October 11, 2008

Village of Hope

One of my favorite days during that short term team was the Saturday we went to visit some patients at the Village of Hope - an AIDS hospice center. We decided that rather than going to sing and preach to them (since they get that quite a bit already), we would go in to pamper them and give them a special party. Approximately 15 ladies from the local church we are partnering with also joined us and we had a wonderful time being the hands of Jesus to love these people who are dying. We soaked their feet and rubbed wonderful smelling lotions over their frail legs. We cut their toe nails and painted the ladies’ finger nails. We did makeovers, we gave them chocolates and coke and brightened up their living room with lots of balloons. Some guys from the worship team went room to room singing worship songs to them. We took their pictures, then printed them and gave them back to them to keep or to give to their families. Ruth took my big book of scrapbooking pages from room to room and let each person choose the special paper behind thier picture. Every person's picture turned out pretty great, but there was one man in particular who had a very winning smile. As I was gluing his picture to the paper he chose, we realized that he had chosen a very "girly" page with phrases like "sassy ladies" and "girls just wanna have fun" in a cute white font on black paper. We had so much fun teasing him about it! One thing I have learned about hanging out with people who are dying is that they love to have their minds taken off of the fact that they are nearing the end. Treating them as if they are normal, teasing them, doing special things to help them know they are special help so much to build bridges. My friend Maria was cutting toe nails - talk about serving!! - and kept telling each sick person, "I left my glasses at home today, but I think I can still see your nails there and I don't think these clippers are too sharp" and they would pull away in shock not wanting to get cut until they realized that she was joking with them! Instead of being nervous about what you might "catch" from them, showing them Jesus's love is pretty easy and then it opens up their hearts to hear more of the gospel.

Usually an easy way to open up a conversation with a stranger in Africa is to ask questions about their family or kids. I wanted to talk with one lady and when I asked if she had children, she turned away from me, and refused to talk to me anymore. I could tell I had made a serious blunder so I asked one of the ladies to interpret for me and see what I had done to offend her. Apparently this lady had two little girls (ages 5 and 2) and no one from her family would agree to help her care for them. She left her little girls with a neighbor when she came to live out the last days of her life at Village of Hope. She didn't want to talk about them because she had no idea how they were or if they were being taken care of. Doesn't that break your heart? It sure did mine! It is hard for me to imagine being in such a desperate place, but it unfortunately is more common here than I originally realized.

God opened up opportunities for us to talk to some of these people and to say “Jesus loves you” in a way that could be received. One lady named Jostina told me that she was angry with God about being sick and lonely and I was able to tell her that this party today and the gift of being loved and cared for by us was evidence that God sees her and still loves her. She cried and gave me a hug. It was an amazing day!

The ladies from the church were so excited about how well the party went and committed to return every two months to do special days like this.

Since I know many of you are curious, Miesha does accompany us while we are doing ministry. However, in cases like this where she would be exposed to sick people, she stays in the car and Dan and I take turns staying with her.

Thank you for your prayers for us. They really do make a difference!!

This is what one of the team members said:
“My name is Kristen Lakjer, and I come from sunny California. Africa has been on my heart for many years. Through prayer and investigating different missions agencies, the Lord directed me to serve in South Africa with Dan and Janell Hartley. I didn’t know what God had in store for my journey to South Africa, but I had full trust that He would guide me a long the way, and He sure did!

I look back on my time here in Africa and there is one experience that stands out most in my mind. I have to tell you a story of Nkhnsane. I met Nkhnsane at Village of Hope, which is an AIDS hospice in Ennerdale. Nkhnsane is twenty-six years old with two daughters, ages seven and nine. What I noticed most about Nkhnsane is the joy she had. I could see the love of God shining through her face. Her smile was so bright that I too could not help but smile. The day I met Nkhnsane she was to go home for three days to visit her family. I was so happy for her. It was a blessing to me to see God being faithful to her, even though she was sick. She told me that everything in her life belongs to God, and that she gets by day to day because she has the love of Jesus in her heart. I was sad to say goodbye to Nkhnsane, not knowing what would happen the next day.

The next day we went to Finetown and made some home visits. One of the homes we happened to visit was Nkhnsane’s family’s home. It was such a joy to meet up with her again. I was able to meet her mother, father, and her two daughters. Even though my time was short with Nkhnsane, I was able to connect with her as a sister in Christ. I will always have her in my prayers and I ask that you remember Nkhnsane as well, because she is now back at Village of hope till she gets to go home again.”

This is her posing in front of the corregated metal shack that her girls and parents live in.

1 comment:

Dawn said...

Hi Janell,
I have said it before, but it bears repeating...thank you for what you are doing!! Reading about this wonderful demonstration of love brought tears to my eyes!! May God continue to bless and protect your family, as you go about, being the Lord's hands and feet!!

Much Love to you,