Tag Archives: murder

MEMORIES OF GHANA

Kumasi has been on my mind a great deal this week.

Ghana’s second city was called “the garden city” before independence in 1957.   It’s not very green now, but the city still has the biggest open air-market in west Africa and a number of attractions for visitors.   It remains the home of the Asantahene, the King of the Ashanti, one of the most powerful men in the Republic of Ghana.

Exactly forty years ago, my wife and I were visiting the city once a month. We pastored a church there, as well as one in Accra, the capital, where we lived.   One of the joys of visiting Kumasi was spending time with Charles and Comfort Akowuah.   At the time, Charles was the deacon of the local church. He had a huge chicken farm outside of Kumasi.   The Akowuahs had two children, Loma and Richard (also known as Yaw).   Our children and theirs would play together.

We first arrived in Ghana on May 27, 1978.   At the time, the country was going through some major problems.   The economy had collapsed with an inflation rate of 600%, the military was in power, a “palace coup” took place just a few weeks after we arrived, and a revolution took place a few months later.   It was difficult to buy anything in the stores.   We were in culture shock for a while after arriving.   Charles and Comfort were a great help.

At some point during our first five-year stay in Ghana, Charles was ordained an elder of the church.   We worked very closely in serving the Ghanaian people.   During that five years, the church grew considerably.

We maintained our friendship even after a split in the church in 1995, which affected just about every country in the world.   We had dinner with them on our last visit to Ghana.   Whenever we visited Kumasi, we would visit the restaurant they started over twenty years ago, “Friends Garden,” a popular, open-air meeting place right in the heart of Kumasi.   Conversations would always last late into the night.

Sadly, Charles died of cancer on Sunday.

Charles’ funeral will not take place until 20th October.   This will enable friends and relatives in the Ghanaian diaspora to get back to Kumasi for the traditional funeral rites.  Ghanaians have the best funerals in the world.   If I could be there, I would be, joining in the celebration of Charles’ life.   His son, Richard, will be there from the United States; sadly, their daughter died some years ago, from complications that arose from sickle cell anemia, the end of a life-long struggle.

Thank you, Charles, for some wonderful memories.   Comfort, keep the business going – we hope to pass through Kumasi again someday. Will red-red or fufu be on the menu?

Damfira due, dear friend . . .

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LONDON TERROR – INCIDENT OR ACCIDENT?

The road to Kumasi was always a challenge. It was exactly 168 miles from our home to the center of the city.   The journey could take anything from 4 to 6 hours, depending on traffic and weather, as well as the state of the road, which varied.   There were well-paved stretches of road, but there were also considerable distances of mud, where you could easily get bogged down, especially if it was raining.   The rain was always a tropical storm, a. positive deluge, which could quickly wash the road away.   There was no shelter, just thick rain forest on either side of the highway.

Sometime in 1982, during the rainy season, my American colleague and I, together with our son Kurt, who was only three, were driving back to Accra from Kumasi, after dark.   We had four church members in the back of our Landrover (jeep).   In the middle of a heavy storm, we had a major accident with a bus, full of passengers heading to the capital.   We were all under a deadline, as there was a curfew at 10pm.

Our vehicle was hit by the bus and completely turned around, as it spun into a stone wall, demolishing it, before coming to a halt.   I had grabbed hold of our son (there were no seat belts in those days).   He and I did not have any serious injuries; my colleague, Steve, had a cut on his head and at least one of our passengers was thrown out of the back of the vehicle.

Making things worse was the endless, heavy rain.

A vehicle stopped to help.   The driver, an Ethiopian working for an NGO, gave Kurt and I a ride to our home, about two hours away.   We arrived just before the curfew.   My colleague was not far behind.   Days later, I tried to find the driver of our rescue vehicle.   I had no success. To this day,   I wonder if we were rescued by “an angel unawares.”   (Hebrews 13:2)

In the weeks that followed, we had no vehicle.

It turned out that the bus driver was drunk and had been dancing in the aisle while driving in a heavy storm.   Theoretically, we could have gone to court and received compensation from the bus driver’s company to buy a new vehicle.   But it wasn’t that simple.

