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Monday, July 11, 2011

The Swaziland Chronicles #8 :: Praying for woman with AIDs


Wednesday (continued)....

- As we finished our lunch and freshened up, we got back in our cars to visit the last Carepoint of the day and the trip. It was led by a young woman (you’re probably picking up that trend of feminine leadership) who was educated, indigenous, and visionary. We entered the building, and just like many of the other Carepoints the children were sitting there awaiting our arrival with bated breath. They were restless, but quiet, smiling as we walked in the room and whispering to each other only God knows what. At this Carepoint, there were 12 older women sitting at the back table. I wasn’t sure if they were cooks at the site, but I made my way to the back and greeted them. I found out later that they are 12 of 40 on a Care Team that walks around to visit the homes of the sick and dying, bringing medicine to them, or “bringing them to medicine”. I say bringing them to medicine because it is not uncommon for them to get a wheelbarrow and haul them to a medical center or hospital for assistance. If they don’t have a wheelbarrow, they will often strap kids, youth, and even adults on their backs to get them to a med center. As we sat down and I looked at them across the room I thought to myself: “These are the heroines of the world.”

- They led us to a table in front of probably 60 children and the young woman who leads the Carepoint (called Ward #19), Amanda, began sharing the origin, philosophy and needs of what appeared to be an old government garage that had been abandoned. As we talked around the table as adults, the kids just sat there quiet and respectful even though they couldn’t hear our conversation. They simply waited and watched. She shared how they didn’t have running water or bathrooms on this facility, so the kids would run to nearby neighborhood homes of strangers to go the bathroom. They provided meals after school only on Wednesdays and Fridays because of the lack of resources. They would teach them Bible lessons in that same time frame and she shared that they were also getting ready for a community Zulu traditional celebration where they were going to perform a dance as a group. She asked if we could introduce ourselves and if the kids could then perform the dance for us as well as sing us a couple songs. We obliged without much arm-twisting.

- I stood up to introduce myself and decided to do something I hadn’t done at any of the other sites. I noticed that some of the kids along the way had sandwich bags with frozen cool-aide inside them akin to an iceypop in the States. I had written a song for Kami about iceypops back in the day and decided to sing it to them for fun. They got a kick out of it and by the end of the song, were even singing along.

- When we finished our introductions, the students stood and sang a song called “You are faithful, O Lord.” Though I only heard it once, I have in memorized and could sing it to you on command. One twelve-year-old girl led it out and the others chimed in: “You are faithful, O Lord; You are faithful, O Lord; everyday and every hour, You are faithful, O Lord.” They sang it over and over again, louder and louder as they went. My eyes filled with tear as I closed them to let the sound soak into my soul. They then performed the Zulu dance that they were preparing for the festive occasion in September. Their rhythm is incomparable.

- When they finished singing, I prayed over them. Every time I was given an opportunity to pray over a dwelling or a Carepoint, I became bolder to call upon the name of the Lord with importunity. For some reason I felt the urge to pray the Lord’s Prayer as I finished my prayer. I could hear some people, young and old, praying it with me. His Kingdom needed to come on earth as it was in heaven, or else.

- Some of the members of the Care Team were poised to take us on some home visits. My heart was not prepared for what we were about to see and touch and smell. The first shack we walked into had the smell of death and rotting flesh. A women, no older that 40 laid in bed, shriveled, skinny and panting like a person struggling to get oxygen. We learned that she had AIDs and tuberculosis and that one of her lungs had collapsed. We were literally there watching her die. As many as could from the team filled the house, listened to her story, and prayed over her. I touched her boney legs and prayed for God’s favor to fill her, whether by giving her miraculous life or giving her an honorable death. Her face was diseased and yet her eyes were soft. As I left, I grabbed her hand and said to her, “Shalom.” Without teeth, she smiled. Oh, by the way, in this little 12x12 room lived her husband and 5 kids. I don’t know where they fit on the floor, but I had given up on reason by this point in the trip. Reason and justice have little say in the conditions here.

- The next home we went to there was a Grandmother raising her two grandchildren whose parents had just died. Their older brother from another marriage had stolen all of their belongings and sold them for drug money. They had nothing. Their clothes, their toys, their bowls and pots and pans….gone. We prayed over their house asking God to restore what was taken.

- The last home we went to a mother was lying in bed with her 12 yr. old boy. He was bright-eyed and educated, very confident and communicative. She had tuberculosis (maybe aids as well) and he was her caretaker. He would get her food, care for her in her sickness, and generally speaking fulfill the duty of the man of the house. Interestingly, he seemed up to the task. We shared our pride in his stout heart and how much he loved and cared for his mother. As I said before, what children will do at the Carepoint is get their meal, eat a little portion of it and take the rest home to feed those in their household. The Carepoint will try to be generous for this reason. So when a Carepoint says they are feeding 150, they are potentially feeding over 5 times that when all is said and done. This kind of sacrifice in the children demonstrates a maturity that humbles me. I can’t help but wonder what my children would do in the same situation.

- We walked back to the Carepoint quickly because it was getting dark. The Care team mentioned that safety can become an issue after dark, so they wanted us move along to avoid any breach of security. For the most part it is very safe wherever you are in the daytime hours.

- We said our goodbyes and left the Carepoint. I was quiet knowing it was the last day of the trip and the last visit we would be making. The quietness was part shock, part soberness. I was trying to process all that I had digested with my senses in the past 6 days. On the one had I felt very thankful for America and Africa all at the same time. But I also nursed an anger at America and Africa for the gross inequality of distribution of wealth and health, justice and Jesus. These wires were crossing inside me as I sat in the back seat heading back to our guesthouse before dinner.

- We were taken to a beautiful restaurant by a sweet couple named John and Sue. They were South Africans with British-like accents and yet a dialect all its own. It was a delightful evening as they asked us questions and we asked them questions and sat in each other’s company on the patio in the open air. I had lamb shank and ox tail for the first time, and a couple glasses of ginger ale. The ginger ale gave me the age-old soothing feeling I remember when I was sick as a youngster. I was sick, but this was a different sickness that filled my insides. It was an ache of the heart. I even shared with John and Sue how this experience had redirected my emotions and aligned my vision, particularly in the areas of gratitude and grace. I think witnessing such hospitality from the people on the ground doing ministry there as well as sensing such joy in the hearts of those who had nothing dumbfounded me so deeply that it peeled away some scales of fleshliness. I just had such an overwhelming desire to be “love to the world” in that moment that I could feel my face relax and a peace hover over me that was otherworldly. We left the restaurant ironically laughing at some spur-of-the-moment jokes and some rather funny stories that had occurred along the way in our trip. It was therapeutic. The catharsis of laughter was just what the Doctor ordered. I went back to the guesthouse and began to pack for our flight out the next morning. I talked to my lovely wife over Skype and began to share some of the gritty details of the trip that burrowed down to the marrow of my experience. Our connection was sketchy, so we said goodbye to each other looking forward to reuniting after the 24 hour flight. (this is with three connecting flights) My spirit, body and mind long for her at this point. Absence does make the heart grow fonder. I slept deeply.

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