She physically couldn't get to church.

She physically couldn't get to church.

I remember the day well. I was off to the village of Lulanda whose mountainous roads and cliffs are a bit unnerving and it was there that my gear box decided to drop out! Worse still, I was so far out in the middle of nowhere that there was no network for my phone. And so there I was.

But there was also a small house right down the road just a little ways from where I broke down, and that is where I met Frumena. A frail and emaciated woman who I learned had had a stroke when she was a child, which explained her withered leg and why she was so thin. In spite of the poverty, chairs and bananas were brought out to share and we visited for a few hours, until a hike together to the top of the mountain let us send word to those who could help us get out of our stranded state.

While I was walking with Frumena I met Adam, a boy who was walking up the round. He had terrible wounds and so we stopped to help him. And that was the beginning of a friendship with that kid and I’ve watched him grow into a fine young man who now helps me with others who have medical needs. I often find myself when I see him chuckling to myself about how good it was that my gear box broke that day.

Over the last few years I have frequently stopped by to visit Frumena and check in on her. Each visit has been a joy. On one of my first visits I met a man who walks through these mountains bringing the Lord’s supper to those who can’t get to church. What caused me to marvel was that this man has only one leg, and he walks up and down these mountains on his crutches to check in and minister to those who are shut in and can’t leave their homes to get to a church. That was when I learned from Frumena that she was a Christian. She physically couldn’t get to church. But the church came to her.

I brought her extra food, and nutritious food whenever I could. Every time I had a doctor specialist who came to visit me, I tried to see if we could include going all the way to Frumena’s to visit her. But over the years when nothing would help, I started getting the sickening feeling in my stomach that we had been overlooking something. And so I put it on my list of things to do that the next time I made a trip to her village that we would test her for HIV. The new technology makes it possible for me to carry testing kits even in my skirt pockets. One little line on the testing strip says you are negative and two says you are positive. And so three weeks ago we were able to test her right there in her home. And yes, there were two lines on that testing strip. I looked at her, and said with all of the excitement I could manage -- “This is good Frumena! We know how to help you now!’ (HIV and the handicapped is something I have yet to write about, but it is a too often a horrific reality: women who can’t scream for help, who can’t accuse the one who accosts them, women like Frumena who can’t run away.) A few days later I asked Jovinus to drive all the way to her village and bring her to the clinic in the car so that the doctors and nurses from town could examine her and get her started on the medication. And today again Jovinus went to get her so we could test her CD4 count.

What a remarkable day today is. A day that Frumena was able to smile, and smile broadly. She wore the new clothes we had given to her. She had lotion on her body and her skin shone. She had a scarf on her head. And now she had something that in all these years I had never seen or heard from Frumena – hope that she might get better. And she is planning on living!

There she was in the midst of a joyful group of women – all of them HIV positive – filling her with so much encouragement. “Look at us! We were all dying and now we are living! God be praised!” It was right there in front of me – another spontaneous church cropping up right there in front of our clinic! A place where people were coming together to praise Him, to show their trust in Him, to fellowship with each other and to encourage each other. How wonderful that the church had once again come to Frumena!

And how wonderful that I get to see all of this and to be a part of all this. I feel sometimes that I am the most blessed of people. I get to watch lives being transformed. I get to play a small part in the changes in the lives of these friends of mine. And I get to see that time and again it brings God glory. I am so thankful for the privilege of getting to be here.

Please do pray for a cure, and for good people to keep on, often very silently, helping those who are in need.

In His service,