November 26, 2007

Christmas Party on Thanksgiving

Our Thanksgiving was a little different than usual this year. Not only are we far from family, the weather is HOT and it feels more like we should be having a 4th of July BBQ then cooking a turkey…this year we had a Christmas party on Thanksgiving day!

Through the sponsorship of Fairfield Community Church in Idaho and a few other couples who support us, we were able to have a fabulous Christmas event with the group I have been working with at Moroka Church of the Nazarene.

For the last couple months, I have been driving into Moroka once or twice a week to get to know a group of people who are all HIV+ or who have full blown AIDS. They were referred by the Red Cross clinic next door to come to Moroka Church for food. The church has a sponsorship from a local grocer to get “day old” food on Tuesdays and Thursdays. There are three Gogos (grandmas) who come to the church 6 days a week to cook this food for approximately 70 school children who wouldn’t get a meal otherwise and then on Tuesdays and Thursdays these adults with HIV or AIDS receive a hot meal also and a few veggies to take home with them. I have also been helping them by giving them vitamins, pain medications and topical creams to help ease the pain in their sores.

This group of patients go to the Red Cross clinic for a checkup and then come next door to the church and do beading together for a couple hours until their lunch is ready. I talked with Gogo Thelma (in the brown and yellow dress with hat) who is in charge of this program about doing a Bible study and health lesson with this group during the time they are waiting. She was SO excited she cried and kissed my neck like 10 times! She knew something was needed, but didn’t know how to do it alone. So, my teammate Heather Witherow and I have been writing Bible studies and health lessons and Gogo Thelma has been either teaching the lessons or giving them to the group to do as a home study. Since only 2-3 out of the group have a passage level of English, we have also been working to get the lessons translated into Sotho and Zulu.

(By the way, Gogo Thelma is Buhle Bhembe’s mother. I have written about Buhle and her work in Slovoville often and many of you in Seattle have met her and her husband Pastor Themba last July.)

God has provided a Sotho translator named Maria and I am very excited about working with her. Maria is a 21 year old orphan who is struggling to find work. In the meantime, she is teaching Sunday School at Moroka church and is also helping out with the children’s program for the 70 kids that come for food every day after school. This translation work with me will be a much needed source of income for her and I am looking forward to working closely with her to build into her life also. (Maria is the one wearing the yellow shawl in the photo)

Back to the party…5 days before, Gogo Thelma and I finally connect via phone and she tells me that the party will be from 10:30-2:00 and (to my surprise!) she had invited several other groups to join us. Since I was in charge of the budget, the news that the party was not for 15-20 people anymore, but she was expecting 60+ and it was turning into a health conference with speakers…well, it was a little challenging for me to adjust to initially. I recruited Dan right away to help me and another teammate Jenny Teichert also came to help which was wonderful – couldn’t have done it without them! That is Africa for you – keeps you on your toes!

We arrived early to help with set up and decorations and 10:30 came and went…no one showed up. By 11:20 we had 6 people there. I was really skeptical about the projected 60 people coming, but sure enough close to noon a steady stream of people came and we filled up the church sanctuary. There was a nutrition lesson, a lesson on HIV/AIDS and then I gave a short Bible lesson that was translated. It was well received!

Jenny and I led some Christmas games while Dan grilled 150 hot dogs. Don’t think they are used to playing Christmas games, but boy did they shed their stuffiness when they saw there were prizes for participating! After, there was a buffet line with lots of interesting African salads the gogos made in addition to the hot dogs.

We then passed out parcels of food and gifts to the group of 15 from the church who have been faithfully coming on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They were SO thankful and grateful. They burst into song and clapped and danced holding their gifts high over their heads. The pictures don’t adequately show how much fun it was. I kept choking up thinking of how such a small parcel could bring such joy. It was SO humbling for Dan and I to be the channel of blessing from you all to this special group. They live on the outskirts of society since there is such an awful stigma about people who have HIV or AIDS and to be included and to receive a special gift…it was overwhelming.

Who knows if they will have another Christmas with us?
Evelyn’s sister died of AIDS the day before the party.

Another lady in the group – Nono – was in the hospital getting treatment and couldn’t come. Honestly, the government hospitals are in such bad shape, I’ve heard many who are sick say they’d rather die at home then endure the hospital. That tells you how sick she has actually become.

Below is our Moroka patient group with Pastor Themba, Pastor John and the Gogos who cook. It’ll be a miracle if 6 of the people in the photo below will be with us next Christmas.
Tough to tell who the sick people are isn’t it!?

Please pray for Evelyn’s family as they grieve and please pray that Nono will get better and have more time with us and her children. Nono’s husband died of AIDS in 2000.

We are so thankful to all of you for helping to make this event possible. This is why I love living here.


PS. 10 days until our due date - baby Miesha should be coming soon! We’d love prayer for a smooth delivery and for peace as we are so far from family at this special time.

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