If I could have favorites in this world...

If I could have favorites in this world...

If I could have favorites in this world, one of my favorites would be Godi. He’s one of the miracles around here – one of the very first of the children in this whole region to be enrolled in the HIV/AIDS children’s AIDS program 10 years ago when the whole program was just in its infancy stages. I didn’t know Godi way back then when he first started on the medications, as he lived far away from me, but very close to one of the first AIDS clinics in our region of Iringa. His father died while he was an infant, his mother died while he was in the second grade, and Godi (along with his younger brother) started treatment for AIDS after their aunt took them in. It was a funeral of a relative that brought Godi and his aunt to our area, and it was at that funeral that his aunt died. An elderly grandmother took him in, and that is where our paths crossed.
One couldn’t help but love Godi! He was always helpful and cheerful on clinic days, passing out files, running errands, following the other kids. And then on non-clinic days, he would follow up on the sick in his neighborhood and accompany me on home-visits when I came through. I loved that kid! But then Godi started getting thin, weak, with a fungus growing out of control all over his body. His illnesses and our helplessness devastated me. Through a chain of contacts, we were fortunately able to send him to Baylor University’s outreach program in Mbeya (200 some miles away) and he was then switched to the second line of AIDS drugs after his CD4 count landed at a dismal 7 (meaning he should have already been dead). These past two years have been a time of recovery. And truly the second line of drugs has been doing its job! It’s been such a joy to see Godi get stronger and stronger.

Over these years together, I have learned that Godi’s dream has always been to be a carpenter. He had tried two years in a government secondary school right near to his grandmother’s home but he never could stay awake because at that time his illnesses just robbed him of his strength. He told me once that an older cousin promised to send him to school somewhere. But that never materialized.

But Steve and I have friends, good friends, and Deo is one of them.

The first time I met Deo was nine and a half years ago. He was one of three builders who lived with us on this nearly empty hill everyone called Madisi. I remember Deo as being the quiet one and very capable. He and his partners even made a perfectly constructed tent out of discarded cement bags that first night since there literally was no more room with us all crammed into the two buildings that had roofs on! I was impressed. Deo has been part of Village Schools from the beginning, and what started as a little job for him grew into a nice-sized business with 30 plus employees, tucked away off the main road in the little town of Mafinga. Although quite busy running his company, he always makes time to help us, doing everything from meeting our visitors and putting them on the right bus, taking care of all of the government business for Village Schools, and every time a truck comes our way there’s always things on it for me that Deo has bought. Our missionary teachers all have their own stories of the kindnesses of Deo. And so when I talked to Steve and Godfrey one day about us maybe finding some carpentry school somewhere where Godi could go, they made a phone call to Deo instead.

Few people will ever hear about the quiet heros on this continent, the people like Deo, who are just plain kind. It has been a month since I sent Godi off to Deo’s to be an apprentice. Yesterday he returned to get his medicine here at our clinic and to visit his grandmother -- I was thrilled to see him! Godi was just beaming. In one month, he not only learned how to build stools, he also gained weight! Two kilos (4 ½ pounds). I was full of questions. Who was teaching him everything? Deo himself. Who was his friend? Deo. And who was taking care of him? Deo. He provides him with food, a place to stay and a trade that will help him in life. Godi is actually one of three young apprentices there. All kids who Deo and his wife have taken in. Deo, a quiet man who rarely talks, but truly who is living out what God says in James is “the religion the pleases God”, the religion that takes care of the widows, and yes, the orphans. You should see Godi smile when he talks about Deo, that Deo says he learns fast, that he has already been promoted to making stools, that he’s going to be making school desks for Village Schools soon. Seeing Godi smile, even thinking again of Godi’s smile, just makes me smile too. Life is good here.

If I could have favorites in this world, Deo would be one of them too.

In His service,