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  Belonging
By Billie Marie Zal
     
     When my wolf, El Jocko, died, he left his litter mate, Aka Eena, alone. I had often thought of how sad it would be if t hey were ever separated; wolves are "pack animals," and they form their social order early on after they are born. They instinctively know who is the strongest and most intelligent. Their main need is to have an aggressive, brave pack leader called "The Alpha."
     
     When Jocko and Aka were born, their mom, KiYah, almost died.
     She had seven but two were stillborn and there were only five left.
     Between Brian and me, we saved her life (and a lot of prayers), and she began to show signs of wanting her pups. I knew that in her weakened condition she would not be able to nurse more than two cubs, so on the second day of their lives, I brought all five upstairs, made an incubator box with a heating pad and soft, fluffy towels, and made formula which I fed them every three to four hours for twenty four hours a day. It was exhausting work but my love for these beautiful babies kept me going.
     
     In the meantime, KiYah was asking me for her cubs, and I said to her about a week after I had nursed the five, "KiYah, if you will try to live and get well, I'll bring you your babies." Her ears stood up and I knew she was ready.
     
     She only had enough milk for two so I took her the two, and kept the remaining three upstairs. I soon discovered that the formula I was giving them (human baby formula) was not right; they were "fading" and I kept an anxious watch over them night and day.
     Then I called "Wolf Park, Indiana," who have a wolf sanctuary and raise cubs, and the formula they gave me saved my baby wolves. I remember Jocko making this funny little grunting sound as he tasted the delicious new milk. I had to buy Gerber's Baby meat, canned condensed milk, syrup, eggs, and Seven Up almost every day. I felt kind of important--people who saw me at the grocery counter assumed that I had a baby to care for and I didn't tell them it was for baby wolves.
     
     KiYah grabbed her cubs when I handed them to her, and stayed in her whelping box in the big run for at least a week before she reappeared. I knew the babies were ok, though, because I could hear them while she nursed them. She and I were two HAPPY mothers!
     
     My babies thrived on that formula and I was able within a couple of weeks to make a bigger box, and move it to the office.
     They no longer ne4eded their heating pad and they opened their eyes about the l2th day. The first thing they saw, of course, was my face and the bond was established "forever."
     
     When they were five weeks old, they were exploring the office floor, discovering that life is good. I was nearly always there. Munchy and Missy, the two house pups who were themselves just babies, helped me with them. They couldn't understand why these wolves were getting bigger than they were and I would catch a puzzled expression on Munchy's face. The cubs loved him and to this day, Aka Eena will not bark or lunge at him as my other two wolves do. He is her brother, it was etched in her mind.
     
     I had not understood that you cannot keep a wolf in the house. As one expert said, "Wolves don't sit on furniture, they eat it."
     I dreaded the day I would have to take them down to "the pack," consisting of Anna Tuka (the Alpha female), KaHoo, Rooster, and Greyfox. I was alone, and I enjoyed the sounds that came into the bedroom from the breakfast room where I finally put them. I knew when I heard furniture moving about all night long that it was time for them to join the pack. I spent one last night in our usual routine.
     
     I would sit down on the floor, make a circle with my legs, and Aka Eena and El Jocko would crawl into the circle (by now I had sold the third cub to a lady who dearly loved them). Then I would begin to sing "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me...." and within seconds, my baby wolves would lift their noses to heaven and begin to howl, accompanying me to the end of the song. It was a beautiful sound---they tiny wolf voices, mingling with mine.
     
     At seven weeks (the night after they moved the furniture around in the breakfast room) I took them down to the wolf house and "gave" them to Anna Tuka and the boys. Wolves love cubs, and each one tried to steal them from the others. One day KaHoo would be "guarding" them for himself...the next, Anna and Rooster always adored them. I felt sure that they would be all right.
     
     I had not counted on the fact that Aka Eena had not joined the "social order" of the other pack. Because I raised her, and she bonded with me, in her wolf-mind, I was her pack leader. Jocko was always shy, and ran often to me if he got scared. But Aka Eena had a fierceness that defied "social order" and even when she was only two weeks old, she would growl at me if I grabbed her from behind to hold her. Of course I settled that later on, with my fly swatter.
     
     Anyhow, they all seemed to get along together; I would take all six of them up to the "top yard" to run and my heart was glad to have a real pack of wolves.
     
     But when Aka and Jocko were eight months old, she came to me to be loved while all of us were playing and Anna Tuka came over and growled a warning to her. I was Anna's co-leader, and she wanted to make Aka sure of this.
     
     What happened next was hair-raising. Instead of submitting to Anna Tuka's warning, Aka turned and jumped on her, grabbing her by her neck in order to "make the kill." I screamed at them both but it did not good; they were rolling over and over, and I quickly opened the gate so they could roll down into the middle yard where I knew the water hose would reach them.
     
     Shirley or Margaret turned on the hose full blast and fortunately we have such pressure that it finally broke them apart. But Anna Tuka was bleeding, and didn't come out of her den for a week or so. Perhaps her pride was wounded, but from that day forward I have had to keep them in separate yards; their greatest delight is to "fence fight" and I have no doubt that if they ever got together again, one would die.
     
     Aka and Jocko didn't mind being to themselves. They had me, and each other. But when Jocko died, Aka Eena for awhile lost a part of herself. She still looks over her shoulder for him when we bring her into the basement in late evening. Jocko always took second place and depended upon her to protect him. When he was especially frightened of humans who came by, he would run for cover, or for me if I were there. He weighed two hundred pounds but he never knew his own strength. And when he blew out his knee, and died soon after surgery because of the anesthesia, Aka and I were devastated.
     
