Hawk

2009 June 23

One Sabbath at Dabgue, Gary rescued a baby hawk from being eaten by one Baby hawk of the children there. In fact, he used it as an object lesson during Sabbath School about how God notices when even a sparrow falls. Since God cares for and notices when birds fall, certainly He cares for us and notices our troubles.

At first, I did not want to keep the hawk. Don't get me wrong: the hawk was cute, and it was pitiful to see it hungry without a mother. It looked quite helpless as a ball of fuzz with a few feather stubs beginning to show. But I did not want the responsibility of feeding it several times a day. It was really neat to watch it gobble up food we chopped up for it. Sometimes it was a rat. Sometimes it was grasshoppers. And most often he got fresh toad for supper. Toads became quite numerous when the rain started. Gary and Jeremy helped feed the bird, but I got the privilege of taking care of it when Gary and his family left on furlough. The more I cared for the bird, the more I grew attached to it. As I squatted down to chop its food he would often sit directly under me; I suppose it was a comfort thing, but he never told me. Baby hawk eating a dead snake Over time, the hawk started eating bigger pieces. Once it was a whole lizard. Next it was most of a snake (maybe two feet long) that I had killed by my doorstep.

Hawk also started exploring the world. We left him outside all day and put him in the shed at night. Jeremy came to put the bird away for the night one evening and found him sitting on the fence. Soon thereafter, I came home one night after dark and called the bird. Normally, he would reply with his chirps. We would meet up and I would carry him to his cardboard box which he treated as his nest. This evening, however, I heard chirps from outside the fence. Tuning my ears toward his calls, I eventually located him at the top of a tree nearby. He had found a new place to sleep and was not coming down. The next morning he was in another tree, and when he saw me he flew straight toward me and landed at my feet. He hungrily consumed most of a toad. Gradually he started flying around the yard and exploring the world outside of the yard. Today I walked into the gate and wondered where the bird was. I often whistle and he replies. This time he flew from the tree or wherever he was and over the fence and landed at my feet. This time he proceeded to make the most pitiful baby sounds and began lightly nibbling at my toes. This was very clear language that he was hungry and wanted to eat something. I explained to him in human language that I had no toad for him this morning, but he did not seem to understand. During breakfast, I tried to eat quietly because any time I made a noise he would begin cheeping for food again. When I did not appear at the front door, he went around to the back door and made his pitiful calls there. Poor hungry bird. Leaving him behind without breakfast, I went out to the worksite for the morning. Upon returning, an eager bird swooped down from a tree, this time landed on my right arm. Thankfully, I had long sleeves on for welding. He was hungry, and made that fact unmistakably known to me. So we went hunting. I put him on the ground and he followed behind me as I looked for grasshoppers. I learned from the African kids how to stun grasshoppers with a thin stick. Today, grasshoppers were Young hawk sparse so I began thinking of other options. Hopefully, I eyed an old palm fencepost lying on the ground. Rolling it over, I discovered that some of the termites were still residents. Mmmm, these were plump termites, too. Hawk did not seem interested at first. I began pointing to each termite. He followed my finger, and before long was hunting the termites on his own. “That should be enough to last until evening when I can find a toad for you,” I told the hawk.

I returned to the worksite and proceeded to weld until late in the afternoon. Upon arrival at home, the bird does not greet me as usual. I do not even hear his call. Then Jeremy spots something hanging in a tree several hundred feet away. What appears to be a dead hawk hangs from a brightly colored piece of cloth rope tied to its foot possibly thirty feet in the tree. Anger begins to swell in me, but God answers my request and replaces it with pity for whoever was cruel enough to play a mean trick like this. With a glimmer of hope, I witnessed the hawk flap its wings a few times. Perhaps the hawk is still OK. A kid who works for us climbed into the tree and freed the string from the rough branch. Hawk merely opens his wings and parachutes to the ground. Some kids gather to see this sight, but we motion for them to back off. I reach down and pick up my hawk and discover that both of his legs are badly broken and bleeding. The side of his head was bleeding, and his chest had an abnormal bony protrusion. Now in my hand, the bird stops fighting. His legs dangle off my hand between my fingers, and he rests his head on my wrist. I notice that his beak is also broken. The kids still stand around and watch as I just squat down and hold the bird gently in my hand as it quietly chirps occasionally from pain. Gradually the bird relaxes more and more, and then closes his eyes. He turns limp, but is still breathing and sometimes blinking. His peeps are like whispers now. I realize that I must end his suffering. Behind the shed, out of sight of onlookers, one swift blow from the machete instantly ends his life. I dig a little hole and bury him.

OK, so my pet hawk died. That is an insignificant event compared to what many people face often here. Yet God noticed. This hawk is bigger than a sparrow, and God notices when they fall. God also witnessed how the children treated the hawk cruelly by trying a string to his legs, breaking his legs, and pelting him with sling-shot ammunition. I have not yet seen a child treat an animal nicely here. Culture says that animals are for eating, beating, kicking, stoning, or for working your fields for you. I regularly see people kicking or throwing rocks at dogs. Perhaps the children who witnessed our care of this bird had never seen an animal treated kindly before. I hope they saw a small glimpse of God's character. Perhaps they expected anger or revenge, but thanks to God, all they got from me was pity (except for the brief few moments after the discovery of the hanging hawk).

Jonathan with young hawk

I will miss hawk. He was a neat pet with a great personality. He has taught me a few lessons. How God must hate crime and cruelty in this earth! Life is just plain rough for so many people. I could get upset over the mistreatment of a bird, but there are things of much greater significance to be concerned about. Thankfully, God is not concerned only with birds. He is saddened by the treatment of His people and is deeply emotionally affected by suffering that they endure. God takes in all the actions of everybody around the world. Since He notices seemingly insignificant details such as dying birds, He definitely notices each of us in the trials we face. He cares deeply about us and feels our pains and frustrations. May God help me to live a life of compassion and care for people, a life like Jesus would live if He lived in Chad.

Jonathan