right now.”

“Get in!” I said, slapping the outside of the door a couple times.

Samuel jumped into the back seat and pulled the door closed. I heard his seatbelt click, as I pressed down on the accelerator.

Jonah held his brow, “Am I bleeding?”

“No, you’re good,” I proclaimed eyeing him for a half second.

“My friends, it is not good out there. The radio say that the president is dead. General Sanogo is now the man, and he say Americans is why the famine is real bad.” Samuel’s face looked worried. “I do not believe this. But my friends, are you leaving now?”

“Yes thank god, sick’uh this place,” Jonah said still holding his forehead.

“We’re trying, Samuel, but we have to get to the embassy first. We won’t leave without the ambassador,” I said looking Samuel in the eyes through the mirror.

We dodged roadblocks, forcing us to take back roads. We passed soldiers with AK’s, and heard the scream of bullets. No one had shot at us yet, but if they did, all we had were our issued handguns.

“Jus’ five mags,” Jonah Said.

“What?” I asked.

“We only brought five magazines of ammo.” Jonah repeated loudly.

We needed to get to the embassy so we could suit up, and face the challenges head on. I was tasked with radio communications, and I would have had my radio equipment with me, but we had been sent out on short notice earlier in the morning to search for a specific American student living in town. Our task had failed, he wasn’t there, and the two-bedroom loft had been ransacked. We hoped he had found a way out, and hadn’t been grabbed by the mob.

I grabbed my water canteen from the cup holder and held it over my shoulder. “Samuel, drink buddy, you’re still breathing hard!”

“Merci mon ami,” Samuel said as he grabbed the bottle and took a few gulps.

Jonah turned his head towards me.

“He said thank you,” I explained. My right hand pushed the stick into second gear as we turned a sharp corner. “Samuel and I have been friends for many years. Samuel taught me to play soccer, and how to fish using just a line.”

Samuel laughed. “Yes I remember. You got scared one day because a crocodile came near so… so you ran home. You wouldn’t come back for three days,” Samuel chuckled and emphasized the day count with three fingers.

We both laughed.

“Jus’ shut up,” Jonah exclaimed. “This isn’t the time.”

It was true, it wasn’t the time for us to be reminiscing on the past, but for those few seconds, it sure felt good to remember.

“Take this left,” Jonah said. “It’s gonna lead us back t’a main road and I don’ see any smoke. Hope it’s clear.”

I took the turn, and about 500 meters in front of us was a group dancing in the road. They had their machetes up, and a few soldiers waved their AK rifles in the air. I screeched to a stop. As I turned the vehicle around, we must have hit a nail, or a broken beer bottle, because the right front tire blew, throwing the rim onto the rocky ground. The mob had already noticed us. They chanted and sang, and did it while nearing us at an increasing pace. We jumped out of the car, and looked around for an escape. The open road was not an option because we knew farther back the masses would be on their way.

“This way, this way.” Samuel yelled at Jonah and I as we both checked our weapons. He had found an alley between two cement buildings and it seemed to lead to another road.

The mob noticed our pale skin, and was at a full sprint. Their cries were no longer that of freedom, but had turned to hate and anger. I knew that they believed full heartedly in what the radio had said, and that they would have no mercy on us.

“We’re behind you. Go!” Jonah told Samuel as he ran behind the African man.

“Coming,” I yelled out bringing up the rear.

We turned a few corners, sprinting as fast as we could. This labyrinth of cement walls had to lead somewhere. We could hear the mob getting closer and heard bullets being shot off as we ran into the alley. Jonah turned and weaved. We just did our best to stay on his heels. He gained a small lead on Jonah and I, but we still followed.

We turned a corner, and Samuel was stopped. He stood with his hands on his head facing a cement wall blocking our path. It was way too high for one person to reach the top.

“Help each other up! I will calm them, and will tell them you are not to fault!” Samuel exclaimed confidently waving both of us towards the wall. Breathing heavily, he turned back towards the path where the mob would soon be visible.

“No. Samuel, come with us, we can get all three of us up and over this wall. We have time.” I yelled at Samuel who was already facing away from us.

“Samuel, come on. You don’t need to do this,” Jonah yelled.

Samuel ignored his comment.

“We gotta go, if’e won’t come with us, then there’s nothing we can do. We must leave!” Jonah explained.

