Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Over the River and Through the Woods to Elaina's House

Soft-spoken with dimples that light up her face with each grin, Elaina is endeared to my heart. She has also been sick for months with HIV, and has outlived her husband and two sisters. When I first visited her with Carlos and Rolinda, the Rubatano volunteers in Elaina's community, she was so weak she could barely function and yet was caring for 15 children... her own as well as nieces and nephews. Elaina is pictured here with a few of the children in her care. Visiting this family is always an adventure, far back into the bush over bumpy dirt roads, up and down hills with brush growing close on either side. It is well worth the trip.

In spite of overwhelming tragedy and deep need, Elaina bubbles over with love and sits contentedly, holding my hand and smiling. Always before leaving her home we sing together, Akuna Wakaita sa Jesu... There is no one like Jesus. But life is hard and food is scarce for this family. In early March while Sarah & I were down in South Africa for the Hands at Work conference, Elaina reached breaking point. One morning she told her children that she wanted to end her life... that she was leaving and not coming back. But God intervened and a friend from Elaina's church saw her and spent time talking with her, accompanying Elaina back to her home. Not long after she arrived there, Carlos pulled in on his bike with some food for her. He had no clue before showing up that she was struggling so much, but realized immediately that God had sent him. Over the next several days he and Rolinda spent much time with Elaina, reading their Bibles to her, encouraging her, and praying with her. By the time I returned from South Africa she was doing well.

Once again it had been several weeks since I had seen these precious ones, due to 6 weeks south to SA and north to Nigeria. Carlos informed me yesterday morning that Elaina has been sick for 4 of those weeks. We went to visit her children and found that all of her nieces and nephews had gone elsewhere to live with other family members. Remaining are her 5 children, the oldest, Inez, is 24 and has two little ones of her own. Inez is currently caring for her two children and her 4 other siblings, all under the age of 13. Their granny is also staying with them, and she is blind.

After finding out the situation with her children, we brought one of them and went to find Elaina. It was about a 12 mile drive. First we stopped at a local health post, where we talked with a nurse about her condition. She had a stroke 4 weeks ago. This may seem surprising at her young age, but being HIV+ greatly increases risk of stroke. Elaina is staying with her brother's family since he lives near to the health post and she can easily get her treatment. Though her right side is mostly paralyzed and she looks to be in great pain, Elaina still smiled with the left half of her mouth as we approached. We sat for a long time with her just talking, singing, trying to love... what is there to say??

Life continues to unroll in spite of struggle, even though we may occasionally have the urge to scream at it to stop. Parents die, children go hungry, disease does what it will. This is life in Africa. Hard as it is for me to fathom, my Mozambiquan friends keep on smiling and singing... Please pray for Elaina and her family.

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