It had been a tough three-and-a-half years. Everyday life takes all day on this windswept grassy knoll at the end of the world, but I did find time to chat with neighbors and get to know people. In the round mud-brick home next to ours lived a woman who was part of the clan into which I had been named. I knew her sister much better, as she was a believer, but this woman had always been friendly.
One day, a small, battered hatchback pulled up next door and three men jumped out, one of them carrying a rifle. They stormed into my neighbor’s home, and I began to hear shouting and screaming. My husband had gone with the herd boys to the cattle tank for conversation practice, and there did not seem to be anyone anywhere. Where was everybody? I ventured over to my neighbor’s door and looked inside. The men were shouting and slapping the lady around, hitting her with the butt of the rifle, while she tried to protect the baby in her arms. My language skills were still very poor, but I could tell they kept asking her, “Where is he? Where is he?”
When they noticed me standing in the doorway, one of the men came over and asked, “What are you doing here? Go away. This matter doesn’t concern you.”
With my limited vocabulary, I answered, “This lady is my neighbor and I am concerned about her. What are you doing?”
“This is a police investigation. It is none of your business.”
“But she is my neighbor, so it is my business.” Was that my voice?
“Are you really policemen? Where I come from, the police don’t act like this.” (This was an inaccurate and somewhat ethno-centric comment on my part. In fact, they do sometimes act like that, if a person is a member of the wrong ethnic group in the wrong part of town.) Disgusted, the man flashed his credentials at me and turned back to continue the investigation.
I just stood there, frozen in the doorway. I felt powerless to intervene, knowing it was no use to go inside the house and try to stop them. I stood there watching, wincing, wishing there was something I could do, wishing it would stop. After some time, they brought her out of the house, shoved her into the car, and rattled away. I guess they wanted to continue their investigation somewhere else. I tried to memorize the license plate number but forgot it before I could locate a pencil and paper in the dimly lit room.
I learned later that her boyfriend was wanted for the murder of another man in a drunken knife brawl. She returned in a day or two, thanking me profusely for what I had done, even though I could not see that I had done anything. Maybe sometimes just being there, being God’s eyes and ears, can be an influence. Even if it does not change or stop the evil, it may encourage those to whom the evil is being done. Maybe that is part of what it means to be a good neighbor.