Our lawyer, a prominent Ghanaian, said it would be pointless going to court.   The local police were not co-operating and the judge and jury wouldn’t either. One reason was tribal affiliation.   People in Africa identify with their tribe, first and foremost.   As the people on the jury would be of the same tribe as the accused, who came from that area, the man would be found not guilty; so what was the point of going to court?

That’s how it was explained to me.

I was reminded of this a couple of days ago when watching Sky News.   There was a report about a terrorist attack in London, when a 29-year-old Muslim man from South Sudan deliberately ran his vehicle into a group of cyclists riding past London’s iconic parliament building.   The man was in London to obtain a British passport, having just been granted British citizenship.

Sky News questioned some of the man’s friends, all Muslims.   They were all in agreement, that the incident was just an accident, not a terrorist incident, that Muslims are always blamed for terrorist attacks, when no Muslim would ever do anything like that.

It reminded me of that accident almost 40 years ago.   Again, tribal affiliation makes policing virtually impossible.

Thanks to Acorn, a streaming service similar to Netflix, offering shows from the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, we have been able to watch a number of shows from England.   Crime shows, especially, portray the complexities caused by the reality of multicultural Britain, where everyday policing is made virtually impossible for the same reason it was pointless trying to have the drunk driver of the bus prosecuted following our near-death experience.

If the man is still alive, he is probably still driving buses in the pouring rain on difficult roads, dancing in the aisle while consuming lots of beer!

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AUSTRALIA AT 25

Sometime this week Australia’s population reached 25 million. Nobody knows exactly who is number 25 million – it’s more likely to be an immigrant arriving in the country than a new born baby; but 25 million is now the number.   Australia, in recent years, has been taking in 240,000 immigrants a year, compared to an average of 70,000 per annum in the twentieth century.

Prior to Gough Whitlam’s Labor administration (1972-75), Australia had a “white Australia” policy, in an attempt at preserving the country’s European culture.   At the time, most people were descended from the Anglo-Saxon-Celtic peoples of the British Isles. Today, with declining birthrates in western Europe, most immigrants come from Asia and the Middle East, peoples of very different cultural backgrounds.

Eighty years ago, the big fear was of a Japanese invasion.   After World War II, there was great concern about the Chinese.   Neither invasion took place.   But a new generation of Australians is permitting a different invasion of their country.   The end result is likely to be that Australia will become an Asian republic, with all that implies.

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TRAINS AND REPTILES

This has been the last week before our grandchildren in Lansing return to school.   (The grandchildren in Indiana have been back for two weeks.)

I took Aubren on Wednesday for a day in Durand, a small town east of Lansing that has a railroad museum and remains a fairly busy train terminal, almost all freight.   This means you can sit and watch trains while eating lunch.   Aubren loves it and likes to play with the model train in the museum.   We were there for a few hours.   The man in charge at the museum said that they get many autistic children visiting.   For some reason, they love trains. He certainly felt at home there.

On Thursday, it was Leeson’s turn.   I took him to a big pet store to see all the snakes, lizards and spiders.   At first, he wanted me to buy a tarantula. He was inspired by a young lady who was standing next to us, checking out all the creepy-crawlies before buying one.   I saw no evidence that she was married, which is just as well.   I would also caution all single males to check out the girlfriend’s hobbies before contemplating marriage!

But, Leeson wasn’t so interested in tarantulas as he was in snakes. We ended up in the snake section (yes, there is one), where he asked the manager if he could hold a snake.   Yes, he could.   He chose the candy cane corn snake.

He held it for some time, offering me the opportunity to do so.   I declined, saying I needed to keep my hands free to take pictures for his mother.   My excuse worked!

Leeson is only five and asked the store manager, Jason, lots of very intelligent questions about snakes and how to take care of them.   He revealed that he already has a garter snake, which is hiding in the woodpile in our back yard.

In conversation, I told Jason I was watching PBS’ ‘The Outback,” on the previous evening.   Australia has more dangerous creatures than anywhere else on earth (and they still have 240,000 people settle there each year!).

Jason told me he had seen a documentary on Australia, where the American presenter commented on all these dangerous creatures and asked the Australian animal expert if there was anywhere in Australia that was safe.   The Australian responded with: “Yes, the classroom!”   Good point!

