Tuesday, November 08, 2005

the beautiful struggle

Gunjani,

That means good morning in siswayti, which is the language spoken in this region. Siswayti is also the language of Mozambique, which is just to the east of where I live.

I am unsure of how to express the depths of joy and stuggle that I have gone through over this past week, so I will try to speak about what I am learning, those I have met, and what I am doing.

I have begun to travel in the community with the home-based care (HBC) workers, and the social workers. These individuals are mostly women from the community who volunteer their time 6 days a week to care for thier neighbors who are dying of AIDS, and to coordinate the care of the children who are orphaned from AIDS. I have been so humbled by these women and men. They serve selflessly for years, putting their lives on the line.

we begin our days at around 8:30, travelling to the clinic for prayer and singing. spirituality is very different in africa. Everyone prays, regardless of their faith background. the hospitals open each day with the head nurse leading all of the patients in the waiting area in prayer, asking God to bring healing for them. Although people may not believe in God, they still believe in spirituality and in a higher power, so these activities are not offensive.

After prayer, we receive a list of patients to visit. Because of the nature of the AIDS virus, and how it weakens the patients, it is most effective to visit them in the home rather than waiting for them to come to you. patients may be strong and well one week, and near death the next. also, African culture revolves around relationships. relationships are more important than time, money or possessions. when people become sick, they are often times ostracized from the community. people stop visiting them for fear of contracting the virus. often times, this is more painful for the victim of AIDS than the disease itself. as we visit these patients, we are offering them love and support and relationship. it is amazing to see the patients transform even as you speak with them, asking about their health and the weather and such. thier eyes gain glints of light, their speech becomes more clear, and they sit up straighter. the power of love has overwhelmed me here...and the need for it.

masoyi HBC (home based care) also makes patient referrals to a local clinic that administers advanced patient care, such as anti-retroviral drugs (the drugs that fight the spread of the AIDS virus) and tuberculosis treatment.

so now i will tell you of my most powerful patient experience...they have all overwhelmed me on some level. the patients range from very very ill, to entirely healthy. with each one, i find myself trying not to cry. i know that everyone i meet will die. they are all young, in their 20's and 30's, with families and dreams and favorite foods. if i think too much, i begin to liken them to my family, my mom, my brother, my closest friends...

this past thursday, we walked into a small brick house. say the size of a large walk-in closet. i could hear the laughter bouncing off of the walls as we entered. there was a young girl of about 12 on the floor, doubled over in laughter, a man and a teenage girl seated against the wall. they all stood when we entered, because it is customary for a guest to be seated in the best chairs. i was with emily, a nurse who works with Masoyi Home Based Care. she is incredible. she has a great mass of braids atop her head, and she is from zimbabwe. the patient was a woman named josephine, who was quite emaciated. so much so that i almost lost my breath. josephine weighed probably around 70 pounds, and she wore a dress with a vibrant African floral print. her hair was neatly braided, and her smile was so wide that it overtook her face each time she smiled. she was 34 years old, and the mother of the two girls in the room. emily began to greet her (which takes around 10 minutes - greeting is an artform in Africa. if you ever plan on coming, learn to greet in the local language!), and to ask about her health and such. josephine smiled the whole time. she laughed and told jokes and just breathed joy into me. i could tell that she was at peace with her life, gained joy in all of her days, and had overcome much. we began to speak with her as well about plans for her daughters when she passes away, where they will live and who will care for them. i was able to hold her hand and pray for thier little family, for God to protect and provide for them. I began to cry while praying, overwelmed by the situation.

why do i tell you this story? i struggled over which story to share, which life to bring to your minds...josephine brought me such hope. her little home, clean and full of joy, reminded me that although this disease is terrible, that life continues. there is a generation of children who are living on, who are in need of security and direction and love and healing. I know that the work that i am part of offers that, and it brings me great joy to see this program at work. i know that i am here for a purpose, and for such a time as this. so thank you for all of your prayers....

we are also starting the orphan Christmas parties these next few weeks. all of the orphans who are in the care of Masoyi (there are around 1700 total) take part in parties with cake and traditional dancing and gifts and skits...we do around 2 each week before Christmas, and around 200 children attend each event. i will write about those next week, and have a few pictures to share with you as well. unfortunately, i have arrived at the internet cafe with a camera and no batteries. i took them out for recharging and forgot to replace them...

so thank you all for your prayers, and notes, and encouragement. i welcome and need them here. heather, the poem was great. i am doing really well. there are tons of fresh veggies here, so my diet is good, and i have felt embraced by both the international volunteers and the volunteers from the community. i feel it is such an extreme privalege to be a part of this work, and to share what i am learning and what i am seeing with all of you. it is my prayer to be able to connect my friends at home with the lives here, so that we can grow in understanding and compassion.

humba kathye, which means go well. God bless....

grace and peace,

maeghan

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love you darling, will try and show your blogspot to Precepts tomorrow.
C.

10:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Maeghan,

There must be a story to tell every time you walk through a door, thank you for sharing the story you did. I will be printing out your email and the blog entry to put on the kitchen table. They will be on my heart to pray for. Bless you, my Dear. May the mighty Spirit of God flow through you to those who are suffering, that they may be blessed by His hand.

Showers of Blessings
Kathleen

6:11 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

You make me cry when you hold me in my room at home and now across the world where I know you're holding others. Your love and heart for Jesus are shinning so beautifully my Maeg. I miss you but am overjoyed to share with you. Oh my friend, He's holding your hand too, don't forget it.
I love you.

1:40 PM  
Anonymous Celeste said...

Maeghan, I am praying for you all the time - I want you to know that. I am so blessed to know you and the work that you are doing. Keep on keeping it real homegirl.

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Celeste said...

Hi Maegs,

Just thought you should know - my two friends who are in Uganda just posted on their live journal that a bus of tourists going to Murchison Falls was hijacked by the LRA - one Brit was killed and the rest were rescued by the Ugandan Army. Kinda scary huh?

3:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Maeghan,
My prayer for you is that you continue to realize that you are a messenger of God's there to show God's love and compassion to the people in Africa. I pray that your gentle, compassionate heart be uplifted continuously as you constantly find yourself in overwhelming situations. As your letter said, the people you encounter will die. You will get close to them and feel the loss when they pass away. When you feel the pain of that loss, reflect on the love that you showed them- Jesus' love through you - and know that Our Heavenly Father is well pleased with you. I very much respect and appreciate the sacrifices you are making for these people. May God continue to protect you and encourage you as you serve Him so lovingly.
Joan M.

8:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anonymous said:Hold on the faith,Look up and look the people in the eye.God bless you.

4:15 AM  

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