The bun was far too sweet to be a hamburger bun. There was a glaze on top, which paired strangely with the seseme seeds and the hamburger patty. But my boys seemed to be enjoying them. Sitting in the glaring heat of an african midday, my seven and four year old boys were laughing and calmly eating french fries. As though nothing in all the world was wrong.
I made a mental note. I would need to remember this place. It was another one of “those places.” A haven of Westernism, in the midst of chaos, poverty and danger. A small butcher shop with a cafe and restaurant. A place of relative familiarity. I felt safe here, with my boys. Even if the buns were far too sweeet.
I do not remember now what I had been doing that morning. But I remember the text.
“Come quick. Our son has been taken.”
I did not understand, but I came. My wife was “in all her states,” as they said in old English. She told me the story.
She had finally gotten up the courage to walk out of our walled compound. Fluent in French, she was going to take our three children across the street to talk to some vendors, maybe purchase a few items. A simple task.
Before arriving at the busy street, there was a narrow barren alley. She was walking this alley when our gardener came out on his motorbike. Our gardener, Solomon, was a good man. He worked hard, had strong Christian faith, and was a sincere and kind person. He had a special kindness in his heart for our young daughter. We were genuinely glad to have him in our lives, and he came frequently to my classes, though he was not enrolled in the seminary.
“Would one of your children like a ride?” He offered.
The street was empty of traffic, and the distance from herself to the main street was not far. “Sure,” she replied.
He wanted to take the four year old, but he was too shy. So our seven-year old accepted. A studious boy, he had been keeping a list of everything he had ridden in his short life. A donkey, an elephant, an airplane, a boat…now a motorcycle? Why not.
But they did not stop when they got to the main road. In a flash of horror, she saw him get to the main road, take a right, and disappear into the blur of camels, vehicles, and pedestrians milling their way to the centre of town.
“Come quick! Our son has been taken!”
I was calm, and very focused. The world seemed to slow on its axes. I was thinking carefully about what to do.
A student living in our compound had a red motorcycle. It was very shiny, and he polished it daily. I was about to ask him if I could ride it. Or if I could send him after Solomon.
My wife put her hand on my arm. She could not bear to have two people on morotcycles in the city. I realized I would never catch up with him anyways. People died daily on motorcycles here in the city.
Our son did not even have a helmet on.
We discussed it further, and realized that this may be a simple cultural misunderstanding. Perhaps Solomon was simply taking our son on his daily errands. Where did he say he was going? He had said something about going to the headquarters of our mission.
“But I did not think he would take our son along with him!”
We called the mission. If Solomon showed up, please retrieve our son. Under no circumstances was our son to leave from there with Solomon.
I got in the car, and took our second-born. As I write this, I am not sure why I took him, but — sitting there in that restaurant — I was glad that I had. It was good to see the boys together. Talking, and laughing.
His younger brother was able to cheer him up, give him a sense of normalcy. Of course, nothing unusual had happened.
“Were you scared?” His mother asked him later. I did not want to ask him at the time. I did not want to paint the experience with the soul-searing terror that I was feeling inside. I did not want to traumatize the boy. Let this experience roll by. Make it normal for him. As normal as it can be. Maybe he will forget.
“Well, I did wonder for a while if I was being kidnapped,” he said hesitantly, “but then I began to pray. I saw some interesting things. I saw a man with only one leg. I have never seen that before!”
I left the rest of the hamburger on my plate. It really was too sweet to eat. At the counter, I had noticed some very nicely prepared roasts. I really must remember this place, I thought to myself. I made pleasant conversation with the cashier, and bought the roast.
I knew that my wife would be happy to have meat that didn’t have hair, bits of bone, or sinews hanging off of it. It was even tied up nicely with those elastic bands like back home.
We got back into the car, and I pulled back into traffic.
Back into the business, back into our lives. There was no time to process, no time to think about what had happened, what could have been. What was.
We just kept on working.
And we thanked God that all had worked out well that day.
** This is a real flashback, with which I struggled significantly. Of course, it did not come in an orderly way like this, but in disjointed images, smells, and tastes. The troubling thoughts kept my mind in a state of arousal, made sleep difficult, and made me irritable until I resolved this event through hypnotherapy **