Through these two boys I’ve learned a lot about both trains and reptiles, far more than I ever wanted to know, in the case of the latter.

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COLORADO TRAGEDY

A young father in Colorado murdered his pregnant wife and two young daughters on Monday.   We’ve had similar tragedies in Michigan in recent years.

It seems that, today, parents (particularly the father or step-father) are the greatest danger children have to face.

It’s a national tragedy.   Why does this keep on happening?

Apparently, the couple was having financial problems and had had an argument that morning.   TV news reported from outside their home, which was a modern mansion.

Coincidentally, I checked a new book out of the library this week. The title is “Squeezed:   why our families can’t afford America,” by Alissa Quart.   According to a recent newspaper article, 70% of Americans are struggling financially.   They live paycheck to paycheck and are heavily in debt.   It starts with student loans, then a car loan and a mortgage and progresses downhill from there.

But, why does a small family like the one in Colorado, need such a big house?   A PBS documentary over twenty years ago showed that the average family home in the 50’s and 60s was 1,100 square feet, with a garage for one car.   Forty years later, the average new home was 2,000 square feet, with a 2½ car garage, usually used for storage.     Now, it’s even worse.   The title of the documentary was “Affluenza,” highlighting a disease that too many people suffer from.   We need bigger and bigger homes to store more and more things!   And it’s all built on debt.   Where’s the sense in it?

The stress that it all leads to is causing irreparable damage to families, including divorce and violence.

We don’t know yet why the man in Colorado flipped and killed those he, at one time, loved.

There’s never been a greater need than there is now for God to fulfill the last two verses of the Old Testament, a promise to “turn the hearts of the fathers to their children,” prior to Christ’s Second Coming.

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”   (Malachi 4:5-6)

I find it unfathomable that a husband and father can do what this young man did in Colorado.   A father’s role includes protecting his wife and children. Instead, today, too often the husband and father represent the greatest threat to the safety and security of everybody in the household.

Of course, we have, in the last few decades destroyed the family in many ways, including totally upending God’s financial system.   In the past, parents had to have children, partly so they could take over the family farm as they got older and could then provide for them in old age. Now we have social security.   It’s taken away the “need” for children, who are now disposable.

How much worse is it going to get?

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TRUMP ON IMMIGRANTS

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Donald Trump has hit a nerve!

What he said was decidedly politically incorrect, but many people clearly feel the same way.   Mr. Trump is now leading the Republican pack in the opinion polls.

His comment on the need to do something about illegal immigrants following the murder of a 32-year-old woman in San Francisco by an illegal who has been deported five times was roundly condemned in the liberal media and by the other candidates.

Hillary Clinton was one of those condemning the comment.   She needs to think more deeply.   She is in favor of granting citizenship to the eleven million illegal aliens in the United States.   At the same time, she is trying to sell herself as the leading candidate to represent the working-man, the very people most threatened by immigrants.

Some immigration is needed.  America’s education system does not produce enough people with the skills to serve the country.   But millions have arrived on these shores who end up at the bottom of society, competing for low wage jobs with the working poor.   This includes many African Americans, another group Mrs. Clinton, a multi-millionaire, likes to think she represents.

The best thing she could do to raise their standard of living, to create jobs and boost incomes, is to advocate curbs on immigration.   If that’s what people want, they would be better dumping Hillary for the Donald.

It’s not just illegals that are the problem.

Five men are dead and others critically injured, leaving a number of children without a father, following shooting incidents in Chattanooga by a legal immigrant from Kuwait.  To put it simply – if this man’s family had not been allowed into the country, five American families would not be going through bereavement right now.   And about a dozen children could still play with Daddy.

The perpetrator of the Chattanooga murders was a Muslim, likely influenced by ISIS, which is calling on supporters to go out and kill men in uniform.

Another Muslim immigrant from Jordan, murdered thirteen Americans in an attack at Fort Hood in November, 2009.

Of course, the biggest attack by Muslim immigrants was on September 11th fourteen years ago when 3,000 were killed.

It’s not just Muslims who do these things.  A young immigrant from South Korea killed 38 Americans, mostly students, at Virginia Tech in 2007.   Again, if he had not been allowed into the country, 38 families could still look forward to their sons and daughters coming home for the holidays.

