A Candle in the Darkness
"Mommy, please don't send me back! Please don't send me back! They hate me … they beat me … I'm scared." I begged, "Please, please!"
I will never forget the look of horror in my mother's eyes.
"What?" she gasped. She held me tightly. "What … what can I do?" I could feel her sobbing in my embrace.
Not a minute later, my sister and I were whisked away with the other children. My friends, who had overheard, looked at me with dead man walking in their eyes. They didn't want to even be near me for fear of sharing in my imminent punishment. I had done the unthinkable—I had broken the code of silence.
During my parents' month-long voyage at sea, my mother, brokenhearted and confused, had an emotional and psychological breakdown. Upon arriving in Africa, she was soon sent back to the U.S. for treatment. Word of her illness and what had caused it spread like wildfire. When the news reached the boarding school, the staff was enraged.
I had resigned myself to the coming humiliation. In minutes I would scream and throw down the candle—until I heard his last phrase: "… parents' ministry ruined … Africans in hell because of Wesley." That broke my heart more than the humiliation, more than any pain that may come my way ever could.
I loved Africans. In my heart I was African. Every summer my spirit was restored by the loving-kindness of the poverty-stricken Africans in my village. I never fell down during those three months without an African woman swooping in to pick me up and wipe tears from my eyes. I used to pray every night in that village, "Lord, if you love me, let me wake up black tomorrow, like all my friends. I know you can do this!" I would check every morning to see if I had been turned black, only to be disappointed. But maybe tomorrow.
I was my dad's right-hand man. Together we opened villages to the gospel where no white person had been since the slave trade. I lobbed stones with my slingshot into the trees to keep noisy birds away so that my father's voice could be heard as he shared the gospel. I watched Africans' faces when they first heard the word Jesu. And I saw the hope that was built in them. I was a missionary as far as I was concerned. So, Africans in hell because of me?
As the flames licked closer to my skin, from deep within me arose a gust of strength I cannot fully explain to this day. I had a desperate thought: I could win this time. This time, the houseparent had unwittingly put himself in a place where I could actually win, if I could endure enough pain. I knew in my heart that he was wrong. He was lying, and I felt the evil and injustice to the core of my soul. I was not Satan's tool. I was a little boy with a broken heart who had found his voice and cried out for rescue. So, enough—enough shame, enough abuse, enough lies. It had to stop somewhere, sometime. I made my decision: It stops now! I'm not letting go!
Nothing was going to make me cry out or drop that candle. This is where I would take my stand—this was my little Masada.
I shook violently, tears brimming in anticipation of burned flesh. He turned his back on me, his tirade growing in intensity. But I could no longer hear his voice. All I could hear was the pulsing of blood in my ears. I clenched my teeth, tightened every muscle in my body, and pinched the candle as fiercely as I could. I stared as the edges of my fingers turned red. A blister popped up. I was transported out of my body. I floated above this terrified boy, watching as if it were happening to someone else. I saw a wisp of smoke rise up on either side of my fingers. I would not let go.