Thursday, November 12, 2009

They Are Not Faceless Statistics...

So I'm just curious, what are you planning for your Thanksgiving meal in just 2 weeks?  A large turkey?  Sweet potatoes?  Mashed potatoes?  Maybe some green beans and corn pudding?  Definitely gravy and stuffing?  What's for dessert?  Pumpkin pie?

On our second day, S, the lady who works for Heart For Africa in Swaziland, took me with her to buy food for a family that HFA has been looking after...  The mom had made a really hard choice and decided to be tested for HIV and now S wanted to buy her some food that would be a treat...  She called it a feast...  A large bag of rice...  Powdered milk, like our cremora for our coffee...  Canned fish...  Knorr instant Minestrone soup...  Soya, some kind of gravy and sugar beans...  A feast?  Really?  For a week, and 10 children?  Welcome to their world...

Africa November 2009-88

Africa November 2009-87

After we bought the groceries, we went back to the AIDS clinic and waited...  While we waited, I forced myself to look into the eyes, the faces, of the children...the mothers...the grandmothers...  I wanted to really see them...  They are not statistics...  They are people...  People with hopes and dreams...  Fears and feelings...  They put on their Sunday best to come to the clinic...  I wonder why?  Is it their only means of clinging to their dignity...  of dealing with a disease that many treat like leoprosy? 

As we waited, S told me about them...  She didn't know them personally, but while the details of the stories may be slightly different, they're all pretty much the same...  A young girl who had been raped, you could tell by the way she walked...  A young boy with HIV, either he was born with it, or he was raped...  Babies born with HIV will often not live past 7 because the ARV's destroy their organs...  Children who contract HIV rarely live past 29, for the same reason... 

The incidence of HIV is 48% in this small nation...  Physicians in the country estimate that it's more like 65%...  That 48% only represents those who have actually been tested...  Where does it stop?  I thought education was key...but is it really?  It's definitely part of the equation, but a heart change is necessary too...  Promiscuity...mulitple has to stop...all the education in the world doesn't seem to impact the basic human requires true transformation that runs much deeper than a few facts and a campaign to use condoms!

I don't have photos of the faces that day...  It was a medical clinic, they deserve the same privacy we have in America, but the eyes were heart wrenching...  Children who should have been laughing and playing, were waiting for the medicine that will hopefully increase their lifespan a little and yet, ultimately kill them...   Mothers, waiting for hours and hours when they should be at home taking care of their families...   Babies... toddlers... whose playground, once a week, is an AIDS clinic waiting room...  The hard cold facts of their reality...

And yet a glimmer of hope in the day... a glimpse of God's power... an assurance that He's still in the miracle business... the young woman who we took to be tested, it was negative...  against all odds...  it defies human explanation...  Thank you God for hope...thank you for putting it on S's heart to buy her a 'feast!'  She had much to celebrate...and so did we!!


Patientlywaiting said...

Wow, Sharla, your stories from Africa are heart wrenching. I think that you are right this is the church's job to bring hope and healing not the government's job. We are all so comfortable in our lives in this abundant Nation that we live in that we forget or we don't really want to know what is going on in other places. Once we know, then we are obligated to do something. I am going to have to ponder this some more and see what God is calling me to do. Thanks for sharing.


April Isaacs said...

So sad Sharla! That's a feast for them? It truly is heart breaking. Are you going to tell us what role we can play in something like this?

So glad you are sharing!

Big hugs,

Anonymous said...

"A Playground once a week for babies and toddlers-----an aids clinic waiting room----"

A garbage dump with a little girl eating a rotten banana for her meal

Eyes that are so empty, so sad, so hopeless---

This grieves my heart, what must it do to the heart of God?

No, they are NOT faceless statistics, they are precious human beings, their eyes and their stories/your stories haunt me.

May many read and "see".
Love you,

Shonni said...

What an eye opening post. Thank you for sharing their stories, so that we can continue praying for them as the precious people that they are!

Shawnstribe said...

thank you

Naomi said...

You know it seems that God has been really using you in my life just recently!! What with a post you did before you went to Africa from the book of Hosea...(powerful, God really spoke to me) to now your posts from your visit in Africa. I can see this has had such an impact on you. I have always wanted to go to Africa and I am hoping for God to bring me an opportunity someday:)

Bless your broken heart Sharla...... God has been pouring His own heart into yours and I will join with you to pray for them.


Wife of the Pres. said...

Sharla, I have been reading your Africa posts. I wish I could say something here, but I just am mostly left speechless and feeling the need to be still and listen …