“Bloodbrothers, Our Friendship in Liberia” – M. Jenzsch & B. Kwato Zahn.
When Germany and Africa meet, they build a deep friendship that not even time can alter. This is the extraordinary story of two ordinary men. This book shows us that nothing can destroy what God has brought together. Michael and Ben have sealed their destinies with their blood and called themselves brothers. This story is not fiction but the reality of life.
Michael is about 8 when his family moves to Liberia. His parents are sent to work at the ELWA-campus which stands for Eternal Love Winning Africa. The young boy is all excited to live near the beach where he will spend most of his time with his friends.
The recollections Michael has from his childhood are incredible. He remembers when he met Ben for the first time and how funny it was to introduce him to the european culture.
Life in Liberia is simple but so beautiful, sometimes also very adventurous.
Which war? – Just vacation!
The book is so lovely that no one would imagine what is about to happen. Soon there will be no more kid playing on the beach.
Michael’s parents decide to go to the Ivory Coast. While he believes it is just for vacation, Ben feels that a war is about to happen. He begs Michael to bring him with them. His brother thinks they will come back when vacations are over. This will be their last talk.
The young 15 year old teen leaves his brother behind without realizing that he is clearly abandoning him to the cruel civil war.
Back home in Germany
After vacation, the Jentzsch family goes back to their home country. Life is hard, people are so different than in Africa. The rules are different and it is clearly a culture shock for Michael who has a hard time getting used to it. His mind is always in Liberia, always with Ben.
To forget the past, he spends hours playing basketball. Life goes on. There is no going back to Liberia as the country is at war. He must forget and build his life in Germany.
“At the age of 27, I had my own family, a wonderful wife and two sweet daughters. I was known as a Sport and English teacher, my job was fulfilling, and we felt good in our own home with a small garden and a grill. I reached all that a man could wish. And yet I woke up at night with a startle because of nightmares and I thought of my friend Ben.” (my translation, p.257). Is Ben still alive?
In the meantime…
Can a war change the heart of a man? This is what Ben is fighting against every day: “This war was changing me, I felt it, but I had no choice if I wanted to survive.”(my translation, p.202). The war changes children, it transforms them into soldiers!
Ben wants to preserve his heart and his human nature but does not understand why the Rebels are treating their own people so terribly. His eyes see things no human should ever experience. You can only cry when reading all the atrocious realities he had to live through – and yet he survived!
He has only one hope: he has to find his brother who will help him. Traveling during the war is very dangerous but still he manages to reach the Ivory Coast. He thinks his hope might still be in Abidjan – no, sorry Ben, Michael has been gone for years.
Ben also gets married and has children. Just like Michael in Germany, Ben also worries about his kids’ future. The two are now grown-up and deal with the same human issues only with different lives “Now we were parents, had a kid to take care of and we were worried about the future.” – Michael (my translation, p.255).
Brotherhood is in the blood
One day a friend brings Ben the bad news that Michael is no more in Abidjan – his very last hope is gone.
Still, destiny leads Michael to watch Bruce Willis’ movie “The Tears of the Sun”, talking about the civil war in Nigeria. No, this is not just a movie, deep inside Michael knows this is reality. He has to find Ben, his brother!
He receives an email from an old acquaintance in Nigeria asking for financial help. Michael realizes that he is the unique chance he has to find Ben. He offers an amount of money to whoever will find his brother.
Ben finds out that his brother is searching him in Liberia. He goes and picks up all the bananas he can find to pay for the journey. He leaves his wife and children to grasp this very last chance on which he had already given up.
To make sure Michael is talking to his brother Ben on the phone, he asks him three specific questions only he can answer. Fourteen years have passed since the two last saw each other. Michael comes to visit his brother and he first does not realize how terribly the war has altered both people and the land.
No fiction, real lives
When we read such a story, we can barely imagine it to be true. We smile, we laugh, we remember our own childhood and then – blank – we don’t know how to feel anymore. We cry, and we wonder how we would have done ourselves. When something goes wrong in our lives we think “Why me?” but Ben never pronounces these words – he keeps hoping.
I invite you to visit the website: www.blutsbrueder.eu. The book has received the “Golden Image Award of Liberia 2011.” You should definitely get yourself a copy.
This is a story to share. A story of two lives that war separated but brotherly blood reunited. This book is a blessing and will continue to impact lives: of both readers and those who are being supported through it. There is always hope, we should never give up.