True Story

Amina

Shortened version:

My father was very aggressive, and when my mother was pregnant, he did not think the child was his, even though my mother was only eleven years old when she gave birth to me. I was born at six months, premature, and I was very sick. My father took me to the mosque, and they told me that I had demons from my ancestors that had to come out, so I was always sick. Their prayers never had any effect. They decided to change my name to Amina, but I still did not get well. My parents separated and I went with my mother to live with my grandmother. A man wanted to take her to South Africa, so my mom told him that she had no children, and he said he would marry her. So she took me and left me at my father’s door. When my dad woke up the next morning he found me crying outside of his door, so he took me to my grandmother’s and asked, Where is her mother? And she answered, “I don’t know.” And my father said, “I don’t want this child; I don’t even know if she is mine. If you don’t take her, I will kill her.”  And my grandmother did not have enough to take care of me and she was a witch doctor, but she let me stay there. And my father disappeared, and they told us he was dead. I don’t know how he died.

My grandmother thought she was God, and she would use witchcraft to kill our neighbors. Whenever there was lightening, she would be able to kill people. So my grandmother began to work as a gardener and she always took me with her, and she gave me milk, and if she didn’t have milk she would make a rice dish. She didn’t have bottles to feed me milk, so she stole bottles from the white people she worked for to give me this rice drink.  But after a while, she left me with an aunt who had two daughters.

And they lived far away in the bush, and they had sheep and goats, and I always worked for my aunt. And she always treated me differently than her daughters, and even early in the morning she would beat me with a stick before I did anything at all. And she would say, “Why are you looking at me like that? You are ugly.” And I always tried to do everything I could to make her happy, but she was never happy. I was seven then, and I would cook for her, but she would always beat me and made me carry big things of water. One day the jug fell, and I was afraid to go home because I thought she would kill me for breaking it, so I ran away, but she came up behind me and flung me around, and pulled me by my hair, and started beating me with everything she had in the house. She sent me to go sleep with the pigs. And I was happy to sleep with the pigs because they kept me warm. But every morning she would find me and beat me and tell me to go work and cook. And she took my clothes and made me work naked. And one day she took a knife and cut me and told me to get out.

My grandmother came the next day, and she saw all of my cuts and bruises. And my aunt said that it was just that I didn’t know how to play and I always fell down. My grandmother took me home and beat me, and tied me to a tree and told me I had to stay there until I learned how to be normal. And she kept me locked up. One day I ate some rice because I was so hungry, and she beat me so much that day that I couldn’t walk, and she started to use her witchcraft and she wanted me to learn how to use witchcraft and cut people with glass. At last she thought I was too much work, so she left me with my uncle who had two sons, but his wife had left him, so I took care of those babies and bathed them and fed them.

And he drank a lot and treated me as if I was his wife and he made me come into his room every night when I was eight years old. And I would cook for him, and heat his water for him for baths, I took off his shoes, dress him, and take care of his children, and he would always come home drunk and say, “You need to sleep with me,” and he would violate me. And I would be quiet, because I didn’t have anyone to talk to. He did this every day until one day I decided to run away. I told my grandma everything, but she said I was ungrateful because my uncle gave me food, and later he might marry me.

So I ran away and went to live in the dump. And there were many other children there, living with me in the boxes. And we didn’t have any food. At night we would go and steal from the houses nearby. I made a best friend in the dump, a girl in the same situation. When we slept outside the cars, would drive by. One night I woke up, and she was dead because a car rolled over her. I went into town to find a place to sleep.

There were these people in town who spoke about Jesus, and I heard his name again and again, but I didn’t know who that was. At first I thought it was  this lady, Mother Heidi, because she brought bread and water, and I would think, “Oh she must be Jesus, and I would count the days until she would come back. And sometimes we little kids would not get the bread or water because the big kids would push us away. And I got very sick, and I couldn’t eat anything, and I thought I was going to die. And I thought, “Maybe it is would be better to die.” Then Mother Heidi came, and I thought Jesus has come. But I didn’t get there in time… and I was so very thirsty and I wanted water. And I fell asleep on the sack. And I started to cry, “Jesus, Jesus, give me your water,” and she picked me up, and gave me the water she had. And she asked, “Where does this girl live?” and they said, she lives here in the dump. Mother Heidi said, “I will take you home and you will be my daughter.” That was the first time I had ever been in a car or touched a white person. And she took me home and gave me a bath. And my grandmother had said that if anyone took off my witchcraft things that I would die. And I cried and kicked and beat them away and would not let them take them off. But they cut them off when I was asleep, and I woke up and I was still alive. How is that possible that they took off this cord? And I felt a little bit free, and I would listen to the stories. Even though we only slept on grass mats, I was happy because I felt safe and protected.

There were these people in town who spoke about Jesus, and I heard his name again and again, but I didn’t know who that was. At first I thought it was  this lady, Mother Heidi, because she brought bread and water, and I would think, “Oh she must be Jesus, and I would count the days until she would come back. And sometimes we little kids would not get the bread or water because the big kids would push us away. And I got very sick, and I couldn’t eat anything, and I thought I was going to die. And I thought, “Maybe it is would be better to die.” Then Mother Heidi came, and I thought Jesus has come. But I didn’t get there in time… and I was so very thirsty and I wanted water. And I fell asleep on the sack. And I started to cry, “Jesus, Jesus, give me your water,” and she picked me up, and gave me the water she had. And she asked, “Where does this girl live?” and they said, she lives here in the dump. Mother Heidi said, “I will take you home and you will be my daughter.” That was the first time I had ever been in a car or touched a white person. And she took me home and gave me a bath. And my grandmother had said that if anyone took off my witchcraft things that I would die. And I cried and kicked and beat them away and would not let them take them off. But they cut them off when I was asleep, and I woke up and I was still alive. How is that possible that they took off this cord? And I felt a little bit free, and I would listen to the stories. Even though we only slept on grass mats, I was happy because I felt safe and protected.

I started to forgive when we would have these teachings about forgiveness, and we would pray. And I would not want to forgive. There is no way I can forgive my grandmother or my uncle. Because he repeated abusing me again and again. I prayed, But I did not want to forgive them. I wanted my uncle in jail because of what he did to me and another girl. But I realized, that I could get rid of a huge weight. Every time I thought about him I felt ugly and like nothing and trash. I thought and I cried, and I thought and cried. But they taught, “When you forgive, you can get a new story. You will be like a butterfly. You are wrapped in a cocoon, but you can choose a new story. And fly free.”

The day I forgave him, I went to the house where he lived. It was extraordinarily hard to see him. I never wanted to see him again. I never wanted to say his name.  I didn’t even like anyone else with the same name. I went to his house. He was seated. I said, “Uncle I have come to speak to you.” He saw me and was very embarrassed. I said, “What I am about to say, I do not really want to say, but God is giving me these words to say.” He did not show any signs of repentance. He was quiet. I prayed for him, I blessed him with a little bit of money that I had and told him, “Buy some food for your children.” And I said good-bye. After one year he called me. He said, “I want to go to church. I want to change. I want to go to church. Please forgive me. And I said, I already forgive you.”