One corageous woman makes a difference

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by Linda Manhardt, Major –

It was a very exciting morning.

There I was, minding my own business, teaching my homiletics class at the Tanzanian training college, when we began to notice people running past the window toward the back of the compound. Actually, I didn’t notice the runners. What I noticed was the cadets’ attention shifting from me to the windows.

Finally, I asked what was going on, and one of them said, “A thief!” Those two simple words had entire class to the windows in seconds!

By now, there were excited shouts coming from outside. I sent my senior training officer (translator and right-hand person) to find out what was happening.

He reported that a thief had climbed over the compound wall and been caught stealing pots and pans and other household items from one of the employee’s houses, and that there was a crowd surrounding and stoning him.

I couldn’t let this happen! I had the cadets remain in the classroom, while I ran to the area.

Just as I got there, I saw the wife of the Officer Commanding (comparable to the Territorial Commanders’ wife) arrive. The immediately ran to the wounded thief and shielded him with her body. She yelled to the crowd, “If you want to kill him, you’ll have to kill me first!” She is a feisty lady, and everyone believed her!

Slowly, the group began to drop the rocks from their hands. I looked at the crowd and was amazed to see that the mob was made up of my friends—people I had worshipped with on many Sundays. There were employees, soldiers, bandsmen and songsters. There were even a few officers who had been caught up in the frenzy. Those who were not throwing stones were watching and doing nothing as the thief’s life was being taken.

Covered with the thief’s blood, the Officer Commanding’s wife saw to the man’s needs. I will forever have the image of her holding him as the crowd dispersed. The police came and he was taken to the hospital. We didn’t know for several days but later found out that the man survived.

I have thought through this event many times since it happened and I am filled with questions. How could my Christian brothers and sisters turn into a killing mob? Why did so many officers and others simply watch while the others threw stones? If the Officer Commanding’s wife had not stepped in, would I have? Would I have risked my life for a thief?

Life situations have a way of testing us. To the Tanzanians, their frustration with lifelong poverty and a corrupt and ineffective police force, led them to take matters into their own hands.

But while many attacked, and some remained immobile, one courageous woman stepped in and saved a life.

It is amazing how one person can make such a difference in a crisis situation. Life is full of such situations. You and I can be that one person.

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