Jonathan Kopf, August 28, 2012
I looked at him, but I couldn’t force myself to look directly into his eyes. He was despicable. The scum of the earth. Murderer. Wife beater. Child abuser. He was sitting on the log next to me under my wife’s bark roofed cooking hut. Why had he come to our village anyway? And why did he sit so close to me? Was he looking for his next victim? I lowered my gaze and kept pushing the file across the blade of the machete I was sharpening for my friend. On my right, next to the fire pit squatted the ex-axe-murderer-now-turned-believer named Fato. To my left was loin-cloth clad Kalafu the despicable. Mr. Despicable. That would be his name from now on. I would never call him by his given name again. Keep sharpening the machete, I told myself.
On the dirt floor between me and Despicable was his axe. It was unusually small, though the handle was as long as the average axe. Probably a hatchet head on an axe handle. Then my stomach churned. I wonder how many bodies the hatchet has plunged into? Let’s see. For sure I know he led the murder raid for Mas’ wife Lut along with her baby son. Then there was Nomi and her baby boy Aisek. Then Petelin, and don’t forget Kansol’s twelve year old boy Meson. My friend Saimon and Lomaf and who knows how many others. Was it this axe or was it the weapon of one of the other raiders? Maybe an arrow or machete for some victims, but certainly this axe had seen blood. Despicable had seen a lot of blood. That’s how they always described it. “I saw blood.” When they said it like that it sounded rather casual. Surreal. But it meant cold blooded murder. Nothing casual about that.
Then he spoke. “Give me the file,” he said in his gravelly voice. “When you are done sharpening the machete, I’ll sharpen my axe. I gave a quick glance into his blood-shot eyes to show I had heard his request. Then I looked back to my work. The scraping of steel against steel made my heart shudder. Or was it the thought of letting him use my file to aid in his next victim? Would it be someone here? One of the ladies or teenage girls my wife had befriended? I had to stop my mind from wondering.
But then a thought crossed my mind. You serve the Hewa tribal men by sharpening axes and machete’s, why not serve him in the same way?
No way! Not Despicable’s axe. He may use it to see more blood.
You need to humble yourself to serve him. You know, that washing of the feet idea?
With that thought I realized the Holy Spirit was nudging my conscience but it didn’t stop me from arguing. Not if it means increasing his effectiveness at slicing human flesh.
Show him you care about him. I knew the feet I washed would soon run to bring the men that would condemn me to death.
I turned the machete over and continued with the other side of the blade. Maybe I could sharpen his axe, and while doing it preach him a sermon. A loud and hot tongue lashing.
Despicable was now talking with the others who had arrived to light their cigarettes at the dying fire in front of my feet. He was joking and laughing with them as if he was their best friend. Why they never spoke of the women and children who were their relatives that he had murdered was beyond me. Maybe fear of bringing the axe in their direction.
I was just about done with the machete and struggled at what to do next.
Despicable saw me hesitate and didn’t give me a chance to make up my mind. He grabbed the file and held it to his blade. He pushed the file across the edge one time and then another.
“No, let me do it,” a quiet voice said from my right.
I turned, not understanding Fato’s words.
“I’ll do it,” he said, not waiting for Despicable to respond. Fato leaned across my legs and took Kalafu’s axe and the file. He set the wicked blade on his lap and began to sharpen. He didn’t say a word. The grinding of steel did the talking.
No, I thought. Doesn’t he know what this axe is used for? I stared at Fato but he didn’t look at me, intent on his task. Then my mind changed. I should be the one doing it. The thought made me want to steal the tools away from Fato. No, I had waited too long and the reward would go to Fato. That’s okay, I thought. Let his act of service be a rebuke to me. But I should say something. I’ll give him a piece of my mind.
Love him, a voice said into my heart.
I hesitated, but I knew the Child of God on my right was preaching a bold sermon. He had also murdered people in the past and he knew what he was doing. He pushed the file over the steal one last time and handed the axe back to its owner.
“He served you,” I said, the words popping out of my mouth, “so now this axe is to be set apart for doing good. It can never be used for murder again.”
Kalafu didn’t respond so I looked at him. His eyes shifted away. I felt I had said too much.
“No, it’s true,” he finally answered. “I have used this axe for evil.”
“Your Creator loves you and wants you to hear the story of how He sent Jesus to pay the penalty for all the evil you have done.”
“I know,” he answered.
I had never seen him so subdued. “When you followed the trail of your ancestors,” I said, “you murdered people just like they did, but now God wants to show you a new trail, one of forgiveness and love.”
“I will listen. One day I will hear the story.”
“I realize I am limited in speaking to you in your dialect, but Fato knows the story well and how to speak it in a way you will understand. It’s time for you to let him help you.”
He looked at Fato and then at me, his eyes steady. I could tell he was considering what I was saying. His eyes were hard, very hard, but I could see through the window to the war that was raging in his soul.
Instead of changing the subject, he took his axe and stood, making me feel vulnerable at his feet. “I will,” he said. “Someday soon I will listen to the story.” With that he walked slowly away, his shoulders slumped with the weight of a thousand miseries.
Lord please touch him, I prayed. No one else can. Please grab his heart and draw him to yourself. Change him from a fearless murderer to a courageous preacher of righteousness.