Courage of Ignorance
by Rachel Woods
Ignorance can give us courage
to attempt things we never would have tried if we'd had more knowledge. After
seven months of serving in the Panama City, Panama Mission, I was transferred
to the San Blas Islands where groups of native Indians lived in poverty.
The small islands were isolated in the Atlantic Ocean and could only be reached
by traveling in light, six-men planes. The people slept in woven hammocks,
lived in bamboo huts, and survived off fish, bananas, coconuts, and what little
rice they could buy. Life was primitive with limited electricity, no running
water, and only two phone booths to reach the outside world.
My companion had served on the islands for 10 months, but after staying a
month with me she was transferred and I received a new companion, Hermana
Chelson (Hermana means "sister" in Spanish.) Within the first few
weeks Hermana Chelson and I began to have a problem with rats.
We first discovered their presence after finding a chewed up package of cookies.
The rats devoured several cookies right through the double sealed packaging.
They left a disgusting, pungent odor of urine that filled the house and contaminated
the kitchen. My companion and I sanitized everything and replaced the putrid
rat smell with chlorine. We protected our food in airtight containers and
immediately cleaned up after every meal. Cleanliness became a priority.
Rats were a health threat on the islands because of the diseases they carried
and the valuable food they ate, causing them to become a symbol of death and
destruction. Ridding ourselves, and the island, of the rodents was an urgent
We tried every method we could devise to vanquish the varmints including traps,
poison, and our neighbor's lazy cat. But a week later we still had a lone
rat wandering through the dry palm leaves of our thatched roof. Now and then
a rustling sound from above marked the rat's passage.
Then one morning it happened. We were just about to leave when I heard a scratching
sound to my left and saw a movement from the corner of my eye. I turned my
head, but saw nothing. I then leaned forward and peered behind a wooden box
next to the wall.
"There's a rat!" I cried to Hermana Chelson, dropping my backpack.
I grabbed a nearby pointed stick and quickly jammed it up and down behind
the box, like a spear, stabbing the rat before pinning it in place.
"Now what?!" I screeched.
"I don't know!" laughed my companion.
The rat lay motionless, frozen with terror; its eyes stared ahead, unblinking.
That's when I noticed its pink, snake-like tail curved up above the top of
the box, and without thinking I grabbed the end of its tail, swinging the
rat into the air.
Next page > What
happens to the rat? > Page 1, 2