Samuel looked back one last time. “It will be alright. Goodbye my friends.”

I knew Jonah was right, and thankfully nodded at Samuel. I knelt down to allow Jonah to use my knee as a foothold.

We made it over the wall, and just in time. We heard the cries as they reached the wall. And then everyone went quiet. Samuel was yelling at them and speaking to them in French.

“What’s he saying?” Jonah whispered as we kept up a jog.

“He said ‘they are not at fault’, and I even think he said we were Canadian. He is telling them that we were here to help the people.”

The people started shouting out again. It was hard to tell what they were saying, but whatever it was, it wasn’t peaceful. Then a man hushed the crowd, and eventually, his voice was the only one we heard.

“Mon homme, je suis officier pour le général, où sont les blancs?” The man said. “Le général veut leur parlé!”

“I work for the general,” I translated, “where are the whites, the general wants to speak with them.”

“Sont pas là!” Samuel protested, his voice echoing.

“They aren’t…” I started.

“I got that part,” Jonah interrupted.

A few of the members started yelling, and soon everyone was in an uproar.

The man hushed the crowd again. “Traître, tue le!”

The crowd went wild, and a few faint yells could be heard. I knew they were Samuel’s.

A tear formed in my eye.

Jonah noticed. “What? What is it?”

“They killed him.” I muttered, “Why would he give his life for us?”

“I don’ know,” Jonah answered. “I didn’ even respect ‘im.  But he… he was a good man.”

 

 

 

 

 

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An African Folk-Tale


This is a folk-tale from Africa that I heard once upon a time. This story does have a moral, and I believe that it can be greatly appreciated, especially after the United States had their presidential elections a few days ago.  I have written this story in my own literary form.

Once upon a time there was a small African village, deep in the African bush.  In this village, there was the village chief.  He was a man that was respected greatly among his people, and even though sometimes he got a temper.  He had many friends within the village, and one of his best friends, was a man named Josef.  One day, Josef went to the chief’s hut.

“Hey chief, would you like to go hunting? I feel as if today is a beautiful day, and the perfect day for us to go out for a hunt together.” Josef asked.

The chief agreed, and thought it would be good for him to get away from his chiefly duties and spend some time with his friend.  They went far out into the jungle, each carrying a small caliber rifle.  They weren’t hunting for anything in particular, maybe a monkey, or something small.  Anything they could find they would hunt.

The chief decided to tell Josef a riddle.

“Once upon a time, two men went out for a hunt,” the chief started. “They eventually saw a chimpanzee in a tree.  The first man aimed his rifle and shot the monkey.  When the chimpanzee fell, the second man ran to the ape, and cut the tail off.  The first man argued that he should be given the tail since he shot the chimpanzee.  Who should keep the tail?” The chief finished.

Josef thought for a second, and eventually, he smiled at the chief, and shook his head.

“A chimpanzee doesn’t have a tail Chief!” Josef answered.

The chief chuckled, “That is correct Josef. Well done.”

All of a sudden, there was movement in one of the trees.  Josef and the chief ran closer to get a better look.  There up in the branches, was in fact a small monkey.  The chief aimed his rifle, and shot, but missed the monkey.  This time Josef was going to take a turn at it.  The monkey started climbing down the tree rapidly, and Josef started aiming, and he shot.

“Ouch, ahh, urgh.” The chief yelled out.

When the chief turned around, Josef ran to the chief in horror.  He had accidentally shot the chief’s right ear off.  The monkey escaped, and the chief’s ear was gone.

After the chief was bandaged up, his pain turned to rage. He promised Josef that he and his family would be exiled from the village for his ignorance.

Sure enough, when they got back to the village, Josef and his family were sent away from the village and told that they were never allowed to come back.

About a week later, the village was attacked by a group of cannibals.  They came in and killed many, but took some as prisoners to eat.  The chief was among those that were captured.

When the cannibals decided they were ready to eat the chief, they brought him to a big cauldron with boiling water.  They were going to boil him like a chicken.  They brought him to the cauldron, and just as they were going to throw him in, they stopped.

He heard them arguing about the fact that he was missing an ear.  You see, they believed that whoever they ate, they would receive the same physical form.  They believed they could receive blessings and curses through the people they ate.  He heard them talk about the fact that he was missing his right ear and that it must be a curse.

They promptly untied him and forced him to leave and go far away.  They did not want anything to do with the chief.

