Short Story Bios Part II: Jocelyn*
I, Whitney, met Helen, a hospital chaplain, at 11:00AM to round and pray for patients in the surgical ward, but before we could go, we first we had to “take chai.” Taking chai is a requirement. If you like chai, it is a luxurious requirement. We took our chai with the other hospital chaplains who proved to be a very warm and welcoming bunch. Once our bellies were filled with the sweet, milky tea, Helen and I set off to the women’s surgical ward.
The wards at Tenwek, and throughout Kenya, are big, open rectangular rooms with a row of beds lining each of the two longest walls. (For a patient to have a semi-private room they must either have tuberculosis or extra money.) We made our way into the ward and stopped at a bed one-third of the way down on the left side. The thin and delicate-looking woman in the bed had been mangled. Both arms were wrapped in bandages from her fingers up past her elbows. The tip of her left, middle finger was missing. Because her gown was too big on her, you could see through the armhole that her torso was also wrapped in bandages. Her face was swollen, with fresh scars across her forehead that circled down and around her closed, puffy right eye. On her left cheek was a smaller slash.
Helen pulled the woman’s right eye open with her thumb. The woman’s right eye remained motionless, unseeing, and did not move with her left eye as she talked with Helen in Kipsigis. When Helen had finished talking with her about her eye and how she was doing that day, Helen rested her hand gently on the woman’s shoulder and turned to me. “This, is Jocelyn. She has been here for three weeks. She is a Christian.” She then turned to Jocelyn and told her in Kipsigis who I was and why I was there. I smiled at Jocelyn, who smiled sweetly back at me and tried out my name saying,
“Yes, Whitney. Chamage?”
“Mising.” She said with another smile, pleased that I knew a word or two of her language.
Helen asked Jocelyn if she could share her story with me.
“Aay,” said Jocelyn with a nod at me.
Helen fixed her eyes on me and became serious as she began to tell me Jocelyn story.
“Jocelyn and her husband had been having “difficulties” so she had gone to stay with her parents. She had occasionally done this before at times when he had beaten her badly. Her husband was also a drunk. She had been at her parents’ for a few days when he came to her parents’ home at a time when she was there alone. Perhaps he had been waiting and watching to see when she was alone. He came into the house and attacked her with a panga (a double-edged short, flat, sword). He attacked her so violently that he was surely meaning to kill her.”
“Oh,” I said taking it in as my eyes examined the evidence of his attack.
“Her eye?” I asked. “Will she be able to see with it again?”
My eyes rested on the missing end of her left middle finger. Helen turned, exchanged a few words with Jocelyn, and turned back to me.
“She tells me her finger was cut off when she grabbed onto the sword tightly to stop him from cutting and stabbing her.”
A bold visual of a woman hunched in a corner with her hand protectively reaching out and grabbing the swinging sword as both the man and the woman cry out sweeps through my brain.
“Does she have nightmares of this?” I ask Helen who translates.
“Yes, she says every night.”
“Oh,” I manage with a nod and Helen continues the story.
“Some villagers had heard of the attack and came and attacked her husband, beating him. Jocelyn was taken to Tenwek. When she woke up in the ICU, she learned that her husband had been badly beaten by the villagers and that he was taken to another hospital. Then she learned that after three days in the hospital, he had died. Her husband is dead.”
“Oh,” I said again, unsure whether to be happy or sad that her husband had died.
“Maybe,” began Helen, “if he had come to Tenwek, we could have told him about the Lord,” said Helen leaning forward raising her eyebrows. “But, he was not brought here,” she said as she leaned back again, “and he is dead,” she concluded with a nod.
I nodded with her processing this information. Her husband was dead. Did God have him die as a blessing to Jocelyn? I was glad, in a way, that she was rid of such a husband. But did she somehow love him? Was she sad? Happy? Her husband being dead could also be a financial burden if he had earned money for the family. If she had kids, how would she care for them and find enough money to feed and clothe them and pay for their school fees?
I asked Helen if she had children who confirmed with Jocelyn, who didn’t look over 30, that she had five boys and no girls. In Kenyan culture, children and especially boys are a prized thing. People would say that she had done well for her husband. But now, how would she raise five boys on her own?
While I was thinking through this, and what Jocelyn future might look like, Helen had been conversing with Jocelyn and now stopped to tell me that Jocelyn children were at her parents-in-law and they had never come to see her the whole three weeks she’d been in the hospital. This was not a good sign. Why had they not come to visit? Why had they not let her children visit?
“Do her parents-in-law blame her for her husband’s death?” I asked Helen.
Jocelyn told Helen that in the years past her parents-in-law never tried to correct their son and tell him not to beat her. To them, it was best to pretend the beatings did not exist. She was not sure what they thought now, but hoped she would be able to get her children back without any problems.
Helen then asked me to pray for Jocelyn, telling me that Jocelyn was able to understand some English. Jocelyn, Jocelyn’s younger sister, Helen, and myself all bowed our heads and we prayed to God together as I spoke aloud. Helen and I then moved on to another patient’s bed and prayed for her and the baby she lost, and then we moved onto another patient, and another, but it was Jocelyn that I could not get out of my mind.
Would you please pray for Jocelyn too? Please pray for:
• Physical healing. That her wounds would not inhibit any work she might do to earn money
• Emotional healing:
- Pray that God can be near to her, heal any angry feelings she might have towards Him.
- After years of being beaten and now with a scared face, her self-esteem might be pretty low. Pray that she defines her value on God’s scale. That she know she is a Princess having been forever adopted as the King of Glory’s child. Let Jesus be the lover that she never had. Let her feel the love and strength in his steadfast, tender and healing embrace.
- Pray that her nightmares stop in the name of Jesus
- She must now provide for her family of five boys
- She was discharged from the hospital last week, but her bill for her surgeries, drugs, and 3-plus week stay was Sh200,000 or $2439.00. This cost is actually much, much lower compared to all other hospitals in Kenya (and obviously the U.S.), but Jocelyn really has little to no money. When I last saw her, her family had managed to pay Sh9,000 ($110.00) of the bill.
• Whatever the Holy Spirit leads you to pray for
Thank you! I know she’ll feel your prayers.
*Name has been changed