Sunday, November 28, 2004

Psalm 23

I woke last night around 2AM with a melody running through my head that I couldn't quite identify. It was one of the Shona hymns the mothers sing sometimes for morning devotions, but I only new the first line. After about half an hour, I gave up trying to fall back asleep, switched on my light, and began searching my hymnbook for the song. I finally found the one-"Jehova Mufudzi Wangu" from Psalm 23: "The Lord is My Shepherd." I began singing the song quietly, and after a while there seemed to be something driving me to continue in my feeble attempt to memorize the long lists of syllables I could barely understand. When I finally drug myself out of bed at 6AM I was exhausted, but the song was now mine.

I arrived to pick up Mai Chimbo and Mai Mashiri at 7AM sharp, and miraculously for African time, they were ready to go a mere 45 minutes later. These two women have worked tirelessly as volunteers to make sure our resources go to the most needy orphans and caregivers on the farms nearby. We had sorted some used clothing given to us by the children's home and were now ready to start our round of visitation with a large box of the clothing and blankets in tow. We first drove to check on a mother who is now bedridden to make sure her three young children were being well cared for by her relatives. We next visited Peplow Farm about 30 minutes away. Anesu needed checked in on to make sure he had been to the hospital. He is 5 and being taken care of by his adolescent sister. Then there was Veronica who is now over 2 years old but hasn't had the strength in her legs to walk yet due to malnutrition. She has been receiving some nutritious porridge over the last few months and looked a lot healthier.

On our way back up the road, we needed to stop in and pay our respects to the aunt who had been taking care of a 2-year-old orphaned boy named Tadiwanashe. Church members came last Thursday night to pray that the Lord would either take him or heal him because he was suffering so much. Their prayers were answered as just a few hours later he passed away peacefully in the arms of his aunt.

The aunt and uncle asked us if we wanted to see his grave and said they had buried him in the green "suit" we had given to him (a little pair of pajamas). While we were waiting for someone to take us, the aunt offered us some homemade bread baked on a fire outside. Just to provide a little comic relief to those of you who aren't me, I watched as she took the knife she had been using outside to cut up a CHICKEN, dipped it briefly in cold water and proceeded to cut my helping of the bread. I also discovered she had a pretty serious chest cold as she coughed loudly into her hand and then picked up the bread and offered it to me with a big smile. What could I do? I prayed quickly for a stomach of iron and took a big bite.

A few minutes later, five of us were walking silently to the place where Tadiwa was buried a few days earlier. We stood solemnly side-by-side and were asked to sprinkle a small amount of dirt at the head of the grave. I later was told this act is usually reserved for family members, but the uncle said we had helped to take care of Tadiwa. As he said it, I felt the heavy weight of responsibility for the young child-was there more we could have done? I soon realized that it was God who had control, and it was not about anything we did or did not do. Before we said a final prayer for Tadiwa, one of the women began singing in the most beautiful, almost haunting voice. Where had I heard it before? It suddenly hit me. I smiled to myself as I joined in the singing "Jehova Mufudzi Wangu." It was the song the Lord had woken me up that morning to memorize so I could mourn with the others.

The Lord is our shepherd and at that moment I knew we did not need to fear or doubt anything in this valley of physical death that was surrounding us.

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