Hello friends and family,
We have officially jumped into our second week of ministry here in South Africa, and I feel like we continue to learn new things around every corner. As Casey said in his ‘video message,’ this country has been described as the place where the first world collides with the third world. It is perplexing to see how close wealth and poverty live to one another here. You are driving through a wealthy community, one that looks European or even American, and you turn one corner and literally you are in the middle of ‘Africa’ as you would imagine it with people, music, food, and poverty. This past weekend we were at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town; a tourist ‘must-see’ and a beautiful place of shopping, restaurants, music, and people can be found here. As Casey and I were sitting down outside drinking a coke, a young boy came up to us asking for spare change. I recognized the boy because I had been watching him that day, as he and his raggedly dressed friend literally devoured some food that had been given to them by nearby shoppers after they had eaten enough. They were exceptionally thin with torn clothes and desperate looks. So when this boy approached us we began to talk with him, and learned that his name was James and that he lives on the streets right there in the city. He said he was 17 years old and had been kicked out of his house. We just talked with him and laughed together, and anything we could offer him seemed so trite to me when I knew he needed shelter, food, family, nurture, and the love of Jesus Christ. It was heartbreaking to me and it was all I could do to not drag him home with us. He is the same age of so many youth in Raleigh who could feed him for a year off their cd collection. Or my cd collection. These are the type of mind-boggling encounters we are having here, which seem to haunt me for days.
It seems that I will be spending my mornings in the Living Hope health clinic, and I am learning so much about HIV and AIDS and what it looks like in the flesh. I had a meeting on Thursday with the doctor and nurses here, and learned about each patient that we care for in the clinic. There is one patient named Zolilie that I have been able to spend some time with. He has a highly contagious form of tuberculosis as well as HIV, so he sleeps in a separate ward and must wear a mask when out on the premises. I can always find him by his faded orange Yankees ball cap. Yesterday we were sitting on the porch talking and I watched him clean his lunch plate quickly. I told him he must be feeling better and asked if he would be going home soon. He said he hoped so because he was tired of watching his friends die, and then proceeded to tell me about the death of his roommate on Friday. What do you say to that?? How could I ever imagine to understand what that feels like? What could my response be but to then play some Bob Marley?? Seriously, as the conversation moved on, I asked him what kind of music he liked, to which he replied ‘reggae.’ So I played him so Bob Marley off my ipod and speakers. I think it truly bought some light to the day, and he even stopped me so he could grab another friend to listen along. We sat and sang “no woman, no cry” together. As I left I promised him we would have more music time together and he laughed.
I do struggle for what my response could possibly be to this pain, and I have found some wisdom in the book “The AIDS Crisis” that I am reading. It says, “AIDS workers no longer refer to individuals as victims of AIDS, but rejecting that word is more than an issue of being politically correct. Victims are helpless; people living with HIV or AIDS are not. God holds us accountable for our actions and has given us a gift of dominion – of exercising control over our own behavior and our environment. Christians ministering to people with AIDS can restore a sense of hope and self-efficacy that mobilizes change.” These words speak truth and vision to me as I move forward, and I ask that you would pray that God would use Casey and I for this purpose here. I do believe Zolilie and many others have a lot of life to live, even with HIV, and I pray that God would help us to share that vision with them.
Thanks, as always, for your prayers and encouragement. We love you all!