Of course, it’s not just immigrants that commit murder.   That’s not the point.  A responsibility of government is to do everything possible to guarantee the safety of the people, within the confines of our laws and traditions.  Most people do not want to lose their freedoms to accomplish this.

Our lax immigration laws do not add to our safety.   Rather, they do the opposite, endangering all Americans every single day –we do not know where the next attack is coming from.

It’s widely believed that immigration built this country.   This overlooks the fact that there have been periods in US history when immigration was restricted.   In theory, it still is.  But today’s “restriction” is very generous – well over a million a year, mostly legal immigrants.

Clearly, a national debate is needed on this subject.   This is unlikely to come from any of the presidential candidates, other than Mr. Trump.

Any debate must include a study of just how many murders have been committed by immigrants as well as a study of the economic benefits and losses (losses include the cost of educating immigrant children and providing healthcare to families).

Mr. Trump has been greatly criticized for saying Mexican illegals are “rapists.”   Again, reliable facts and figures are needed here.  The United Kingdom has witnessed recent scandals where Pakistani men, all Muslims, have been grooming young white girls for sex. These sexual grooming gangs have operated in a lot of UK towns, most famously Rochdale and Rotherham, targeting 12-year-olds and above.  Local authorities were afraid to say anything for fear of accusations of “racism.”   Cambridge and Sheffield are two other cities affected by this.

There are differences in cultures.   Mr. Trump’s remark may not be so outrageous after all.   Americans should at least be thankful to him for raising the subject.

TO HELL WE MUST GO

Hell

Williamston and Okemos are two cities that are a part of the Greater Lansing area, where we live.  Whereas we live on the west side of Lansing, they are east and south-east respectively.

I’ve just finished reading a short book on a particularly gruesome murder that took place in Williamston in 1897.   The book told the story of a man who came home for lunch (dinner as it was then), to find his mother’s head on his dinner plate.  His wife had gone crazy and killed her mother-in-law.

The murder is not as interesting as the detailed descriptions of life in Lansing at the time, almost 120 years ago.   In 1897 many people could still remember when the city of Lansing was chosen as the state capital.   The city was served by a number of railway lines, none of which exist now.

What was particularly interesting to me was the fact that the murderer was charged, tried and sentenced within six days.  Yes, six days!   What a contrast to today, where a trial may take more than a year, sentencing months and punishment is often delayed for years. Will Dzhokhar Tsarnaev ever actually be put to death?   His victims died instantly!

Reading the book, I was reminded of the scripture in Ecclesiastes 8:11 which says:  “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”

It’s no wonder that we are seeing more crimes of violence when our legal system is a joke.  The system has little to do with justice.

Another legal issue came up in the book.  Again, the contrast with today is quite marked.

The murderer was sentenced to life in an asylum.   She died about eighteen months later from tuberculosis.

Her husband, meanwhile, turns up again in the historical record, three years after the murder.   He was found co-habiting with a woman in Okemos, a few miles away.  They were both charged with “lewd and lascivious behavior.”  He was sentenced to ten months and she got eight.  That’s curious in itself.   I’m sure they were both equally to blame, so, therefore, why were their sentences different? But they both went to jail.

America today, with less than 5% of the world’s population, has 25% of the world’s prisoners.   Can you imagine what our prisons would be like if all those co-habiting were sentenced to a jail term?   If biblical commands were upheld in our communities, we would need a lot more jails and prisons for long-term offenders.

I was reminded of this last Friday when the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all fifty states.  Can you imagine what the village elders would have done in 1900 Okemos if they had found two men co-habiting?

It shows how far we have come as a country.   And not just us, other western nations are the same.

Many Christians interpret the latest Supreme Court decision as a sign that the end of the age cannot be far off, that just as God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah when they were beyond being saved, that the US and other nations must face the same.   A number of conservatives said that the decision was a blow to marriage.

But the fact is that Friday’s decision is just the latest blow to marriage.

Marriage laws were progressively weakened throughout the twentieth century and churches said nothing.   In 1971 no-fault divorce became the law across the country, a decision that, arguably, did more harm to traditional marriage than any decision before or since.