The chief realized then that everything happens for a reason, and he went out and found Josef.  He apologized, and explained to him what had happened.  Not only did Josef save the chief from being eaten, but the Chief had saved Josef and his family by exiling them from the village.

I Stand For. . .


I have no answers today, and I’m not even going to make any statements.  Well, then again, I may make one or two, but for the most part, I only want to ask questions.  What is it that you stand for?  That’s my question.  We see advertisements, political campaigns, religious groups, humanitarian organizations, and many others that stand for a certain cause.  And this is a really good question. What do you stand for?  Everyone stands for something, whether we want to or not.  We must know what we stand for.  One organization that I used to be a part of, Invisible Children, stands for the freedom of children in Central Africa.  They want to see that children in this area will no longer be taken as child soldiers for the LRA and will be able to live in peace.  They know what they stand for, and they work really hard to promote their position.  They have worked so hard that their cause came to the attention of President Obama.  They know what they stand for, and like Invisible Children, we too must know what we stand for.  In life, there will come a time when we are questioned.  We will be interrogated, and must be prepared to answer questions.  These questions we are asked will be based on what we stand for.  And if we are confused as to where we stand, we will not be ready to answer.  Know what you stand for, and when you know what you stand for, stand up for it.  Do not be silent.

The Story of Djonke


First of all, before I start my story, I want to give you some background knowledge.  The name Djonke is pronounced with a silent D, and that his name in its native language means slave.  This story takes place in Bamako, Mali.  Mali is situated in West Africa, above Ivory Coast and to the south of Morocco.  This took place in French, and the year is 1998.  This is a true story.

The Story of Djonke

Hello, my name is Djonke, I am twelve years old, and I live in Bamako.  I don’t live with my parents, because they are right now in the country of Zambia.  My father is a diamond miner, and my mother stays with him.  They never had enough money to take care of me, so right now, I live with my uncle here in Bamako.  About a year ago, an American family moved into the house beside me.  They have a son, named Zachary, and I have become really good friends with him.  We do almost everything together, we fish, and even hunt lizards together with our homemade slingshots.  In the street, we play soccer with all the other kids from the area; dodging the traffic and the sewer since it runs right through the middle of the road.  I started talking to Zachary and his parents about their belief, and why anyone living in the United States would ever want to come to Africa.  They told me that they were Christians and believed that their mission in life was to bring people to know Jesus Christ personally.

I got interested in what they were teaching.  Every week, besides playing with Zachary, I would come over and listen to them teach about the Bible.  This Jesus character was very interesting, and if what they taught was true, I wanted to be a part of it.  Over the next few months, I learned more and more.  They gave me my own bible in French, and I took it to my house and hid it underneath my mattress.  I had to hide it because my whole family is Islamic and if they found out I was interested in Christianity, I could be in danger.  Because I share my bed with a few of my cousins, my bible was found, and my uncle interrogated me over it, and beat me because of it.  I went to Zachary’s family in tears.  I decided to leave my Bible at his house and come study it when I got out of school before going over to my house.  I learned more and more, and I believed that Jesus Christ was in fact the savior and that God had sent him to save the world of their sins.

I was a believer, and now, I too was a Christian.

It was around March now, and my uncle realized that I had drifted away from the Muslim faith and had become a Christian.  He was furious and treated me as an outcast.  Being beat by him was normal, and my cousins treated me like a disease.

A few days before Easter, my uncle came to me with a VHS tape, and three nails.  He said that on Easter, the whole family was going to ridicule me for what I believed in.  He said they were all going to beat me, and they would watch the VHs tape he had which was the Jesus film.  They would mock Jesus, and then as the crucifixion came, they would nail those three nails through my hands and feet mocking my faith.

I went over to Zachary’s house and talked to his parents, I was crying, and they shared in my sympathy.  I decided that I truly believed that God had sent his son Jesus, and that my faith in Christ was true.  If this was going to happen to me because of my faith, so be it.  I prayed that God would save me from this torture.

Easter day arrived, and I was afraid for my life.  I did not run, but I prayed that I would be saved.  All day I waited, and my uncle was no where to be seen.

It turns out that my uncle had had car trouble the day before Easter.  He never made it home that night.  During Easter day, he spent the whole day trying to get the car fixed in town and never even returned to the house.  When he did return, he had lost all memory of what he had planned to do to me.  No one in my family mentioned it, and somehow, he never brought it up again.

