Sunday, August 27, 2006

Love at First Sight

She loved me from the very first moment, although I did nothing to deserve her love. I met my new little friend only a few weeks ago when she was being tested at the AIDS clinic with her mother. She was sitting outside on a wooden bench waiting for her results. As I came around the corner the eight-year-old girl lit up and immediately wanted to sit beside me. She wanted to go to my house, ride in my car, and even asked her mother if she could come and live with me. Her bright smile contrasted greatly with her tiny, frail body. Her mother had been walking a very long distance carrying her every morning to make sure she received her daily shots to fight the TB coursing through her body.

The results came back-both mother and child were positive. Melissa and I drove them quietly to the bus stop passing through our place first. My little friend had only one simple request while she was waiting for us to gather our things. "Ndinoda mvura" she said asking for cold water. I didn't see her for the next few days. My friend Melissa had to return to the US after a month-long stay in Zimbabwe. While I was returning from the airport, I received a call saying my little friend was in the hospital. As I entered the children's ward, she stood up on her bed spreading her arms wide in excitement. I hugged her gently only now realizing just how tiny she really was. The first time I had seen her, she was wearing sweat pants, but this time she wore a pale yellow dress, her skeleton-like frame exposed. I delicately lifted her onto my lap feeling as though she might break at any minute. She excitedly asked to call her dad. "I want to tell him to come see me. I want to tell him I am sick so he will come."

The next night she went with her mother to the house of the clinic coordinator, Mrs. Chimbwanda. My little friend asked again for cold water-very cold water from a refrigerator. Mrs. Chimbwanda went to the next-door-neighbor and returned with the water. As our little friend drank, Mrs. Chimbwanda talked to her.

After a while she asked, "Do you know who Jesus is."

"No," the little girl replied.

"Jesus loves children and He is always with them when they are sick. Jesus loves you," she told my little friend.

Just before she fell asleep, my little friend whispered back, "I love Jesus."

Two more days passed as we watched her physically deteriorate. She no longer stood and smiled when I came into the room. When her mom tried to sit her up to eat, her head would drop back and her body would slump back down. Finally she could not even respond to anyone. Her father came that night and slept on the floor next to her bed. Her mother curled up beside her and told us she fell into a deep sleep. When she woke, our little friend had passed away.

As we walked with the parents to get a ride back to their home, I remembered her asking for cold water. She always asked for cold water. When I told Melissa that our little friend had passed away, she also mentioned this and reminded me of the following verse:

"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." Matthew 10:42 NIV

Sometimes our purpose in life is to give others the opportunity to choose to do God's work. My little friend fulfilled this purpose. She shined with Jesus' light through her immediate and unconditional love and acceptance of us. We did nothing to deserve it. Then before going home, she allowed us to follow through with Jesus' simple request. For you see, we would not have had the opportunity to give her cold water unless she had asked. For this I will be ever grateful for our brief meeting. For this, I will keep going.

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