The lives of millions of innocent children have suffered needlessly because of this change to the law, which reflected increased selfishness in our society.

Just two years later, abortion became legal.   This decision led to the murders of almost 60 million children in the United States alone.

Same-sex marriage is certainly not approved of in the scriptures. Nor are adultery and fornication, yet churches turn a blind eye to both, or punish them less severely.

The Apostle Paul treated them equally in I Corinthians 6:9.

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived.  Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals,  nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.   And such were some of you.  But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”  (verses 9-11)

Clearly, Paul here condemns fornication, adultery and sodomy equally.

If churches had done the same in recent decades, they might not be in the mess they are in now with regard to same-sex relationships.

If churches are to have any credibility at all on moral issues, they need to condemn these sexual sins EQUALLY.   That’s the only way they will be able to turn away same-sex couples who request a church wedding.   Churches need a statement of belief that upholds a biblically sanctioned marriage and only a biblically sanctioned marriage between a man and a woman who have chosen chastity until marriage and are committed to fidelity afterwards.   Divorced church members should be directed toward a civil marriage, not a church wedding.

If churches don’t do this, they are, in effect saying that one sin is worse than the other, just like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day.  In today’s western world that will open them up to charges of discrimination and intolerance.

One final thought before we leave this subject.

The book on the 1897 murder was titled:  “To hell I must go.”  The title came from the murderess herself.  She kept saying that when the police came to arrest her.

When it comes to the morals of the last fifty years, it’s more a case of “to hell we must go.”   Our society is falling apart as a result of our national sins.  Lax laws have destroyed the family.   The latest change to the law is just another nail in the coffin.  Still to come, inevitably, are polygamy, incest, pedophilia, and bestiality.   In England, they have already stopped prosecuting the latter.

It won’t end until we suffer the same fate as Sodom and Gomorrah.   We will, but it may be some time yet and more changes are still to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MIDNIGHT IN PEKING – THE LAST DAYS OF OLD CHINA

Midnight in Peking

“Midnight in Peking” is one of those rare books that you literally can’t put down.

It’s a true story of the murder of a young British schoolgirl in Peking in 1937, set around the takeover of the city by the Japanese.  Nobody knew it at the time, but it was the end of an era.  After an eight-year occupation by the Japanese, civil war followed for four years and then victory for the communists.  China was never the same again.

At the time of the murder, the European imperial powers had control of their own areas of China.  They enjoyed sovereignty over the treaty ports and significant portions of cities like Shanghai and Peking.  This is in addition to British ruled Hong Kong and Portuguese Macao.

As the British were the most important of the European powers in China, they had control over the Legation Quarter of Peking and other cities like Tientsin.  The latter had the best high school east of Suez, a school attended by Pamela Werner, the murder victim.

Her body was found just outside the Legation Quarter of Peking.  The death of a European so close to the Legation Quarter sent shockwaves through the community and was the main news for weeks, even at a time when Japanese troops surrounded the city and already had control over Manchuria.

Author Paul French is an Englishman who lives in Shanghai and clearly understands China well.  The murder was not solved in 1937, but French’s extensive research has resolved it.  How he was able to do this is fascinating.  It’s also interesting to see how the Chinese and British police operated at the time.

The cast of characters reveals a great deal about pre-war China.  Peking had a significant White Russian community, people who had fled the Russian Revolution and Bolshevik rule.  There were also many Jews who had fled Nazi Germany.  European countries had significant representation, with thousands of their own citizens resident in the country.  There was also a sizeable American community, mostly missionaries right through to businessmen exploiting every vice known to man, in areas like the “Badlands.”  Peking’s best dentist was an American and features prominently in the book.

The Japanese takeover and its aftermath were also of great interest.  Within a few weeks of taking over Peking, the Japanese had started two thousand businesses – 500 brothels, 1,000 opium dens and 500 others, presumably of a more respectable nature.

What the Japanese were doing was taking advantage of a totally degenerate society.  It wasn’t until Mao Zedong that it got cleaned up, but at a heavy price.

If you would rather wait, the book is being turned into a television series.  As it doesn’t say whether it’s a British or an American TV series, I don’t know how easy it will be to see it.  We will have to wait and see.  But in my experience, the book is always better – and this one was a real page-turner!