I returned to Zachary’s family in tears, this time tears of joy.  God had saved me from a man who hated me and truly wanted me dead.  I continued to be good friends with Zachary and his family, and got connected with other believers in the area.

Zachary’s family had to leave in 2000, they had been re-assigned to another part of the world and had to go.  I continued to grow in my faith, and being able to fellowship with other believers in the area really helped me.

Now, in 2012, I have been reunited with my birth mother, and she lives with me now. I came to find out I had younger siblings, and now, my mother and younger siblings have become Christians.  Jesus christ is real, and has changed my very existence.

Why I Love Coca-Cola


In 2003, my father put together a team from Canada to go to Mali, West Africa, to conduct a humanitarian mission.  Our goal was to inform villages out in the remote parts of the country on how to prevent the spread of HIV.  I was only a young boy of twelve years old, and since I had grown up in Mali from the age of five to nine years old, my father allowed me to come along and see where I used to live.  During the trip, we decided to go on a day hike up the Dogon cliffs located at the edge of the Sahara Desert.  The Dogon cliffs were about four hours away from any civilization and electricity, and the hike was going to be a 13 kilometer hike. The first part was going straight up the cliff about 200 feet.  The path up this cliff was not an easy one, one slip up, and you would have fallen to your death.  Once we arrived at the top of the cliff, we saw a small village in the distance.  This village was very minimalistic, and their only water source was from a well.  When we got to the edge of the village, one of the elders came to us, and asked if we were thirsty.  The group agreed that they were in fact thirsty, and the elderly man brought us to a shack.  When he opened the door, we couldn’t believe our eyes.  From the dirt floor to the ceiling, Coca-Cola was stacked crate upon crate.  Here in the middle of nowhere, someone had taken the time to bring all these crates up the cliff.  It must have been a tedious job.  We bought a few Coca-Colas from the man, and right there on a cliff, in the middle of Africa, I enjoyed the taste of that Coca-Cola.  Even though it was warm, nothing could have tasted better.

The Years To Come


Everyone dreams.  I too dream.  Ever since I was a small child, I would plan out my future and what I wanted to be.

The first thing I can remember wanting to be was a pilot for the military.  My grandfather, B. Smith was in the Navy for a while and learned to fly fighter jets.  I was really fascinated at how they could takeoff and land on a moving ship.  I kept that dream with me through elementary school, until I was in fourth grade.

Every morning in my fourth grade French class, the Haitian teacher would turn on the television and let us watch the daily news.  This particular morning, he turned on the news and the Montreal anchor announced to my class that there was a situation going on in the United States.  The date was September 11th, 2001.  I watched the events unfold, and I told my classmates that when I was old enough, I was going to join the United States Army.  Of course, none of my classmates believed me.

In 2007, I went on a mission trip with a group from Georgia to South Africa.  We spent a few weeks at an orphanage.  This particular orphanage mostly took in children who were HIV positive, or were orphaned because of HIV and AIDS.  It broke my heart to see a nursery full of babies who never knew their parents because of AIDS, and that many of these babies, were infected with and had to live the rest of their lives with the cripple of HIV.

I came back from my trip to South Africa changed, but my goal to be in the Army remained.

In 2009, I moved from Canada to the United States to start college.  That October, I joined the Arkansas National Guard so that I could get my degree, but be part of the military at the same time.  I also did ROTC for the first two years of my college career, but decided Officership was not for me.  I went through basic, infantry school, and airborne school in 2010.

While being in college, I realized that I loved to write, and that I wanted to do something with writing.  I decided a journalism major would help me achieve an opportunity to write professionally. I really liked reading about different cultures, especially those featured in National Geographic Magazine.  I read Thomas L. Friedman’s book, From Beirut To Jerusalem, and was inspired to be successful, but to be successful a world away from the United States.  I decided that I wanted to eventually work for National Geographic, and that to work for them as a writer would be the ultimate success when it came to journalism.  No other magazine held the prestige of National Geographic and I in turn wanted to be a part of that legacy.

