We had just finished a small crusade on one of the mission trips to Africa when a woman walked up to us and said, “Hi, my name is Norah and I need to speak to someone.”
Emma and I gave her audience thinking she wanted to get saved.
“How may we help you, Norah?” Emma asked.
“I hope you have time because I have plenty on me.” She said.
Even though we were tired, I managed say reassuringly, “Oh, that’s fine we have time.”
Norah took a seat and began to pour out her story as follows as we listened quietly:
“My niece, Vivianne is 20 years old and the last born of five. She has health problems resulting from the human immunodeficiency virus she was born with. Her father was the first to develop full blown AIDS and succumb to the disease then her mother, my younger sister, followed about four years ago. I know for sure that she has had a tough life but takes one step at a time.
Not only has she been bounced from school to school but also, her attendance has been very inconsistent, consequently, her academic performance has been adversely affected. To me, it is amazing that she has held on for two decades!
After her mother’s demise, Vivianne and her siblings all looked up to me for guidance and assistance so naturally, I stepped in. It didn’t matter that I had eight children of my own and an alcoholic for a husband (but that is another story). Here, family takes care of family, period.
For a few months, I would check in on the orphans and provide the necessities as best as I could with my meager earnings. But then Vivianne’s health began to deteriorate and the only logical thing to do was to take her in.
I still have to work outside the home though but my older children, Patty, Dorcas and Lilly help her with grooming, feeding and transfers. See, I am one of those married women here in Africa who raises her families single handedly. We don’t have many options so we simply get by and that’s just the way life is.
Anyhow, after a while, I started noticing some animosity between Vivianne and some of her cousins. Under the circumstances, I thought it was understandable that caregivers get frustrated occasionally; I’ve seen it at the hospital where I work as a cleaner. Honestly, I didn’t give it much attention until the evening Patty, my 19 year old daughter, the spokesman of her siblings told me that she was moving out because she couldn’t cope any more. I adjusted my life to accommodate the situation.
That was a couple of years ago but to cut a long story short, I started working the overnight shift so that I could be at home during the day to care for Vivianne. I must admit that it is quite a challenge especially when everyone has deserted you. Oh, did I mention that alongside AIDS, Vivianne has dementia, is non-ambulatory, and completely incontinent? In addition to all that, she is physically combative, attention seeking, complains all the time and calls me names. What’s more, she now refuses to take her medicine. I’m at my wit’s end with her!
An African woman is supposed to know how to handle situations like this but I am overwhelmed and exhausted. I feel like a bad person when I say I do not want to do this any longer. What choice do I have?” She concluded.
This is just one of the many moving cases we encountered on our trip. Norah was a born-again Christian doing what she knew to do, had used up all her options, exhausted a great deal of her time, energy and money and very little if anything to show for it. Ostracized by community, this woman living with HIV-related stigma needed help and we offered to pray with her. Prayer is always a great starting point. We then asked her to read and daily meditate on Psalm 107:1-43 as medication for her situation.
We visited with her a couple of times and just before we concluded our mission trip, Norah said, “I was weary and distressed. I thought would explode but God brought you all the way here to give me hope. He is faithful. Praise His name!”
From this encounter, I learned that sometimes, your greatest help to someone will be when you least expect it; only be willing and available.
(Inspired by 1 Thessalonians 5:11)
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