I was awoken by a phone call at 5:28am Tuesday morning asking me where I was because we were due to leave for the doctor at 5:45am. Why is it that people here are late for everything unless it is in the predawn hours? I silenced the phone, hid in the bathroom and promised my friend I was getting dressed and would be at my gate in 5 minutes and please oh please not to scream and bang as she is predisposed to do. I washed my face and donned a skirt, wrinkled blouse (opps!), and head covering laid out the night before in preparation for my need to be silent kabisa as I left the house (because J and I have sorta an unspoken rule that whoever gets up before dawn must sneak out of the house so as not to wake our slumbering angels and thus turn them into predawn whiny crabsters and thus transform said left behind parent into tired, cranky, pre-coffee lunatic Papa or Mama. Yes, it is a must or said offender will pay later.) I managed to leave undetected except for some loud greetings from neighbors on their way to the mosque or to sell their vegetables at the local market.
I was taking a couple friends to the only doctor I know here that actually seems to listen, run tests, and provide actual care. We get there before the sun rises because it is the only way to assure we will be seen as usually around 7am there are already 60 or more women waiting. It was another appointment for my pregnant friend who is now sporting an adorable and perfect baby bump under her long dresses and whose past two appointments have been all good news. Amazing miracle as she was not doing well for so long. We were also taking another friend that has not been able to think about her own health for years. While I was in South Africa her little girl died. We have been together many times
and I have come to love this little girl. When I heard the news I had to sit down, think, pray, and cry. I visited her in the hospital the day we left for South Africa and the little girl had sores covering the entire inside of her mouth. Her breathing was labored. She had not eaten or drank anything for days, even the crushed sugar cookies she has lived on for some time. Her feet were swollen and her skin was peeling off everywhere that was not covered in kanga
. She has been sick for 3 years and the last time I saw her weighed about half as much as Evy. Praying was difficult because it seemed as though the situation was hopeless. Because from a human perspective it was but I know God does not see what I see. She died and was buried while we were gone. I went over as soon as a heard and said how sorry I was for their loss and asked them about the family news and we sat together for a long time. I asked again about my friend’s health as she has been sick for so long but was always struggling to feed her children and take care of her daughter that required so much care and constant visits to the hospital. She has had physical pain and unexplained bleeding for months. We decided we would all go together to the clinic; everything is done in community here.
So bright and early off we went, a group of five women taking two of them to the clinic. There is lots of benefits of community too; no need for magazines in an office when you wait for 3 hours because we all just talk! I have gotten to know the women at the clinic well and they know my job is always to pray for healing and to hold everyone’s purses while they pee in a cup. They were both treated, tested, (more tests required for one of them that can only be done at the government hospital so we wait some more), got medicines, and we headed out. After dropping off my pregnant friend and her sister in law with plans to see them again soon I started to drive my other friend home. She insisted that she could walk part of the way and said just to pull off the main road.
I pulled off the road when she said “here.” It was quiet and uncomfortably still for a moment and she showed no signs of grabbing for the car door handle. I wondered if I made a wrong turn but she started sharing that her little girl was buried somewhere here on this large plot of land with overgrown tress, foliage, garbage strewn everywhere, and people meandering on their way to their daily lives. She did not know exactly where since she was not at the burial. It is custom for the men to take the body to the mosque to complete a prayer service and then to bury the body after with no women present. Her baby died in her arms in the middle of the night at the hospital after which she had to arrange to leave with her body. She dressed her little girl in white and rolled her up in a worn mat and took her home to prepare her body for burial. The next day everyone came to grieve with them, pray for the little girl and family, offer condolences, and to bury her. In a culture where exhibiting emotion is rare I could feel her sadness mixed with relief that the suffering was over for her child. It was palpable. I told her how sorry I was for her hurt in losing her child and she quickly replied “tumeshapona” (we are already healed) to which I responded that I did not think that was possible. I told her I know for sure God loves her, that He knows and sees her pain, and that I will continue praying for her in Jesus’ name for blessing and healing. We sat for another minute just watching the people walk by and then she got out and began her walk home with promises to see each other this coming week. I drove off less than a mile and then pulled off the dirt road to weep. We are talking the ugly cry. I battle within my soul to reconcile such profound poverty and suffering that we (myself included) can reduce to statistics. And yet I see the amazing privilege I have to see it, breath it, to be allowed a window into the lives of women I have come to love as dear friends.
Last week I was drinking a latte on the beach looking at mountains jutting out of the ocean and talking with a dear friend that I have much in common with and this week I am listening to a life story I cannot even imagine experiencing. And that is my life. And it settled into my soul that the bipolarness of my experiences makes me who I am becoming, makes me appreciate and need each parcel of my life. I hug my children tighter, praise flows more easily from my lips, and compassion and mercy do not seem as difficult to exhibit because I experience amazing Grace and Love from my Father on a daily basis. I understand desperate praise offered in exhaustion and brokenness and I am thankful in new ways for what I am saved from and what I am being sanctified to. The latte drinking and soaking in sun seems so meaningless without engaging in the passion God gives me to love people that are very different from myself. And the daily bombardment of needs here would not be possible for my very- UN-Mother Theresa like and broken self without times of refreshment and fellowship. So here I am. Between two worlds spending many moments feeling the tension and uncomfortableness of that space. But I hold on tight because there is no amount of suffering or pain that Jesus can not turn to healing and wholeness. There is no brokenness He cannot transform into beauty. Mine and my friends. I am holding onto to this and praying and seeking.