The man’s hands were shackled together in front of him – in front so he could feed himself when food was offered. Bhangi (smoking hemp) had addled his mind and he was liable to violent bouts of anger. Most people avoided him and kept their distance. He was reduced to begging for scraps to eat – and, literally, he smelled quite “ripe”.
For some reason he showed up on the Mission Station and latched himself on to me. Maybe because I listened to his ranting; maybe because I was willing to try to converse with him. The African workers on the construction job (I was building the station church) laughed at him, calling him names and being generally obnoxious. Maybe, since I did not follow that line, he figured I had a “sympathetic” ear. In any case, he almost became a fixture around the building site – then he disappeared, No one knew where he went.
Several weeks later I was out in the “bush”, about 20 miles from the station. Suddenly he materialized out of the crowd of people passing by. His hands were still shackled but his mind seemed to be a bit clearer. He greeted me and said, “Did you get the gift I gave you”? He hadn’t been back to the Mission Station (as far as I knew) and I had not seen him since he had disappeared. I told him that I knew nothing about a gift – he said he had brought it to the house for me (probably some time at night!). He said it was a “ka-nyau”, a small cat. I asked where he had put it.
Now, I had constructed an underground circular water cistern, to hold about 22,000 gallons of rain water which drained off the roof of our residence, but had only put a temporary covering of galvanized corrugated sheets on it. The man said, “You know the “ghala” (storage place) near the house. I lifted just up a sheet of “mabati” and put the
“ka-nyau” in there”.
Horrors of horrors. The cistern was about half-full of water and a cat certainly couldn’t survive in there and there was no way it could have climbed out! I had not-nice visions of what I would find when I got home.
I thanked him for the gift and, as soon as I got home in the evening, looked down into the cistern. Yes, there it was – dead, floating in the water and from both the odor and condition of the body, had been there for a good number days. And to think we had been using that water, even for drinking (though we did boil and filter all our drinking water)!
The next day’s work was cut out for me. The water was pumped out, much being put into 50 gallon steel drums to be used in construction; the rest just drained onto the ground. Then came the job of scrubbing down the walls and floor of the cistern, spraying it with a bleach solution and letting it air out and dry. The covering was then put in place — and we prayed that the rains would come early to replenish our water supply.
Yes, the Lord heard – the rains came quite early and though we now had problems traveling because of the floods and mud, at least the cistern was full and running over! And we suffered no sickness for having used that polluted water. THANK YOU LORD !