Some days there are tears though

Some days there are tears though

A decade ago here in Tanzania, the song "Jesus will wipe away all of our tears" was wildly popular and I remember that our bus driver would play it over and over as he drove people on the three-hour trip all the way to Lugoda Hospital for AIDS treatment. Back in those days, people were only starting to come into the idea that AIDS was a disease you could live with, hope was in short supply, and it seemed that tears flowed all the time. People liked that song. I remember years ago always telling people when they were stunned to find out that they had the virus that God had provided us with a bus, that there was medicine now, that they were going to live and be around to take care of their kids, that we would all just hang in together. Now the bus has been retired, the clinic my students worked so hard to help build right here in our village serves hundreds of people every week and the tears, though still many, are fewer than they used to be. Our children's day clinic is usually my favorite day of the month. Lots of kids! Lots of games. And we have prizes for kids who can remember their ID number, prizes for the kids who can remember their medicine type, prizes even for the kids who can't remember either. Anything to make the day fun. We want them to look forward to coming to see all of the doctors and nurses!

Some days there are tears though.

And today was one of them.

I can’t remember how I ended up in the room where a new gal was receiving the usual “teaching seminar” about how to take the ARVs – side effects, what to do and not to do. But she – Teresa – was in tears, sobbing in fact. When “the teaching” got to the part about the side effects – both the big effects and the small ones -- this teen-aged girl started to cry and just couldn't stop. Walking in, I was told that she thought that she was going to die. All of the women in that room from her birth mother to the cleaning lady were chiming in – all HIV positive mothers encouraging her – "you aren’t going to die" -- "you didn’t do anything wrong" -- "you can get married one day" -- "you can have children" -- "you can do anything with Jesus, He won't leave you" -- "you just have to take medicines faithfully and we'll all be with you". And these ladies should know! All of them survivors. Every single one of them. All of them Christians today. Every single one of them. Oh what a change from ten years ago. I spent my time back then with frightened people. People who felt their whole world was falling apart. People who felt totally lost and alone. I was the one who prayed with them. I was the one who told them that there was hope. I was the one who talked to them about my faith in God. Now, here they were, this wonderful group of ladies -- sharing hope, praying with someone who is frightened, talking about their own lives. I could only smile. It was truly beautiful to be there with all of those women.

Teresa had been tested the day before at another clinic far away and was referred to us. The "teaching" is the usual one that all folks and their caregivers get in preparation for taking the ARVs. Teresa it turned out had been infected at a very young age. The sores all over her body and her very low CD4 count showed that she had been living with the virus already many years. Her terror was warranted as she is old enough to remember how many people have died, including her three younger siblings, and she knows others who have died in the village she has come from.

Asking questions about her past, I learned that she had finished secondary school last year, but had just barely passed the national exams which meant there was no hope that she'd never get chosen to go on for advanced level studies. Her voice sunk telling me. But! Good news! Village Schools has a new college that's just opened that's just perfect! We welcome all those the government doesn't choose! Best of all, we are starting a new class in May and she can start along with all the others. She can learn English, computers, math, project management. She will be our student and we are going to get her where she needs to go! Hope! That is one of the best medicines for living with HIV/AIDS. Talking about the college I got Teresa to smile.

It is the kids that are old enough to understand that can break my heart. But the Lord is still the Great Physician and we so rely on him. I thrive on the little miracles that the Lord works out. Fifteen year old Adela – whose teeth fell out while she pulled through the TB treatment. Wouldn’t you know it: the Lord sent us a Swedish dentist who came right here to our village who is making Adela dentures! Then there is Deo. A seventh grader, without a mother and father, who has gone blind from cataracts as he heads into his seventh grade national examinations. This week he underwent a surgery on his eyes. How wonderful that God has opened the doors to give back sight to this little boy -- and how wonderful it will be to see Him return a sparkle to little Deo’s big brown eyes.

There will be more days with tears. And there will be a lot of challenges. But as I thought quickly of what God had done this week for Adela and for Deo, I found myself promising Therea that we're all going to be together in this. No matter what the challenges will be, we'll go through them together. Seeing a girl like Teresa, bearing burdens she should never have been given, is distressing and painful. As I tell all of our students, our job as Christians is to help her carry it. Singing in the church choir is great -- and I want them to. Taking offerings to church is wonderful -- and I want them to. But getting out there and helping those in their hour of need to carry the greatest of burden, that is what truly pleases the heart of God. I want my students to see that HIV/AIDS, and all of the widows and the orphans and those who are so sick, is as a test for us. God has given us a huge opportunity. We can choose to go about our lives and close our eyes to the hurt around out, or we can choose to get in the trenches and do good unto those who are in need. I long for more and more of my students to want in their hearts to please the Lord and respond well to the situation around us that He has entrusted to us. I'm thankful for every single one of them who join us in serving people like Adela and Deo and Teresa in their time of great need. I feel such gratitude to those who have given to help us build the clinic, who help us buy the medicines, who help us with the resources to ease people's pain. I'm thankful for those who pray for our friends who are sick and who pray for our students as they reach out to help them. And I'm thankful for those who continue on praying for a cure!

I wouldn't want to be anywhere else than her with these people.