     We all want to belong, and wolves are possibly the greatest evidence of this need in every life. I believe that this is why "gangs" are formed. There is safety in numbers, and there is always a strong leader who can make or break the gang.
     
     But it's so sad, really. There is no need to belong to a gang in order to have "friends," and safety. God's Love is all that any of us need, but as one little girl said, "I know He is here, I just wish He had some skin so I could hug Him."
     
     God gave me a burden long ago for gangs. Perhaps that is why He called me to the prison ministry. Most of the youngsters who belong have a lot of capabilities. They are intelligent, even if they haven't finished school, and they are energetic and develop their own sense of "honor." But all of it is misguided and when a gang member finally goes to prison he has often told me that none of his "friends" (gang members) in the free world even remember him. The belonging ended when the member was locked up.
     
     Not only gangs display this longing to belong, but also kids in school. I was never left out since I "belonged," but my heart was broken to see other kids left behind or ignored when party lists were made up. I stood up for many of such youngsters, even if it did jeorpardize my own social standing. But I could not have lived with myself if I had overlooked those who were ignored by everyone else.
     
     Once a senior in my high school was slapped by a youngster who had transferred there from Chicago. She had serious mental trouble and I understood her. She said things which didn't make sense, but to slap her, to me, was deplorable. I and several other seniors decided to talk with the principle. He happened to be my favorite teacher, we all adored him and had crushes on him, he was so young.
     Anyhow, favorite teacher or not, I risked his displeasure because he KNEW what had happened and did nothing about it. Everyone else got scared to face him (he was REALLY a tough teacher) so when we finally went in to see him, only my friend, Esteen Pippin, and I withstood him "to the face."
     
     I remember even today how he looked as I said, my voice trembling, "Mr. Clybourne, Esteen and I don't think you should have let Ralph get away with what he did to Marcel. We think he should be reprimanded."
     
     As I spoke, his face turned a deep purple and I thought to myself, "Oh, oh, we've had it."
     
     When he spoke his words were precise and actually cruel. He never looked up; but he said, "Billie Marie, I believe I am well qualified to handle this school and I will not have you criticizing my position and the way I deal with problems."
     
     I could not believe it Here was my hero, unwilling to do the RIGHT THING. Esteen and I got up and made a hasty exit. I was blinking hard, my tears would NOT be shown to this man who had disappointed my trust in him. And I didn't speak to him or act as though he existed in our classes for two or three weeks. He finally capitulated and told the class that he could trust me.
     
     If I had let "belonging" overcome my sense of right and wrong, I could never have developed a character that is capable of recognizing these differences and God could never have called me.
     And I can assure you that to do the right thing even if it means being put out of the gang, it's worth it all. God's approval is enough.
     
     So why is "belonging" so necessary to everything that exists? It is because humans, especially, know down deep that we have a common enemy---and that is the devil, and his host of demonic spirits (the fallen angels) who roam this earth, "seeking for whom they can devour."
     
     We feel if we just "belonged" to a group, a gang, a family, or a pack then we have a chance to survive. But the tragedy is, that all the while, Jesus Christ is there--by His Spirit--inviting us to be our Lord, Master, Friend and Confidante. No matter what, He is there and we look past HIM to the world and the pitiful imitation of His strength in the strength of a pack.
     
     The night that I was born again I knew for the very first time that He had ALWAYS been there; the moments when my conscience spoke to me, the times that I sinned and longed to stop sinning, the ridiculous things I did hoping to find joy....He was always there.
     There is a popular song by Rod Stewart which reminds me of the night I finally SAW Jesus and realized that He is real.
     
     It's the song, FOR THE FIRST TIME, and when I hear him sing, "Are these your eyes? Is that you smile" I've been looking at you forever, Yet I never saw you before..." Then, "Are these your hands? Holding mine? Now I wonder how I could have been so blind."
     
     "For the first time I am looking in your eyes, For the firs time, I'm seeing who you are. Can't believe how much I see, When you're looking back at me. Now I understand what Love is, Love is...for the first time.
     
     It's all so strange, How can it be, All along this Love was right in front of me." Then, at the end, "It's all so strange, how can it be, all along this Love was right in front of me."
     
     So here it is: the truth about Jesus. That night, when He opened my eyes and forgave me and made me clean I realized that every time someone showed kindness to me, it was HIS kindness. Every time someone smiled at me, it was HIS smile. And every time I sensed a real Love from some individual it was HIS Love.
     
     So why join a gang? Or a social club? Or even a church social club? He's right here for all of us---you, and those in the so called free world--standing right in front of us.
     
     I think of seeing His hands, and looking at His wrists, I see the scars which He will always carry, even in heaven. Those hands have held me through the midnight of my soul time and again; those arms have held me when I wondered if I would ever see the light of day. And His smile has encouraged me to stand in defense of the Gospel, to keep going, and to reach for that prize of the highest calling in Christ Jesus.
     
     He is here--right in front of you--and your prison cells will no longer seem a confinement, but rather a means of showing you that all the while, He was inviting you to experience His Love and His compassion and give you His life.
     
     He paid for you. He paid for me. We owe Him whatever He asks of us and one day we will see Him as "we are seen of Him." Let us never be ashamed at that day!!




Prayer Requests for September, 2000
For Raymond, "Peanut" Sanders, a brother with cancer at Tenn. Colony, Texas. He's on chemo and needs our support in prayer. For Clay Huff's healing, a special brother who is at Angola and needs our prayers. He needs a miracle of healing. For the seven of us here, who want so much to SHOW YOU that Jesus really IS "right in front of you" and He will take you in, and make you perfectly whole. God be with you, always.
     
     
     

     
     
     





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