In their minds

In their minds

“Bibi (grandmother), no one has gone to a witch doctor to put a curse on your daughter. She has AIDS.”

Edda was this grandmother’s sixth adult child to reach full blown AIDS in all of its nastiness. It had already killed the other five and in Edda’s case, AIDS had taken normal shingles, painful as they often are, and made them even worse by putting them behind Edda’s knee (something that I had never seen or heard of) and then they ate through to the muscle. It is horrific to think of, and worse to look at. I had been visiting with Edda for at least a week at the request of her mother helping in practical ways and trying to bring some calmness and peace to the situation. Edda was as feisty as her mother and I enjoyed laughing with her and learning about her life. She had been living in a distant village but, now at age 32, she was brought home here when six weeks in the hospital couldn’t make her leg better. The last thing Edda needed was her mother getting a witch hunt going on around her, with all of the melodrama of trying to find out who could be deemed responsible and blamed for her shingles!

What Edda needed was a friend and so I asked Christina – a dear Christian woman who has had AIDS for years – if she would go visit her, to pray with her, and to be friends with her. She shocked me with the bluntness of her response. There is no way I’m ever going to that house! You can’t make me! Those people are mixing witchcraft with medicine from the hospital!

Suddenly I got a clearer picture of things. And so later that day I went back to visit Edda and asked her, in the most pleasant way I possibly could, to just to tell me the truth. Were they using stuff from the witch doctor?

I must tell you the truth Mama …. YES!

Now I understood why sometimes there was medicine missing. And why sometimes there were some pills left over. Sometimes Edda was taking her ARVs and the medicines from the clinic – and sometimes she was taking whatever the witch doctor gave her – and sometimes they were combining them all in mixed-up doses.

Christina finally did go with me to see Edda. We enjoyed our last visit together with her on Sunday afternoon, the day before she, rather mercifully, died.

One of the things that I love about teaching is that I can talk anytime I want to the kids about AIDS and situations like these. Together, we can discuss the real life situations that are going on in the villages. And we can talk about what it means to serve those who are hurting and in need. What does it really mean to be Christ-like? What in their minds does it look like to be salt and light in a dark and hurting world?

School can’t all be about studying English and Physics and learning Math. And it also can’t be about simply learning Bible stories about Moses and Abraham. We have to talk about people like Edda and Christina (even if I have to change their names). My students need to grapple with the stories of people like Aneth, the old woman living with AIDS, who stopped me this morning on the way to school.

Aneth, along with her 7 year old orphaned granddaughter, had their earthly belonging tied up in bundles on their heads – and they were obviously going somewhere. She let me know that they were leaving the village. They were going because she had been accused of being a witch.

Talking about situations like that with your students and you’re going to learn that the problem was that people couldn’t believe that the old woman was getting better because of the pills she was taking! No, in their minds with the limited knowledge they had, if she were somehow getting better it had to be that she was using witchcraft in order to suck the life blood out of other people. And who were these “other people”? The people who are having the life blood sucked out of them by a horrible virus that can’t be stopped because they haven’t come to get tested and treated! You’ll learn from your students that the story about people wanting to kill her is really true and that people really would do it. And you’ll learn from them that the government officials had indeed asked her to leave, and that it wasn’t out of meanness, but rather they had done it to try to keep her from getting killed.

A lot of things for young people to talk about in one simple real-life situation!

They’ll also need to know that she didn’t want to leave the village without saying “goodbye and thank you” first, and I want them to wrestle with what that says and what it means.

Mostly I want them to wrestle with what they need to be doing. What they need to be talking about. What they need to be discussing What they need to be changing. I want them to be trying to make sense out of their world and to try to figure out what God expects of them.

Being a teacher here is great.