By: Uzodinma Cosmas
In 1732, some three Igbo slaves, two men and a lady, in their master’s farm got weary with their much serving and decided to do something about it. They hatched up a plan to poison their master Ambrose Madison. The deed inspired the book titled “Murder in Montpellier; The Igbo Slaves of Virginia.
Their victim was the grandfather of a boy who was later to grow up to become the President of the United States of America – James Madison. Till date many secular pundits of liberty and freedom have continued to eulogize their “heroic” act which had inspired a number of reforms in the slave holding colonies of America. Slave masters became more careful to treat their slaves with some respect. How be it the main culprit was executed, while the remaining two were whipped severely.
On the other hand was the story of another slave girl. Perhaps in her early teens. Delicately built and very likely to bloom into full womanhood in a couple of years. She had been picked up in the course of a raid and allotted as one of the spoils of raid to the Commanding Officer himself. That she was a beautiful damsel was very plausible and by her station, she was at risk of being turned into one of the nymphs. These were young slave or lower caste girls in the ancient days, who were grown and nurtured as sex objects for the pleasure of their masters.
The narrative never cared to find out what her name was. But she was not in doubt of her own identity and was well acquainted with her nation and her God. Schooled in the faith of her fathers, she knew there was a prophet in their land in whom was the spirit of the Almighty God. Something even the reigning king never reckoned with. For had he known, he would not have fretted when Naaman the leprous Syrian General came calling with a huge military entourage.
Naaman’s wife, the mistress of the little girl, had resigned herself to the reality of living and dying snuggled under the same blanket with a leprous husband. But the little Miss Israel refused to accept that fate for her. Thus one evening, after food had been served and she had performed her tasks as a slave girl she boldly stepped forward to help.
With the characteristic shyness of a girl her age and the boldness of a daughter of Zion she spoke: “Auntie,” she called, “I know what Master is carrying. But you don’t need to worry. ‘If only my master was with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy” (2kings 5: 3).
It may have been one short sentence by a little girl, but it changed the fortunes of a leading military general, statesman and perhaps the destiny of a nation “… for by him the Lord had wrought many victories for Syria.’ ” (2 Kings 5:1).
Mrs Naaman may have been shocked that what she had kept secret to the household was already known to the little Miss Israel. Her first reaction may have been that of denial. Until then there had never been any report about someone who was cleansed from leprosy either by apothecary nor any prophetic declaration.
But as Lady Naaman slept that night, she was troubled in her spirit. She might have recalled how faithful little Miss Israel had been and how her devotion had forged a bond between them like that of mother and daughter. Her restlessness may have dissolved into a despair and despair into a resolve.
At midnight she crawled up to her husband. “Honey,” she beckoned; the “People’s General” she flattered. “Let us give the words of this little girl a chance.” Lady Naaman gave the General no rest until he consented. The rest today is history. He was healed at the end of his journey.
Little Miss Israel is a metaphor for many of us who carry solutions to great challenges but are either hindered by malice or cowardice to step up. Under normal circumstances she should have said, “Good for you. You would die in your infirmity.” Filled with love and compassion, she did not let the humiliation of servitude steal her nobility. She rose above the norm.
Here, we have a lesson different from the attitude of the uncles and aunty in Montpellier. It indeed does not matter where we are as believers nor the circumstances under which we work. We are called to redeem and to reconcile. Whether as junior officers, not reckoned with, nor regarded; our attitude should be that of this little servant girl. Indeed, with a little patience, we could see what the devil meant for evil turning around for our good.
For us as believers, it does not matter that you might be missing in the hall of fame, and with neither garlands nor honour wreaths to salve our ego. We must take joy in doing what is right before God. Yes, today, that story has become that of Elisha, Naaman and even Gehazi. The name of the little Miss Israel is always missing in the headline but her life remains the most lucid expression of the teachings of Christ.
In her, the beautiful words of the Lord in Matt 5: 44 & 48 resonate. “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. …Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
The passage also mirrors the character of Lady Naaman. She might have extended to little Miss Israel a tenderness unexpected for a slave girl. Many of us see our helps and subordinates as sub-humans, not knowing that such helps carry the seed of our redemption. Of all her “bigness”, Lady Naaman lacked something. She was in bed with a leper and it had to take an unusual source for solution to come, and she was humble enough to listen.
Being perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect is the only garland worth aspiring to and honour shield worth keeping. Thus had Mrs Naaman and little Miss Israel so nobly advanced.
May God grant us the courage and grace to step out when it matters most and not allow pride to rob us of our redemption?
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