I had just arrived in the village of Angguna to work alongside my teammate Martha Wade for several weeks. During my first night there, panicked people brought a child to Martha’s house. He was slumped over, and his head was bleeding. In the cacophony of explanations and cries, Martha and I figured out that he had been hit in the head with a machete.
As I cleaned Ilo’s wound, we kept checking on him, hoping he would respond. “Ilo, can you hear me? … Ilo, squeeze my hand. … Can you hear me?”
“How did this happen?” Martha asked the people who had brought Ilo to us.
“It was dark,” someone explained. “His brother was cutting firewood and didn’t see him come up behind him.”
“Ilo, look at me,” I pleaded.
I tried to assess his wound in the dim light. The skin was cleanly split. I couldn’t tell the condition of his skull. There was something there. A vein? His brain? It was too hard to tell.
We prayed for Ilo. We bandaged the wound and said we would look again in the morning.
In the end we sent him to town. A two day journey by canoe and truck. The doctors at the hospital said that he had been well taken care of and sent him back home.
Later Ilo was able to receive some physical therapy. There had been some brain damage, but he was young. He recovered.
I returned to Angguna in August 2023 for the dedication of the Apal translation. While there I got to see Ilo. Barely a scar. Strong and healthy and grown up. No sign of brain damage. It was sweet.
During my time in Angguna, I learned the rest of the story from Ilo’s brother Ani.
Ani was a rebellious teenager back in 2011 when I first came to Angguna. He had come home from hunting late at night. He was hungry, and he became angry that there was not any food for him to eat. He threw a fit and began striking things with his machete. The counter where the dishes were kept. A swing at the dog and the bamboo walls of the house.
The bamboo walls. Ani’s little brother, already in the house, sound asleep in the next room, his head close to the wall. Too close. The machete blade slicing through the thin bamboo and striking Ilo at full force.
I gasped when I heard Ani’s confession. He had wounded in anger?! But he hadn’t known that his brother was there.
That long ago moment was pivotal for Ani. He saw the consequences of his sinful actions and realized that only God could change him. That night he acknowledged his need for the God who transforms lives.