Coming Close to Being an Orphan

In this blog I am trying to step through major events in my life in a chronological order. The next big event after becoming a Christian, was an event in the late 70’s which is a major factor in any history that involves my family. It not only concerns my family but several others too, its been written about in at least one book, featured in several international and UK newspapers at the time, as well as numerous radio and TV news broadcasts. Its impossible to tell my story without reference to this event, it has defined many things, both directly and indirectly.

In Brief

The event in question was raid on the farm on which my family lived. The raid was by Joshua Nkomo’s Rhodesian ‘freedom fighters’ and was one of several in the area. Despite being in Zambia, many miles away from the Zambia / Rhodesia border, we were not safe. In the months previous a neighbouring farm had been invaded and an elderly lady who lived there disappeared, never to be seen again.

During the raid, 3 people were taken captive, one of whom was my mother; they were all subjected to prolonged unpleasantness.

I and one of my brothers were safely away at boarding school and so all I would know of the event was a letter from my father telling me that Mum had had an accident and had suffered 2 broken ribs. The next school holiday, it seemed that all that was spoken about on the farm was this raid and the various circumstances that saved more people from getting caught up.

The couple who owned the farm were away so they were spared; my father was in town and was stopped on his return by one of the owners and told to turn around. Some other ladies on the farm were mistaken for younger children and left alone. My youngest brother was visiting a school friend so was not around to see anything.

The aftermath

I still remember today some of the many discussions and stories that were told about this event. There was much thanking of God that no one was killed and that the injuries to those captured were not as deadly as they might have been. Yet, some of those who I remember being about at the time I would never see again. The trauma having been too great and they would never set foot there again, some even left Zambia, never to return. So despite the relative ‘good fortune’ that day, the trauma went deep and lasted a long time.

Punishment for Sin?

There is no question that not everything was rosy at that time. There were a couple of families on the farm where one or both parents were having an affair. One adult speculated to me that maybe the raid could have been a punishment for the sin that was going on.

Even as a youngster, I found this idea difficult to fathom. The most critical element being that the people who suffered most during the raid were not those who were sinning most. If the raid was punishment for sin, why weren’t those who most deserved punishment the ones who suffered? Of course I am not saying that anyone deserved to be caught up in that raid, nobody did, it was an horrific experience which I dearly wish I could erase from history.

I will never know just how close I came to becoming an orphan that day and its not especially something that want to dwell on. Its how we hold ourselves after such events that define us.

My family stayed in Zambia. This must have been hard for my grandparents, since my mother was an only child. Despite discussing this event with my grandmother years later when I was a teenager, I do wish I had asked them more pointed questions about it when I had the chance, because now I can’t.

At my mother’s funeral, several people made reference to her dignity in the aftermath of this event. It would be afterwards that I would find an account that she wrote of her experience, it was dated 10 years after the raid. It would be a truly emotional read.

How does it define my Christian life?

To be honest in and of its own it doesn’t define anything in my Christian life. However, the life on the farm was a very Christian life with the majority of people being Christians and Christian passing through. The farm owner was an elder at the main Baptist church in town and we all went every Sunday.

As a child, growing up on the farm was wonderful, it was a fabulous place to explore and my most treasured memories are from those years.

This all changed after the raid. My parents separated and so we spent less time on the farm. As the affects of an unpleasant divorce sunk in, life became less happy and the farm became a symbol of the joy that once was. The raid became the full stop that marks the end of a chapter.

Life would definitely not be the same again.

9 thoughts on “Coming Close to Being an Orphan

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  3. Wow. How awful for your mom. Thank you for sharing your journey…I am reading bits and pieces. My husband’s father had an affair and divorced my MIL three years ago, and while my husband was an adult, it still caused alot of damage. We are estranged from hus father now, who has just been so mean and heartless. My MIL is really depressed and it can be stressful to be around her. (sorry for the typos…for some reason I cannot go back and correct them on this ipad).

    • Thank you for the comment LAC. My folks divorced while I was in my young teens. The whole process started a few years beforehand. There is nothing nice I can say about the experience at all and it made and very large impact on my attitudes and opinions later in life. Not all of them pleasant. While I am mostly over it now, its fair to say that I’ll never completely recover.

      My relationship with my father suffered the most as a result of my parents separation and its only since Mum died that we’ve been able to develop anything remotely close to normal. Though to be fair, in that time he’s also separated from his 2nd wife, a woman who has been in my life since the time of the incident mentioned in this post. First as a family friend and later as a step-mother. Her influence was never especially positive and their separation I see as a good thing.

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  5. I had no idea this happened to your mother. Her suffering must have been immense, and I’m glad she emerged from the ordeal alive.

    “One adult speculated to me that maybe the raid could have been a punishment for the sin that was going on.”

    Nauseating. The lack of empathy in that person’s comment is stunning.

    • Hi Ahab,

      Thanks very much for the comment. It was indeed a horrid time outwardly Mum dealt with it very well, but it did have a lasting effect on her.

      That comment you quote actually came from my father, but not in the way you’d imagine. He was throwing it to me as a repeat of what others had said and invited me to make my own mind up. I have no idea if he actually believed it at the time and I really don’t particularly wish to ask him. I doubt he does now. It was quite a big thing to lay on a 9 year old though.

      As to who he was referring to, well that’s not important to me, but it is saddening that it was considered at all.

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