It was my first night in my new apartment and I was looking forward to getting some good sleep after such a long day. But that wasn’t going to happen. Not because it was a new place, not because I was alone and not because Reagan and I had killed about 200 cockroaches that afternoon and I was worried they had called in re-enforcements. (Don't worry, they were all quite small)
The screaming started around 10:30 that night, echoing through the stair well and bouncing off every surface. It was hard to tell exactly where it was coming from until I heard banging on my ceiling from the neighbors above. It was a woman, in great distress, and not being a complete newbie to this country I had an idea of what was going on.
I sat in my living room with the lights off, peering through the curtains, hoping that someone was going to emerge from one of the doorways and make their way toward the sounds of whimpering. But instead all I heard was television sets being turned up and saw 2 or 3 men walk slowly and silently up the stairs. One even paused near the door in question, but not for long.
I struggled with my ‘peace keeper’ personality knowing full well that if I, a woman, were to try to interfere with this kind of thing; it would likely make the situation much worse. At home I would just call the police. That wouldn’t help here. And unlike lower class neighborhoods, where community living is still prominent, middle class neighborhoods like this one have taken on a more western mind set: every family for themselves.
I continued to listen in hopes that it would soon be over. The woman would howl and plead and scurry around while a muffled angry male voice murmured and banged around. Then he would, assumingly, catch her and start systematically grumbling as if he was counting out the lashings; seven, eight, nine, never less than five. She would respond with whimpers and whines and when that was finished the cycle started all over again.
This went on for over an hour and all I could do was pray. I was powerless. I didn’t know the situation. Was he drunk? Was he just an abusive person? Did she do something horrible? Were there kids involved?
I asked the care taker the next morning what was happening. He wasn’t sure what I meant at first but then it clicked and he replied with, “Just pray.” No details no information, “Just Pray.”
I thought about that for a while. I was praying but I have to be honest and admit that as I was praying and hearing this woman being abused, it didn’t seem like I was doing enough. My mind was completely focused on my own abilities… or lack thereof. How do I make the beatings stop?
But as I thought about prayer I was reminded that it is far more powerful than my abilities. God has promised that He not only listens but He answers. And as far as my neighbor is concerned, He knows her situation and sees her future. Maybe she was praying for help but even if she wasn’t, I was; on her behalf.
I often forget what it is like to be in a completely powerless situation in which you can only rely on God’s abilities and not your own. And though hearing someone being abused is heart wrenching, there is a sense of calm that can blanket the struggle when you leave the work to God and give Him the credit.
I hope to get to meet these neighbors. Learn their story. I won’t be asking them about the other night but I would like to be a friend and infiltrate their home with prayer. And you can help. Pray for this couple, they are in need of God’s intervention and power of peace and restoration.