Betty Enns’ Memoir–Dramatic Structure

(The “Deep Structure” or “Six Big Moments”)

THE HOOK: The catalyst or “inciting incident.” It radically changes the main character’s life and sets it on a course toward a significant goal or desire. 

(The strong call that Betty and Bill feel to serve in overseas mission).

PLOT POINT 1:  An incident or event that takes the action and turns it around in another direction. 

(The Home-Invasion: when Betty and Bill undergo great fear and terror, but having survived they chose to stay).

MIDPOINT:  Something that happens midway through the middle of the story that shifts the action in another direction—an incident, episode or event. 

(Bakku’s confession of involvement in the home invasion. Bill and Betty seek to forgive the betrayed confidence and seek to bring meaningful reconciliation).

PLOT POINT 2: Something happens midway through the middle of the story. This incident or event turns the action in different direction. 

(Bill’s post-traumatic stress and the need to return to Canada for medical treatment.)

CLIMAX: The final, big complication that concludes the main character’s quest and brings dramatic permanent change. 

(The war in Lesotho that leads to bleak destruction and the painful decision by MCC that Bill and Betty must wind down the Mennonite mission in Lesotho and depart the country).

RESOLUTION: A scene or two that winds up story details. 

(Betty’s final reflection on the forced departure).

Note: The text below from Betty’s Lesotho mission memoir is used with permission. It highlights two of the “Big Moments”: the initial hook and the first Plot Point.


[from Chapter 1: “Come”]

April 1995. Journal:  Not knowing what we are embarking on, Bill and I have gone through many thought processes, carefully considering our initial decision to commit to a five-year volunteer assignment in Lesotho. Prayer was the first step in seeking God’s direction as we grappled with questions and struggled with fears of the unknown. Yet, when all is said and done, we are willing to venture out in faith, hand-in-hand with God, leaving our children, family and friends behind.

    Having lived and worked in the Inuit and Cree Indian culture for seven years, I know mission assignments bring no romance. Instead, much hard work awaits us ‘out there.’ Instead of romance, we know we are going to be challenged, stretched, and squeezed, till at times we will cry out, “Enough already!”                                                                                                                           

    Knowing this, we’ve sought to prepare to face all the hardships, the difficulties and the adjustments we’ll need to make—transition from comfort to challenge, from the known to unknown.

    We’ve asked ourselves, “Why, when all is going well, are we doing this?” Although we don’t have a definitive answer, we believe in our innermost beings that it would be an act of disobedience not to move out in obedience to the prompting of the still, small voice within us. So we have decided to give up our ease and comfort for challenge, give up what is familiar for the unfamiliar.

    Is our inner restlessness driven by the adventurous desire always to experience life more fully? Is it driven by a longing to experience what cannot be found in ease or comfort? With no answers to these and many other questions, we’ve chosen to venture out in faith, believing that for the next few months, perhaps even years, our fulfillment and richness in life will need to be found in our ‘going.’ We are constrained to go—we can no longer stay. 

      This is not unique to us. One of our biblical forefathers also felt compelled to go.

Happy. Occupied. With family and friends. Comfort and ease. Wealth and a wife. And then a still, small voice—hardly recognizable, but persistent. Could it be? 

    “Yes, it is!”    


    “Where to?”

    “To a land I will show you.”   

      He took his wife, left Ur, and traveled. Not knowing where. Even the voice was silent. Yet he knew he had heard it!  Or had he? Doubts. Questions. Fear.

       “Oh God, I need a word. Any word.  Just speak again.”

        And God did. He reaffirmed His calling: 

“I will be with you and make of you a great people.” Genesis 12:14-18  

“By faith Abraham obeyed and he went out, not knowing where he went.” Hebrews 11:8 

    Abraham’s call and his separation story have become our call and our story. Abraham’s relationship with God was symbolized by leaving his country, family and friends. Now, Christ’s call to us is one of separation too, and we have answered “Yes.” 

      Full of anticipation and excitement, we are prepared to leave, trusting in God’s lead, feeling ready for challenges that may severely test us. Although we do not know what experiences lie ahead, our faith is anchored in Jesus Christ, and we know and love know the One who leads us. We are confident that God is in this venture. Does this guarantee success? No. But, because we love God, whatever the outcome and however it may appear, it is all meant to work for the good.

    We take courage, because despite all our failings, God has called us to take part in working out His purposes, and He knows our heart’s desire is to honor Him. Like Abraham, we may experience failures and successes. Yet, in all these things, God wants us to unlearn our prejudice, our intolerance, and our selfishness.

    We want a part in building God’s kingdom here on earth. Now our call is to go to Africa and be part of what God is already doing there. 


[from Chapter 13: “Armed Home Invasion”]

  All seemed right with the world. Even the loud din of the falling rain created on our corrugated tin roof was a welcome sound. 

  Standing at the counter, I saw shadows moving across the window. 

    “Bill, someone’s in need of shelter.” 

  Thinking these were children who needed shelter, Bill made his way to the door, unbolted the locks and partially pushed back the metal-barred inner door. As he opened the outer door a gunshot pierced the air. We frequently heard gunshots at night, so I did not react to the sound. 

  Bill’s shoes squeaked on the concrete floor as he backed hurriedly into the house and tried to slam the door. 

   “Betty, get out of here!” he shouted. “They’re coming in!” 

   “What a strange way to welcome guests,” I thought.  Then I saw the fear in his eyes and heard his keys jangling. There was a dull thud, followed by a sharp crack as the barrel of an AK47 stopped the heavy wooden door from closing.

   Another clang. 

  The barred inner door crashed into the wall and I saw the rifle barrel move past the cupboard where I was standing. I dropped the bread knife and ducked under the kitchen counter. 

