A note folded many times over

A note folded many times over

Three weeks ago, a note folded many times over and squeezed in a sweaty hand was passed along to me sometime during a long, hectic day at our HIV/AIDS clinic. It was only in the evening that I had time to carefully unfold it and give it some thought. It started out with the usual, ever so polite Tanzanian greetings that are such a part of life here. First of all, I begin with greeting you – Shikamoo! (an untranslatable greeting of respect that supposedly in ancient days meant I kiss your feet but now is just a kind and lovely respectful way of greeting those of us who are old) – and I feel for you with your work. I am Nimrod and forgive me but I need your help. My back and legs started to hurt on December 8th and I can’t walk anymore. I have been treated at different hospitals and I am now just a person that can only lie in bed. Please help me.

And so I made my plans to trek out to his village the next day. I sometimes jokingly think to myself the sickest ones always seem to live at the end of the furthest away villages. It was, of course, hard to know what it could mean that his back and his legs hurt – even a doctor wouldn’t know what to do with the lack of specifics – but we packed up the car with a mix of supplies and medicines we thought might help and trusted God would somehow guide us to bring the right stuff.

Dear sweet 32 year-old Nimrod. This member of the National Guard had indeed been reduced to invalid status. But rather than frowning or bemoaning his state, he had a beautiful smile on his face which radiated peace, and he was so happy to see us, it was contagious and not hard to be happy to see him as well. He thanked us for coming and then I asked to see what is it was on his back and his legs that hurt so much. I had had a strange fear the moment I read his letter and I had prayed it wasn’t what I had seen several times these past couple of years with other people living with AIDS and who then died. But I know the smell. And I know what the deep holes mean. Unmistakable signs of an untreated, deep abscess that has tunneled its way all around and through the muscles. Another cruel way for a human being created in the image of God to die. I said a quick prayer asking the Lord to please not leave me alone with this! Unlike the last couple of times, I had no budding medical professionals with me!

It was the same with Nimrod as it had been with others in the past. I learned they might go to hospitals, but no one wants to go near them, and they are always sent home, body fluids and all, with few resources to care for these wounds and outflow of fluids. All I could tell Nimrod was that we would try to help him and that I wouldn’t leave him. I asked him about his family, wondering how many children would be left behind. Again with a peaceful countenance he explained he had four young children but the baby died in April. Again, no bitterness, no anger. He explained to me he trusted God. And if this man had such faith in such trials, who was I to not try somehow to ask God to give me enough faith to try somehow to find help for him.

It was only two days later that I got good news! A doctor from the States had come to Tanzania for a few weeks and she and her student would be available to go out and “visit Nimrod” with me. Wow.

What was planned as a Saturday afternoon visit to his home turned into something more, far more, as they decided then and there to spend the hours it would take to do what I guess can only be called a surgery and to clean out all of the wounds and provide him with the medicines that would give him a chance at life. On a follow-up visit the next day, we were able to start him on the second line of ARVs – which are so very hard to get but that I was so thankful that Msafiri had at our clinic. Each time we met, Nimrod and I prayed for that miracle that we both knew could only come from Him. The truth is the conditions here aren’t conducive to healing wounds like his. We have little to work with, but God is the provider and again we can say His provision is sufficient. And last week when I went to visit, Nimrod was not only able to walk, he was able to sit! This was a man who hadn’t been able to sit since December. He tells everyone who will listen that his healing is truly from the Lord and from his mouth the Lord gets all of the glory. What a privilege it is to be invited to walk through “the valley of the shadow of death” with people I had never planned on ever meeting. What a privilege it is to witness their faith at work. What a privilege it is to be invited into their homes and into their lives. These people in these villages who are living with HIV/AIDS have blessed me over the past ten years in ways that are hard to put into words. As I think of those like Nimrod who are alive today, and as I think also of those I have cared for here who have died, I feel within me a strong belief that one day we will no longer be in this place where there is sorrow, pain and suffering. It will be a wonderful family reunion. And in the meantime I will continue to do all that I can to show love and concern to those here who are hurting.