Saturday, September 15, 2012

Widows and Orphans~


Carlos (pronounced Kar-lo-sh in Portuguese) is a highly trained Mozambican nurse who was raised at Maforga’s boy’s home when he was a kid.

God opened the door for him to go to Bible college, then nursing school. Once he graduated, he returned to his home and started Rubitano, a non-profit designed to help HIV/AIDS patients get access to and stay on their retrovirals.

Married now with four playful children, he and his family live at Maforga, but his work takes him into the heart of the community.

God has used him to start a community-based work, involving more than 900 volunteers. After a training process, the volunteers (usually drawn from the various churches within the community) come together three times a week to visit HIV/AIDS patients from house to house.

Sometimes they come to clean and cook for those unable to care for themselves. Other times they come to make sure the medicines are being taken and no other infections have begun. Sometimes to come to make sure the patient is still alive. But always they come to pray.

I had the privilege of going on a few house calls with them last week to learn what kind of obstacles this country faces in terms of HIV/AIDS.

It is well established that Mozambique is dying of AIDS. Conservative estimates state that one in four people are HIV positive; those most effected are in the 20’s and 30s. As a result, half of the population is under the age of 16 or over the age of 50.

It’s a nation of widows and orphans.

The first family we visited, the grandmother greeted us with her three week grandchild in her arms. The mother of the little girl was the HIV patient, but she was nowhere to be found. Mental illness has kept her in a manic state that has only worsened since the birth.

They were unsure yet if her child is HIV positive but they assured us that the mother was taking the retrovirals regularly. So we talked about how to get them a front door on their mud hut then prayed and moved on.

The next patient we visited was in her seventies. Her eyes clouded with cataracts allowed only the shape of our faces to shine through --not the details. So naturally, she did not bother to turn her face toward ours in greeting. Instead she lifted her calloused hands upward to shake our hands one by one.

She complained of an ulcerated infection on her foot that was refusing to heal, but was otherwise in good health. I suggested she make a garlic compress for it, but she worried out loud that she did not have any garlic... nor did she know how to get some.

       -- Lord... is she so poor as to not to be able to afford the pennies needed for garlic?
       -- Yes, my child.
       -- Lord... can I give her the money?
       -- No, my child. I am doing a work here.
       -- Oh, Lord. First they need a front door. Now they need simple medicines.
       -- Yes. I know. But you are not their Provider, nor are you their Healer. I am. Trust me and pray.
       -- Yes, Lord. I will trust... and I will obey.

So we prayed for her, then walked on.

As we walked to the next house we traveled down the main street in town where children waved and called repeatedly “How-ou are you-ou?” at me while I passed. When I answered them, they giggled loudly then ran off.

The next house we visited had a small garden attached. It is cared for by two sisters living together. They have both been widowed due to AIDS. And they too are infected with the virus.

One is much worse off than the other and struggled to stand long enough to greet us. Her thin frame jarred out at knobby angles underneath yards of printed fabrics. Her head hung low. Her eyes down cast.

We spent lots of time learning about her retroviral regiment and the frequency of her doctor visits. We discussed which foods might help make her stronger and how she might get them. But eventually, the best thing we could do for them was pray.

So we prayed, then moved on.

The next family we met was muslim. The patient we went to visit is not only HIV positive, she is blind. Her medicines are working, and as a result she was vigorous and strong despite her HIV status.

Thrilled to have so many visitors, she had her family gather all the stools in the house and we sat down in a circle around her. As we spoke, children and chickens milled about.

She was happy to have us pray for her... even though she was Muslim, explaining that she had only recently converted to Islam after her local pastor started charging her to go to church.

She was told that if she wanted to attend the Assembly of God church near her house, she would have to pay the pastor 500 meticais a month (roughly $20.00 USD). This is a fortune!
Unable to afford such extortion, she decided to follow Islam instead. But she assured us she still loved Jesus very much and that she’d be happy to have us pray for her if we liked.

Sigh.

I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry. So we all bowed our heads and prayed instead.
      -- Lord, chasten that pastor for his greed and continue to care for this child of Yours. Amen.
The last house we visited belonged to a mother of many. I do not recall how many kids she had... but I do remember that her husband had abandoned them long ago.

We talked about her medicines, her health, and her roof. Apparently, she is unable to live in her house at the moment and fears the coming rains. Daily the holes in the roof get worse and worse, allowing in both rain and shine. She is having to sleep at a neighbor’s house until something can be done.

As we spoke and eventually prayed, a large group of children gathered to listen in. Perched on an exposed tree root just above where we sat, they strained their ears to hear what we had to say and stayed curiously still in the process. Only slight giggles could be heard.

But as I lifted my camera to capture their sweet faces, the giggles bubbled up into contagious laughter. And God reminded me once again... children are the same the world over. Whether in the misty mountain of the Philippines or the sun-baked sands of Mozambique, if given the chance to have their picture taken... children will jump for joy and start making faces!

In time we said our goodbyes and slowly made our way back to the Rubitano headquarters where I met up with Carlos again.

He then explained to me how the ministry relies on some small grants, but is mostly funded by a chicken project they started a few years back. The chicken project pays some of the staff salaries and provides revenue for community food projects and outreaches.

I love seeing what God is doing in and through this program. I love seeing how it provides a need for the community while using the resources within that community. I love seeing God’s people being the hands and feet to the lost and hurting.

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:
to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself
 from being polluted by the world." James 1:27

Lord bless this work. Provide for your children. Touch these hurting and needy. Use Your people to do it. May we be Your hands and feet. Amen.