   “No, not there!” ” Bill shouted.

   I jumped up and saw the man with AK47 standing in full view. Bill reached back and flung open the door that led to the library. We fled through the passageway, with Bill slamming the doors behind us. Jud and Shawn were still seated, engrossed in their reading. 

   “Get in there!” Bill hollered, pointing at a door to their right. “There’s a man in the house and he’s got an AK47!”

   They dropped their books and fled in panic into the guesthouse kitchen. Bill and I followed. Slamming the door shut behind us, we set about barricading ourselves in this 7’x10’ kitchen.

   Jim was showering in an adjacent washroom. 

   Jud and Shawn pounded on the door. “Jim! Jim!” they pleaded. “Open the door.”

   He responded quickly. 

  Bill and Jud dragged the refrigerator across the door, hoping it would shield us from bullets, should the thieves try to blast their way in. The two men locked themselves in position on the floor, feet against the wall, their shoulders braced against the refrigerator. Shawn crouched on the toilet-seat, his ice-cream revel dripping into his hand. I stood beside our half-dressed and dripping-wet supervisor, Jim. 

   There we huddled and hid, our emotions all in disarray, as we trembled and prayed.

    “Dear God, keep us safe.” 

    We heard the sounds of drug-crazed laughter and then…silence. My fear rose and receded like waves. We heard the sound of breaking furniture and doors smashed. Then more silence. As the thieves moved through the house, the noises grew louder and closer.

   Suddenly, amid the chaos, God’s presence enveloped us with an indescribable sense of peace. My fear dissipated and my anger turned to sympathy for whatever desperate plight had driven these young invaders to such actions. Up to this point, all my thoughts and prayers had been driven by selfishness. Now, for at least a fleeting moment, I realized that we are all—in some way—drug-induced renegades, seeking enough goods to ease our hunger wants and desires. We are all searching for a way forward, for something that brings meaning and purpose to our lives. 

   Each of us, holed up in that tiny kitchen, had been blessed with material goods. Yes, we had gotten them in legitimate ways, but given the dire circumstances most Lesotho people faced daily, these fellows were getting theirs the only way they knew h0w. That thought—and the knowledge that we all are God’s children—sparked my sympathy for them.

    A loud pounding at our door jarred me back to the gravity of our situation. Wracked by a shiver of horror, I sucked in my breath and prayed, “Dear God, blind them.”

     Jim leaned down to the floor and whispered to Bill. “Where are the vehicle keys?” 

    “I’m not sure,” Bill muttered. “They were hanging on the front-entrance key-rack.”

     “If they break through the door, just give them the keys.” 

   We heard more sounds of breaking wood, the slamming of drawers, and gunshots. Still I felt God’s presence filling the little room. Then came a crackling sound and a blaze of light, followed by a deafening clap of thunder. It shook the house. 

   “Dear God,” I gasped, “they’ve cut the wires.” 

     All was dark and silent and I was shaken to the core.

     I felt Jim’s hand on my shoulder, infusing strength. 

   Raising my eyes to a tiny window on my left, I saw that our entire neighborhood was engulfed in darkness. 

    “Did God answer my plea to blind them?” I wondered. 

    The stumbling, breaking and slamming-door sounds started up again. Then, all fell silent. No thunder. No patter of rain drops. Only the steady, methodical beep emitted by our computer transformer. In this hushed moment, we heard vehicles moving off the yard. 

    “Are they ours,” I whispered?

   Feeling frightened and frozen to the spot, we all waited. Hearing no further sounds within the house, we suspected that the darkness had forced our drug-crazed intruders to abandon their foray.

    “Should we check?” Bill asked.  

    “Let’s wait till eleven o’clock,” Jim replied. “If it stays quiet, we’ll investigate.”  

    “Should we make some noise to see if they’ll respond?” Bill asked, still maintaining his locked in position on the floor. Hearing no response to his question, he said, “Let’s make tea.” 

    “Bill, how can you think of tea now?” I asked.

    In the darkness, I stepped over Jud and Bill’s outstretched bodies and searched for a candle. I found one and my heart jumped at the raspy sound when I struck the match. The flame cast an eerie shadow and seemed to advertise my fear. I passed the candle to Jim.

    Bill’s voice broke into the silence.  “Let’s move the fridge.”

    It made a loud scraping noise as he and Jud inched the large appliance away from the door. 

    They opened the door a hand’s width and Jim poked the lit candle through it.     

   “Hello, friends?” he called softly. “Hello, friends?” 

    He withdrew the candle and we waited. 

   Jim moved the candle through the slot again and held it there. He and Bill called out more loudly and confidently. ”Hello, friends? Hello, little-bit friends?”   

   With bated breath, we listened. No sound, only silence. Even the steady beep of the transformer had fallen silent. Slowly, Bill opened the door and called out one last time. “Hello, friends.” 

    Jim led the way, lit candle in hand. One-by-one we followed, feeling cold, naked, and very vulnerable. I found my first wary steps beyond the safety of the door to be nerve-wracking. Once out of our hide-away in the guest kitchen, Bill and Jim stopped and raised their open palms to us. “Stay in the library,” they whispered to Jud, Shawn and me. The outline of their figures cast large black shadows on the wall. 

    My muscles became more taut with each step they took. We did not know if the thieves lurked just beyond, poised and ready to fire their AK47. The tension felt as if it would crush my bones. I followed Bill and Jim as they moved cautiously from dark room to dark room, and their candle flame revealed the house in total disarray.

   “Hello, friends,” they kept repeating.     

    Silence. Only silence.

    “They’re gone!” the men finally declared.

    A sense of relief flooded through me.

    “God has preserved our lives!” I exclaimed.