Mrs. Nkomo (not Dale's friend if you have read our blog before) was breathing heavy. She had been lying on the same mat for nearly 3 weeks, with family members coming in to change the sheets & blankets a few times a day -- whenever they needed changing.
The thing that ALWAYS puzzles me now, looking back on my thoughts on missions before coming to Africa the 1st time is this: why are we so quick to minimize suffering and move on? Why are we so afraid to talk about the process of death? Why are we, from the safety of our homes in the USA, afraid to think deeply about the real life human suffering going on in other parts of our world?
I think its because we are scared about the things unknown. We are scared about the things we cannot control. We are scared to get attached to the people's stories, then lose them. We are scared to care about something we believe will eventually "end badly." And I also...sometimes...think its because we actually don't really care. We know we should, but we don't. Perhaps too busy or perhaps because we are humans -- and we just don't care.
I didn't. I mean, everyone is for helping orphans, right? Everyone is for helping widows, right? But to CARE and REMEMBER, amidst all that is packed into my busy schedule? That scares me away from caring... it still does sometimes.
But back to Mrs. Nkomo. I was asked to pray for her as she fought for life. Inside her mud hut, with her non English speaking mother looking on, sitting next to me. I didn't know how to pray anything but this:
"Dear God, I do not know how to pray. I do not know how to call on your name anymore than to say YOU ARE GOD and we are not. You see the suffering of this woman. You see the pain she and her family are experiencing. You see the children of this woman and you know the beginning & the end of life. God, grant her peace, rest, and may you also grant her family strength, joy, and peace. I do not know how to pray. But we love you LORD. Thank you for loving us. We have the assurance that you are God and someday, all of this will be redeemed."
Forgotten Voices is working with a local AIDS clinic called Mtshabezi AIDS Clinic in southcentral Zimbabwe, run by the Brethren in Christ Church. We'll work with this woman's group and this local AIDS clinic to make sure her kids continue going to school, are fed, and receive counseling to help process these experiences that no kid should have to go through.
I'm not sure if that woman passed away after I left her. She looked like it would be hours, maybe days, but not weeks. I've repeated that process hundreds of times now in my 10 trips to Africa. The faces and deep, heavy breaths of the people I've met are etched in my memory -- vivid reminders that every stat we read about has a name, story, and a voice that is calling out -- sometimes through heavy breathing -- to be remembered...not forgotten.
I wish I had an intimate portrait of this woman so you could see the beauty I saw. It wasn't appropriate to have her sit up, given her failing health. I do have these 2 images above that I'll bring back for her mother the next time I go... or have Fibion pass them along sooner than that.
I'm sad I don't know how she is doing. I'm sad. But, today, I'm walking around breathing deep breaths a lot. Talking solace in the fact that our God sees her and me. Someday, all of this will be redeemed. In the meantime, I'm breathing heavy breaths of life and working with you all to see how we can help remember people like Mrs. Nkomo and her kids...how we can help her local church meet the physical & spiritual needs of her children that will be left behind after she passes away.. as a practical demonstration of the love of Jesus Christ.
I get asked a lot by you all: "Is this hard to do? Is it hard to sit with someone that is dying and feel helpless?" I will say this. It is not easy, but it is also not hard. What an awesome AWESOME joy you and I have to mobilize our friends to demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ by equipping local churches in southern Africa to meet the physical & spiritual needs of AIDS orphans in their communities."
We MUST keep going and we must remember to take deep breaths, thanking God we are alive and remember that it is our great joy and privilege to join God's church in responding to those that are breathing heavy -- calling in their own special way for help.
Thanks for joining me in responding to women like Mrs. Nkomo and thousands of people that you will help us assist this year.
Peace to you,
Drawing deep breaths of thanksgiving for you & for the mission of Forgotten Voices,