Neema indeed!

Neema indeed!

I remember the morning they had first come to see me. It was the same morning that Dif, the daughter of my friend Elizabeth, had come to tell me that her mom had lost consciousness and I knew Elizabeth was going to die.

Among those who had come that particular morning was a mother, with her grandmother, aunt and cousin – and a small child wrapped up in a cloth. Just looking at the child’s color I knew there was a big problem. Her skin was a sickly light brown color and her lips were gray as were her fingernails. And she had been slipping in and out of consciousness.

The problem I learned had started the previous Saturday evening when little 5-year old Deborah had collapsed. Her mother walked with her on her back all the way to the clinic. She waited, they looked at the child, and they told her to take her daughter to the hospital. And so obediently she walked with the child on her back all the way to Mdabulo. She again waited, they looked at the child, and there they told her to take her daughter to Mama Vinton for "advice". I was incredulous! What advice could they possibly hope I could give her! Especially now that we were into the third day. What I learned from her mom and from the brief medical records was that Deborah was very severely anemic. She was also one of "our kids" – (what that means in our villages here is that little Deborah is HIV positive; we call all the kids here who are HIV positive "watoto wetu" – "our kids"). The mom and grandmother and aunt and cousin all looked at me with great hope on their faces. I, on the other hand, could see that the situation was grim. I honestly was afraid Deborah was going to die right there at the house. What the child clearly needed was blood – and that is something that is exceedingly hard to get in a world where nearly the entire adult population is infected with HIV.

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that you need to do "something" because it will be hours and hours before "the real something" really happens. So I found myself doing what seemed the right thing – liquid iron formula from my medicine cupboard (I have a little of everything – thank you to everyone who makes that possible!), an egg for little Deborah, prayers, a big dose of comfort all around for everyone. I also needed information. If she is so anemic, where in the world would we possibly get blood? At the Kibao hospital the dear sisters had none. The hospital at Mdabulo of course had none The big government hospital in Mafinga is almost always out of blood. But what I know is that while we live in the land with no 911, we always have the Great Physician with us and He never takes a break and His number is never busy. I said a prayer.

And then suddenly everything sped up into overdrive like a DVD on fast forward. Msafiri, my wonderful former student who now runs our AIDS clinic, was oh so fortunately in Mafinga working at the hospital inputting multitudes of files into the master computer there to get more of my friends into the system to get their AIDS medications. (It’s not his job of course but rather than leaving the files for someone to input "one day" he regularly goes into town on his own and arranges to input everyone to immensely speed up the whole process.) He would put the files aside and spin into action. I had been out of gas for my car – but Godfrey made a phone call and held up our big truck that was to carry boards into town to be turned into desks – and we were soon hustling the mom and the whole family to get Deborah to that truck. The hospital might have been shut down for a general cleaning day but Msafiri had made lots of friends over this past year serving with us – and as the truck headed for town, Msafiri was seeing the right people and getting the promises that if we got Deborah to town, there would be blood for her. My heart sang!

Of course it would take hours and hours to get to town and I worried that Deborah wouldn’t make it. But she did. And of course having a promise of blood, while a miracle enough as it is, was not much good unless there was someone talented and patient enough to find a vein in a dried up child like Deborah. But once again at just the crucial time, the Lord provided Neema -- Neema means, how appropriately, Grace. This wonderful nurse had come from town several times as part of the team of doctors and nurses who come to help my friends here at our clinic on AIDS day, and had shown her love and ability time and again over this past year. My hopes soared. She worked for hours with Msafiri to give Deborah the blood she needed. By 2 in the morning they had succeeded and Deborah was out of danger. Msafiri told me later that they thought several times in the night that they had lost Deborah. It was "neema" that we had a vehicle, "neema" that Msafiri was in town, "neema" that Neema of all people was there, and "neema" that Deborah was returned back to the arms of her mother alive and well. I remember waking up that morning to the news that Deborah was alive. Neema indeed!

And now ten days later, the happy mother, granddad, grandma, aunt and cousin brought Deborah to see me. She is an adorable girl and has beautiful color. Her skin is so healthy and she smiles and she is just, well, adorable! What I didn’t know ten days previously was that Debora’s father had died exactly a month earlier to the day that Mom arrived with a sick daughter at my door. She told me that she had come that morning sure that her lot in life was to lose her daughter that day. But she didn't! And now everyone was full of smiles. It was good of them to come so we could all savor the joy of life together. And in my heart I thank the Lord that He is the giver of life and He can orchestrate impossible circumstances to save a little girl’s life. I marvel at how it all came together.

Little Deborah will start the ARVs this month. Msafiri will sit at that computer and rush her file through the system. Please, my friends, pray for a cure – a cure for little Deborah and for all of the others of our kids here. May the cure somehow come quickly! And in the meantime, we will show love and He will show grace.

May you all have a wonderful new year. I thank all of you for being a part of this work with us!

In His service,