A Candle in the Darkness
There was no one to protect us. We had no advocates, no arms to run to. The very people who should have been our defenders were in fact our attackers.
And now, standing on that chair with the candle gripped between my fingers, I was at my lowest, darkest moment. I cannot describe the cumulative hurt, rage, and hopelessness that welled up and wracked my 10-year-old soul. At this man's hand, I had always lost. Plain and simple, he was bigger and stronger. He was a man; I was a boy.
He spoke angrily to the assembled children. "This boy here is Satan's tool. He told, and the Devil used him to destroy his parents' ministry. There will be Africans in hell because of Wesley."
Hearing those words, there arose in me a rage, a passion as I had never experienced before and have not since. I had felt I could endure almost any treatment at his hands—I had for years. But the candle incident was different. Never had words cut so deeply.
Yes, I had told. As a desperate boy, I had cried out to my mother for help. For years, 50 of us children had courageously maintained our silence. We were repeatedly told, "If you tell what happens here, you will destroy your parents' ministry." Our abusers used our love for God, for our parents, and for Africans to secure our silence about the horrors of that place.
Oh, we wrote letters home every Sunday. But we couldn't even hint at our loneliness or the abuse. Our letters were censored, and the slightest attempt to cry out resulted in a beating, then a forced rewriting of the letter. We learned to be as silent as lambs. We had no idea that our silence perpetuated the evil against us. Even during the three months home with our parents every year, we all kept silent. We loved them so much. We knew how passionately they spread the gospel, and I loved my African village friends. If my silence could win their salvation, I would endure anything.
At school, we were not allowed to have pictures of our parents or to cry from homesickness. Each year, my mind would capture a final image of my parents saying goodbye. For the first month, I could see them every time I closed my eyes, and at the tender ages of 6, 7, and 8, I couldn't help crying myself to sleep every night, as silently as possible. But by the ninth month of school, I could no longer remember what my parents looked like. I was so afraid I would break their hearts by not recognizing them when I went home.
The Code of Silence Broken
The crime that led to the burning candle happened at age 10, after a year on furlough in the United States. I found myself at the airport with other MKS saying goodbye to our parents. We were about to board a propeller plane that would take us back to Africa, and our parents would follow by ship.
At the gate, I took my mother's face in my hands and couldn't let go. I stared intently at her beautiful, kind face. "What are you doing, Wesley?"
"Mommy, I just don't want to forget what you look like."
She dissolved into tears, and so did I. I saw a moment of opportunity, a glimmer of hope for rescue. In 30 seconds, I blurted out my plea.