So people keep telling me how much they enjoy reading my South Africa blogs and noticed I haven't posted anything lately. The truth is, the longer I am back from Africa, the harder it is to write about it. The emotions swirling through me have somewhat settled and I am focused on wrapping up my current job before moving onto bigger and better things. Wrapping up the job has been stressful. It is among the top five most stressful situations a human can go through, along with death of a loved one, divorce, buying a house, and moving. I didn't want this blog to become G's random thoughts on depression, so I refrained from writing anything.
This morning I woke up with something on my mind. One of the reasons it has become difficult to write about Africa is because the stories I want to tell the most feel so personal. How do you write about a teenage boy who speaks English so clearly, is a top academic achiever in his school, but is struggling with the dreaded virus? He misses a lot of school because of hospital stays. Truth be told, if it were up to me, I go pick him up and fly him here to the U.S. to one of the top hospitals. "Surely," I think to myself, "we have the world's best medicine here." And then a stab goes through me, because I realize that as much as I love Africa, I don't trust that they have decent hospitals with enough trained physicians. Then I feel bad because I don't want my friends in SA to think I am criticizing their beloved home. So I take the only action I can take when I hear my little teenage friend is back in hospital: I fall on my face and cry out to God for mercy. I continue crying out until I know he is through the worst and is back home again. How do I express the light that seems to surround him? The lessons he taught me in just a few short days? This child has nothing but forgiveness for an alcoholic father who was drinking away his stipend. He has no proper birth record, so he chooses his age and his birthday. He does this with joy -- not bitterness or anger. God has huge purposes for this child, and I have to trust that God can keep him alive to fulfill those purposes.
Then there is "Band-aid". This slight little girl is about eight years old. We were playing games with her and the other children when Jeanette (our nurse) noticed she was hurt. Jeanette pulled a splinter out of the little girl's hand, put antibiotic on it, and wrapped a band-aid around it. Band-aid was soooo grateful! She threw her arms around Jeanette's neck and kept saying "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!" She was full of bubbly joy. Effervescent. When we saw her a few days later, we barely recognized her. She had strapped her baby sister to her back and carried her to the drop in center. She fed the child off her own plate, unselfishly giving up her own meal. The responsibility of caring for her helpless one and a half year old sister weighed on her heavily, and the bubbly child we had met a few days before was buried.
There are hundreds of these stories -- sad stories that turn to stories of hope brought to a hopeless generation, and stories of success. There is the very enterprising young man who took what Swa Vana taught him and started a home decorating business in the bush. Yes, folks, he uses his sewing machine to make curtains and sells them. His sewing machine was broken beyond repair when we were there, but he was pressing forward with the business.
Across the street from one of the drop-in centers was a man who played very very LOUD music. He harbored bitterness and resentment, and would crank up the volume whenever the children were gathered in the center. Instead of going over and asking him to lower the music, he was invited over for a meal. He was very sick, very fragile, and had to be carried. While in the center, he heard the Gospel message and accepted Christ as his personal Savior. He then began blasting Christian music. Two weeks after his conversion, he died; however, we know he is in a better place, and he died in peace and joy instead of bitterness and anger.
Back in the States, it is easy to tune out what one does not want to face. It is easy to get caught up in the minutia of daily life and forget the suffering one has witnessed. God has a way, however, of bringing these forcefully to the front of one's mind again. Last week I logged onto www.philly.com and read an article about a section of Philadelphia where people are far below the poverty line with no jobs, no job prospects and no way of putting food on the table for their children. They are mostly ignorant of the types of assistance available to them from the government. Largely African-American, they do not trust white people. It sounds sort of familiar. If I really want to be like Mama Charmaine when I grow up, I will find a way of helping them. Now I am praying for vision and purpose for my future. As much as I want to go back to Africa, doesn't charity begin at home?