When I was seven years old, I went to Fanda.
I had the B’s as dorm parents, and it was… bad. They were physically, emotionally and sexually abusive to all of us who lived with them. (I say all, because we were all abused by them in one form or another) They were dorm parents for my first three years at school, and the things I learned during that time took the rest of my life to work out and un-learn.
During the time I was in their dorm, they faithfully had devotions with us every night, and prayed with us… they taught us about God and Jesus. They twisted the information they gave us to work for them so that their control over us would be stronger.
There were nightly “spankings” that lasted as long as the dorm father could hit us. (or until we cried) I was confused about when to cry, and when not to cry – because I’d been spanked for crying when I missed my parents.
Guilt was heaped on our heads and we lived in constant fear of God’s wrath.
The dorm father’s wife knew what he did to us at night, and she didn’t bother to try and stop him. She was a very hard woman, and showed us no kindness or empathy. If we cried at night for missing our parents, she yelled at us and told us to stop keeping everyone awake. If we didn’t stop crying, guess what. A spanking.
When I couldn’t sleep during “sleeping siesta”, I was spanked. If either of the dorm parents were in a bad mood, we were in danger of being spanked for a made-up thing.
We lived in fear of the “bell” – when it was time to wake up in the morning it was rung, when it was time for meals, school, meetings, evening showers, devotions, everything. If we didn’t respond quickly enough to the bell being rung, we were spanked.
There was an instance when I was forced to eat potato salad when I was feeling sick. Feeling sick was no excuse! After successfully eating it all, I immediately vomited, and was publicly disgraced for making such a disgusting mess.
When I was twelve or thirteen years old, I was told by a dorm parent that I would become a lesbian, because a few of the girls and I had been square-dancing in our bedroom.
That same dorm mother spanked me for something, and I remember watching the shadow of us on the wall as she beat and beat and beat me with her husband’s belt – I never cried, and she finally gave up, exhausted. She shook her head, breathing hard and crying, and said, “I just don’t know what to do with you…”
As the years went by, we kids watched some heavy hypocrisy from many of the adults whose care we were in.
By the time I was sixteen, I had lost any of the child-like faith in God that I may have still had. In my head, everything was wrapped up together, making God a monstrous being. But along with that way of thinking, I was plagued by the guilt that had been burned into me as a young child. I felt lost and alone, abandoned by my parents, and by God.
When I was seventeen, I lived in the States for almost a year, trying to fit into a foreign culture, go to school and work. Although my grandparents lived in the same town, I was still incredibly alone.
I broke down that year and tried to end my life. After all, I couldn’t see any reason for living. My pain had overwhelmed me and the only escape that I could fathom was to just move on.
Miraculously, the girl who shared my apartment came home hours earlier than expected and called 911. If she hadn’t come home when she did, I would have died. I was taken to the hospital, and after they were sure I was going to be okay physically, I was transferred to a psychiatric hospital. I don’t know how long I stayed there because everything around that time is a big blur.
My mom flew back from Senegal and brought me home with her to the village. I was so happy to just be with my parents, living at home with them for really the first time in my life.
Other things happened, life happened. I won’t go into everything here, because it’s not really applicable to this story. I grew up. Went through more crap. Grew up some more. Repeat.
During all of the growing and changing, I learned who God really is to me. My God. He is Love, Compassion, Grace, Forgiveness, Hope, Truth. I still have a long way to go, and that’s okay with me. Every experience I have had, and everything I have chosen, the goods and the bads, are all steps in this journey to becoming a better person.