GRACE: Locusts And Field Mice by Lee Strobel

A Journalist Explores the Evidence of Transformed Lives

Locusts And Field Mice by Lee Strobel

From: The Case for Grace

I imagined the bounty of food that’s put before Penelope three times a day – and which, like more preschoolers, she routinely picks at with casual disinterest.  “How did you manage to eat?” I asked Stephanie.

“Actually, food was plentiful in the country, except in the winter,” she said.  “I could steal whatever I wanted.  There were fruit fields, vegetable fields, and rice fields.  As long as I didn’t get caught, I could eat.

“I remember following a group of homeless children.  At night they would crawl on their bellies into the fields and get some of what we called sweet melons.  I thought, I could do that.  So there was a season where every night I would wait for the watchman of the field to fall asleep, and I would crawl on my belly and get what I wanted.

“Plus, the rice fields were full of grasshoppers and locusts.  I would catch them and poke a rice straw through their head until I had a whole string of them, which I’d tie to my belt.  By the end of the day they were pretty much dried and I’d eat them.  And I killed field mice.  They would come out of the same hole at the same time every day.  I learned to be really, really patient.  When they stuck out their head, I would grab them quicker than they could go back down the hole.  I pretty much ate everything – the skin, the ears, the tail.”

I asked, “What about the winters?  They must have been unbearable for you.”

“Yes, they were very cold, and I had nowhere to go and no food.  Really, I should have died that first winter.  I don’t know how I survived, except I remember I found a foxhole to live in.  I gathered whatever straw I could find from the rice fields and brought it in to make a little den.  I’d go down to the village when everybody was sleeping and steal what I could from the villagers.

“In Third World countries, street children grow up really fast.  I learned to adapt quickly.  In my wanderings, everything was a treasure.  A tin can thrown by a soldier from a truck became my drinking can and boiling pot.  We would find nails and put them on the railroad tracks to be run over and flattened – they became utensils.  I would use one to gut the mice I would catch.”

“Did the villagers know you were there?”

“Oh, yes.  Every once in a while a kind woman would leave her kitchen door open for me, and I would curl up on the dirt floor by the stove and stay warm.  Those were answers to prayers, because in my dens I would be shivering all night.”

“You mentioned earlier that you were taunted.”

“It was constant.  The children taunted me because I was biracial, and the farmers would yell at me because I was stealing from them.  To everyone, I was a dirty toogee.  And when you’re a little child and hear people call you that day after day, you begin to believe it about yourself.  I believed anyone could do whatever they wanted to me physically because I wasn’t a person.  I was worthless.  I was dirty.  I was unclean.  I had no name.  I had no identity.  I had no family.  I had no future and no hope.  Over time, I began to hate myself.

“There were times when I would follow a group of homeless children.  Sometimes they would let me mingle with them, and other times they would do bad things to me, you just never knew.  So I became hypervigilant.  Very cautious.  And yet the child in me would always want to be with people.  I was always looking for someone to say, ‘Oh, be my friend.  You can belong to us.’”

“What was it like for you emotionally?”

“I was in survival mode.  I did cry when I was abused, I did beg for mercy, I would get angry, I would kick and scream, I learned cuss words really quickly.  The first few days or weeks, I cried for my mommy.  I was always trying to find my way back to her.  Maybe she would be over the next hill; maybe she would be around the next corner.  If I saw a village from the distance I would think, Oh, that’s my village, and I would run into it.

“But it was never my village.”

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