Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Home Visit to a Woman with HIV/AIDS

Balmy sun and cool breeze bounce of my blue shirt--the one I wear when I know I'll need protection from the elements. It's one of those shirts you pay extra for at a camping store. I also had my boots on. My feet and body are protected. Ha. Me and my protective gear...

I step out of the vehicle and onto the odd, uneven, narrow street. It is like cobblestones, but made of shards of sharp rock, and caked with mud because of the rainy season. There is a cement sewer drain on the side. It lies open like an artery cut in half. A blueish gray slime works its way through. This is a slum area. But it could be worse. It could be, right? I am not sure. I have not been in a slum before.

I sit in the small house of about eight by twelve feet. There is just enough room for a makeshift bunk bed and a bench. There is a woman lying in a cradle position on the lower bunk, and the upper bunk has curtain over it. I cannot see what lies behind. The woman holds her hands to her head, and has a look of deep pain on her face. She speaks with the weakness of a wilted flower. She has "the sickness." I set down the bag of food we bring to her.

Someone goes out and grabs the daughter. She comes in and sits down. Her smile is kind, and polite. She's wearing a long dress that seems better suited as an evening gown or pajama. Her hair is tight against her head in a set of alternating corn rows: one straight, the other a pattern like a parapet on a castle top. Her feet adorn a pair of muddy, slip on sandals. It's the rainy season, and her feet are covered with mud.

She listens to me tell the story of how I found out about this place called Korah, and how my heart broke, and how I want to help. I tell her and her mom how I am honored to be welcomed into her home. I read the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee and tell the story of Jesus and how he came to bring us to God. The mom and daughter both give short, inward breaths, like quick, furtive, backward sighs. This sound means, "Yes, I agree with this."

We all pray for the widow. I lay my hand on her head and ask God to have mercy on her. God, please have mercy on this dear woman. We all start crying. My interpreter is overcome with emotion and begins to pray in Amharic. He shakes with weeping and asks God's mercy on her. The daughter is quiet, she bows her head and prays. After prayer, I show the food to them: oil, sugar (sukkah), peanut butter and beans and grains. You will not have to go to the dump for food for a while now, my dear.

The daughter walks us through the alleyway to our vehicle. She smiles at me and I get in the vehicle. I get out again, and go to shake her hand and say goodbye. I get back in and sit down. She's still looking at me and smiling, with her friends. I stretch out my hand toward the window, saying goodbye to the girl. She's an early teen. So kind, and such a lovely smile. You'll not have to go to the dump for food for a while, my dear. You are precious in the eyes of the Lord, my dear.

I am off to another home visit. Another family with leprosy. Another woman with "the sickness." As we drive away, I expect nothing of the capture this girl would lay hold of my heart over the next few days.

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