Then, in the summer of 2011, I went on vacation with my family.  It was no ordinary vacation, in reality, it wasn’t a vacation at all.  We went to Haiti, where we worked in an orphanage for a few weeks.  I really fell in love with the country and people of Haiti.  The couple who directed the orphanage were natives of the United States, and in their late twenties. They had come down to Haiti to start this orphanage, and had planned it out quite well.  They had nannies who would take care of the children during the day, and then at night, the day nannies were replaced with a few nannies who worked the night shift.  The orphanage housed about 50 to 60 babies to the age of five.

This was different than the way the orphanage in South Africa worked.  In South Africa, they had about 6 nannies, and these six women were in charge of one house.  Each house was home to 8 to 10 children from the age of two all the way to eighteen.  Each house would have older children who would act as the older siblings, and the ages would diminish until there were younger sibling who had come from the nursery.  I thought this was a great system.  The children had a mother figure who would tuck them in bed at night and then go to their respective homes in the surrounding community.  After lights out, the older siblings would take care of any problems.

The nursery in South Africa had nannies who stayed there around the clock.  Most of these babies were sick, had been neglected, or HIV positive.

Over the 2011/2012 school year, I realized that I wanted to eventually start a magazine that focused on Africa, and what God was doing in the continent.  This is still something I dream of doing someday.

This summer, I was in New Mexico at a Christian college convention visiting my father.  One day, a group of the missionaries went to lunch at a Mexican restaurant, and I joined my father.  I sat by a gentleman named Randall Gallaway.  He asked me about my hobbies and what I enjoyed doing, and he found out promptly that I was in the U.S. Army.  He told me that he supported me, but then changed the tone.  He told me that as good as it was being in the Army, the Army doesn’t bring people to Christ.  That really affected me.  It is still affecting me today.  He told me that he had worked for many years with African students.  He told me that there was a huge need in the world for Christian men and women to start orphanages.  He explained that I would be perfect for it because of my military training, and that I could also write while directing an orphanage.  I told him I would pray about it.

The last month or so, I haven’t been able to get this conversation out of my mind.  I have worked in orphanages, I have loved working in orphanages, and I may have the skills to run a Christian orphanage.  I am really praying and asking God if this is what he wants me to do.  I know that it would not interfere with my writing, and if anything, would give me more to write about.  I’m really thinking about the possibility of directing an orphanage after I get out of the Army, in 2015.  I hope that the years to come prepare me for this, or whatever God wants for me in my life.

Opportunity


Look at your watch, and take a deep breath.  Hold it for as long as you can, and then exhale.  How many minutes passed?  According to the Population Reference Bureau, 108 people die every minute.  Think about that for a second.  No, keep thinking about it!

An infant may have died in that minute.  Maybe it was an old woman, who had lived her life to the fullest.  But what if, in one minute, a mother and her child die because they weren’t able to find enough food to feed themselves.  The Population Reference Bureau also gives wealth statistics.  It said that 48% of the world population live on less than U.S. $2 a day.  Last time I checked, Taco Bell sold one taco for $1.19, and that isn’t including taxes.

When I think about it at a personal level, I feel extremely grateful that I was given the chance to live.  I grew up with opportunity.  Do you know what that opportunity was?  It was life.  Thinking about it makes me want to do something to help others.  Whether that is standing up for those who are dying of hunger, or those who are dying of unclean water.  It doesn’t matter.  I just want to do something.  I feel like while I am at university, my life is standing still, and that my ability to do something to change the world is non-existent.  But I do know this: when I leave this place, I will find a way to make a difference.  I don’t want to waste the minutes that I have been given.

There’s a viral video going through out the world right now about Joseph Kony.  Joseph Kony is the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, who have been abducting children in Uganda and The Democratic Republic of Congo.  He uses these children as child soldiers to further his own cause.  He uses the boys as soldiers, and hardens them by forcing them to kill, and the girls he abducts, he uses as sex slaves for his soldiers.  Invisible Children is the non profit organization that released this video.  Invisible children was started in 2003 by three college age guys who decided they weren’t going to waste their life.  They decided to make a difference, and change the lives of those who never had opportunity.

We are not immortal.  We all will die.  But there are those who die without the opportunity to actually live.  What we need to do, not as a country, but as people, is to genuinely care about people.  Voice your opinion, and force the leaders of the world to notice those who cannot voice their own suffering.

This post took 32 minutes to write and edit.  During the making of this post, 3456 people died.  It could have been you that died in the last 32 minutes, but if you are still alive, don’t waste your life.

-Zachary