Dear Loved ones,
Is there Hope for Semena
Semena is a little girl about three or four years old who lives in our village, Krinkrin. We first got to know her about two month after we moved here, when she came to our house with her two brothers, about five and seven. She wouldn’t come along very much, but every time she did she would cry about half of the time they were here, sometimes without a known reason, but most of the time it was because of something another child or adult said to her.
The first while when she did come she didn’t want anyone to touch her and if she saw someone looking at her, she would put her arm over her eyes as to hide from them. Then her oldest brother had an accident with a machete that cut a two inch by five inch chunk of the skin and meat off of his shin when he was out looking for food. While at their house taking care the wound, we figured out that Semena and her brothers live with their great grandparents.
We kept noticing that most of the time people said something to her or her brothers, it would be something negative about their father or mother, and it would always make her cry. Therefore the children would always try to hide or leave when some other adult would come by.
The cut on her brothers leg was a very serious cut, but we got it fixed up the best we could with what we had to work with. The next day Semena and her five year old brother came to our house and were playing with the wood scraps under the house. We hadn’t paid much attention to what they were doing until they came to us all sad and said “this is for Ornasio when he dies.” They had set up four boards to make a box to bury their brother, because they had heard the adults talking about him dying from the wound. It was so hard to see the pain in their eyes as they prepared to loose their hero who took care of them and tried to protect them from the other children.
After about a week and a half of us going to their house and then another month of them coming to our house to have the wound taken care of, little Semena started to warm up to us. She started liking it when we would smile at her, and then finally she would let us touch her. As time went on the fear in her eyes got less when someone got close to her, and then finally one day she let us hold her for just a few seconds.
As time passed, we learned more and more of the heart breaking condition of Semena and her brothers. Her father had “thrown her away” like they say it, along with the boys. (which means that he doesn’t claim them as his children anymore) Then as if that wasn’t enough, their mother also up and left them for another man in another village. So the great grandmother took them in so they had a place to stay. It is a place for them to stay, but the conditions are much to be desired.
The old couple seemed very hard with no affection. We found out they both, especially the man, chews on cocaine bark a lot because it takes away the pain of old age and the stomach pains when they don’t have food to eat. They cannot plant and harvest anymore, but every couple of days one or the other of them would slowly walk back to the jungle to look for something to eat, but bringing back a bag of food is almost more then their fragile bodies can do.
Somehow in this cruel culture this old couple, whether from their past or their present, I don’t know, is looked upon as “dirt.” The thing that the children’s parents did is looked upon as horrible. But somehow all of this, and because they steal fruit off of people’s trees, and things I don’t even know about yet, causes the people to take it out on little Semena and her brothers. They are always saying bad things to them about what their father or mother did, and they mock them and curse them to their face, saying they will never be any good etc. and there was no one that would come to their defense.
As we cared for the brother’s wound, the children started to like us more and more, and they started hanging out at our house more. After learning more about their lives, we started sending some rice and beans home with them every day so they would have something to eat, and to relieve the old people from having to go search for food. Finally the day came when we were able to hold little Semena in our arms and love on her. Once she figured out what love was, she and her brothers would soak it up like a dry sponge.
But then one day, after Ornacio’s wound was almost healed, their mother came to the village and took him with her, because he was now big enough to go gather food for her. This was a bad day for Semena, because if things got bad, Ornacio would put her on his shoulders and run away, but now her hero was gone. It was also a bad day for the great grandparents, because he was just the age where he was being a big help to them.
From there the two pretty much quit roaming through the village. They started spending most of their day at our house, because they felt safe there, and we made sure they had something to eat.
The biggest run in we have had with the village people so far was one day when Semena was at our house and the village gossip and some other people were there too. They started talking bad to her like usual and didn’t quit after us saying that she is a beautiful girl. It seemed to just get worse after I told them that it wasn’t the child’s fault that her parents made bad choices, and that God loves her as much as He loves them. I finally told them that I will not tolerate such talk in my home, and if they don’t quit I’m going to have to put them out of the house.
After that time the children feel even safer in our home, because there is finally someone on their side and stands up to defend them. But when outside our home they still have to hear it, like one day when Elizabeth was at the well getting water at the same time as Semena was. Elizabeth picked up Semena and was holding her because of the abuse she was enduring, so the girls started saying, “how could a beautiful midiki (American) girl hold such a dirty little shit girl.” Things like this just tear our hearts out, but outside our home there is nothing we can do about it except stand with them through it.
By now Semena has become our little sunshine that we look forward to hearing every morning, not with what used to be her familiar cry, but with her call from a distance, “papa tara” (big papa) or “mama tara” (big mama) or one of our children’s names. We just love to hear her laugh and giggle as she plays with us and her brother. Now she gets her hair done every morning and gets a bath every now and then, and can depend on getting something to eat, but most of all, she knows without a doubt that there is someone who loves her.
Every day when they take their rice and beans to their house, the people and children along the way yell out bad things to them, mocking them and insulting them. Then there are a few of their cousins who try to take away their food before they get to the house. These cousins too are hungry and need something to eat, but we have tried to give their father work and pay him with rice and beans so that the children have food, but have learned later that he traded the food for a little more drugs for himself and his wife. They have learned now that if they haven’t had anything to eat for a day or so, they come hang out at our house for half a day, and they will get something to eat.
What bothers us most about Semena now is the fact that this could all change back at any instant. Even though the community leaders and the great grandparents would gladly give them to us, because we don’t have a children’s home yet, they can’t legally put us in charge of them, so at any moment this little bubble of security she has could be dashed again, for life. We do praise our Lord for allowing us this time to be here for these precious little ones.
Semena and her brothers are not alone in their predicament. In our village alone there are several more like them, and our leaders tell us that this is something that happens along the river area quite a bit. I know of some cases that the caretakers are doing a good job in raising the outcasts, but unfortunately for many this is not the case.
We are praying that the time won’t be long before we can build a children’s home so that we can give Semena, Anas, and others like them a safe secure place to be, where they don’t have to hear death and failure spoken to their face every day. Thank you for praying for these little ones that we love. By Eli Lee