Sunday, October 24, 2004

Benji and Chipo

Zvakaoma…life is hard.

This is an expression used often in Shona culture, usually meaning something similar to “give me a break.” But oftentimes the phrase is used literally as well. Today I understand a little more about the literal translation-life right now is hard in Zimbabwe.

We have been visiting two children that live right on the mission. Their mother passed away and their father, who used to work here, is now bedridden with AIDS. They all live in a small room that is filledwith the unpleasant small of sickness. I met Baba Benjamin (the father of Benjamin) for the first time last Thursday. He came shuffling out toward us with a glazed over look, swallowing hard and working to breath. I had no idea he was so sick, and suddenly realized that his two children, who are 11 and 8, have been the sole caregivers for their father. Many people have shunned him and are afraid to visit because of his disease. It sounds like harsh treatment, but when faced with it directly, your own mortality becomes very real. Even with the best education on how it can be transmitted, AIDS still causes great fear.

Baba’s situation has become worse and he was admitted into the hospital today. I decided that I should take a picture of the children with their father so they will be able to have a copy. Benjamin and Chipo came to my house about 5:30 just as it was beginning to get dark. Our electricity was out again so we trekked up the little hill toward the hospital as dusk surrounded us. As soon as we entered the main entrance, wailing and screaming filled our ears as a small, limp body was rushed past us and out the door. Benjamin and Chipo would have to wait outside while a mother mourned the loss of her baby son who had died just moments before.

We sat on the porch and watched as they carried the body up to the morgue. After awhile, the sounds from inside grew softer and we walked timidly back inside. In the growing darkness,we could barely make out Baba’s thin frame. He was attached to a drip and staring straight ahead. My friend Nyasha and I pushed the children forward and they greeted their father in Shona. Benji stood looking at his father and his voice cracked as he began to cry. Baba’s voice was barely audible as he answered back the greeting to his son. We took a picture of both the children with their father and asked him if there was anything special we could bring him tomorrow. He wants an apple and a fanta drink. Nyasha prayed for him and his mouthed breathed a silent “amen.”

As we walked back in what had become complete darkness, Nyasha could tell I was upset. She said tome, “Don’t worry. God has a purpose.” Tonight I cannot see the purpose. There are 1.8 million orphans already in Zimbabwe. There are about to be two more. Chipo and Benjamin are going home tonight to an empty house where there is hardly any food. Baba issuffering, and I feel helpless. Everything I can think to do seems trivial, like throwing a tiny pebble down a deep hole. But I can’t give up. I must continue to stare directly into the eyes of Jesus and keep moving forward…little by little each day…until someday He allows things to come into focus to see what He knew all along.
“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully,even as I am fully known. And now these three remain; faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13: 12-13

God knows Baba fully, loves him fully, and is right beside him tonight. Please pray for an abundance of love to rise up and comfort the sick and dying here, as well as those who mourn for them. Pray for Baba Benjamin, his two children Benji and Chipo, and all the others like them tonight whose story will never be told…

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