God has Ears

Doreen Peck died on 7 December 1999 Many years a missionary, later Doreen was a college lecturer, CMS Organiser and a Reader at St Peterís. The following is an extract from her spiritual autobiography ĎGod has Earsí, published at the time of her funeral in Southwell on 16th December 1999. It describes an incident in the Hutu-Tutsi conflict in Rwanda in 1959.

"God has Ears"That day being Sunday, we held a short service on the hillside near the primary school buildings, and were very conscious of Godís overshadowing of us. We knew that all around us armed bands were gathering, and heard them blowing their horns (made from cowsí horns) to gather people together. The burning of kraals continued, including some of those of Mission workers beyond the perimeter of the Mission compound.

Early in the afternoon came a message from one of the groups of raiders. As missionary in charge of the Mission Centre they wanted to see me! Accompanied by Edreda, the wife of the evangelist who had gone with Josephine, I went down the road to meet them waiting at the hairpin bend on the edge of the Mission property. I was greeted by a band of men with spears and staves. They wanted my permission to come on to Mission land so that they could seize various Tutsi who were in hiding in Mission buildings. (It says something of the respect in which Mission Centres were held at that time that they would bother to ask for permission!)

"Why are you hiding our enemies?" they demanded to know. "I donít know anything about Ďenemiesí," I replied; "I have come to share with everyone the Good News of Jesus and his love for all people, and Iím not involved in any political issues." "We know thatís what youíve come for, Mademoiselle," they said, "but Yona Sekimonyo, the headmaster, has disappeared and we believe the Tutsi have killed him."

As I stood there, an Englishwoman of 5ft. 2in. surrounded by these armed men, I experienced a strange kind of detachment, as if it was a play I was looking down upon.

"Of course they havenít killed him!" I replied (though I had no idea where he was or what had happened to him). "And I cannot allow you to come on to this hill if you are intent on killing. This is Godís hill!" "There is no God, Mademoiselle!" said one young lad, thrusting his face near mine. "Oh yes, there is! And you will see that He will not allow you to come further up this hill, if your intentions are to kill."

I was amazed to hear my own voice saying these words. "Lord," I prayed silently, "thereís only Edreda and me standing here, they have only to walk past us." But they didnít! They looked at one another and then turned to leave, threatening "if the headmaster isnít found by tomorrow morning we will come and get the culprits".

As we returned up the hill we passed the hospital and found that one of the schoolmasters, Eustace Rutiba (later to become a Professor at Makerere University in Uganda), had gathered the refugee children together on the verandah and was leading them in singing choruses! I felt I must warn the refugees at the hospital of the impending danger, and encourage them to try to escape when it was dark. We prayed together, committing ourselves into Godís hands. We knew that the armed bands of attackers were lurking around, but we believed also that other, invisible, bands (as seen by Elishaís servant in 2 Kings 6:8-17) were surrounding us too - for there was no human reason why those raiders should not have attacked a Mission Centre protected only by one woman missionary!

I returned to my own house as dusk was falling, and was met by Michael, the sub-chief, and his wife Bereta. ĎItís not right for us to stay and put you in danger,í they said, Ďso we are leaving, and will try to get out of the country.í (They eventually managed to escape to Uganda, where they spent some time before finally settling in Kenya.)

Then a note was pushed under my back door. It was from the headmaster. "Iíve heard of the difficulty you are in. I did go into hiding as I heard my life was in danger - but Iím not going to continue to put you in jeopardy because of me, so Iím coming back." Full of thankfulness for his courage and concern for us all, I sent off a message to the raiders (there were several people acting as go-betweens), saying that the headmaster was safe and well.

God has Ears by Doreen Peck, published by Penelope Young, 1999
Available from: Anthony Hustwayte, 3 Harveyís Field, Church Street, Southwell, Nottinghamshire, NG25 0JD
Price £6, including postage (cheques payable to CMS)

© St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 23rd December 1999