Being Jesus Hands and Feet – continued

Posted: March 11, 2013 in Healing, Missions, Serving others
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Near the end of 2011, I wrote about our African friend who had escaped from an unbelievably intolerable existence. That story is here. In short, our friend, Susie (not her real name, of course), had married a Polish mercenary in Liberia. This man, with a history as a wife beater, brought Susie back to Poland, where she lived   in his unfinished home, frequently with no heat or electricity, and with a growing pile of garbage in the garage, since he never paid any bills. He continued to beat her and do other awful things to her, but a number of factors made it difficult for her to leave.

However, as you can read in the linked story, she was able to leave, and find refuge in our church building. We organized legal assistance for her, a Nigerian friend helped her get her immigration status squared away (her husband had lied to the authorities in her name), and other friends have helped her figure out how to make it on her own. Although life is still difficult for her and her daughter, she feels free, finally, and no longer must live in fear.

Which is not to say she isn’t still afraid, sometimes. As with most victims of domestic violence, the simple thought of her husband can bring feelings of dread, and panic. However, we can see growth here, too. Thank God for his healing power.

When I first wrote about Susie, her husband had been in jail for 3 months, but then had been released. In Poland, a person can be sent to jail for up to 3 months, while an investigation is conducted, simply on the request of a prosecuting attorney. Now, my American sensibilities think this is unfair – but it didn’t stop us from being very grateful for it! However, after the 3 months were up, he showed up right away at our church building and began harassing Susie again.

He would follow her as she walked their daughter to school, cursing and insulting her. He regularly tried to take the daughter out of school, and once succeeded. Thankfully, he brought her back after a couple of days, but he tried everything he could do assert some sort of power over Susie. Once, he pushed her down in the street. When we went to the police to make a report, the officer in charge told me that such things are  allowed in Poland. Evidently, you can hit someone once, without being charged. (No, I didn’t ask the officer to step outside – pretty sure that rule doesn’t apply to hitting a police officer . . .)

One time, he came to the church, saw Susie outside, ran up and starting hitting and choking her. Thankfully, our building caretaker saw what was happening and called the police. The police made the daughter (who was 7), tell what her dad had done to her mom, but didn’t arrest the man. These kinds of things continued for about a year, until the prosecuting attorney did some follow-up investigation, talked to us again, as well as the director of the school, and had him put back in prison.

Along the way, we have seen God intervene over and over. Both times that he was imprisoned, it came as a surprise – but a welcome one. We have seen how a number of Poles have sacrificed to help her – even risking retaliation from her husband. God has worked through all of these people. And I get a kick out of telling them so, since a few of the most helpful don’t really want all that much to do with God! But God is using them, too!

At the same time, though, we have seen some of the uglier parts of the Polish system. Some of the police have treated Susie with disdain, partly because she is black, and a woman, but mostly because she can’t speak Polish. During the first criminal hearing, a translator for Susie was not supplied, and she ended up agreeing to something that would have hurt her case. However, when another friend of ours informed a journalist, and organized some observers from the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights – somehow all the records from that first hearing had been deleted from the computer. . . This was good for Susie, but certainly raised some questions in our minds!

Today, Kaye and I were supposed to be witnesses in the next criminal hearing. Our testimony is pretty significant, since we were the primary witnesses to the beating that preceded the police intervention that finally began the criminal process – after a number of other beatings that the police responded to, but never initiated an investigation. And of course, we have been witnesses to the husband’s continued harassment, stalking, and violence.

But – Susie’s husband is in a mental institution, under observation. So, the case has been delayed, again. However, no one from the court told us. No – the court secretary phoned a Polish witness, and asked her to tell us, and Susie. Oh, well.

Please keep praying for Susie, and for us – especially Kaye, and for all the people helping Susie – her lawyer, friends from church, a kind lady from Family Services, a nurse who has helped immensely, and of course for Susie’s daughter.

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