Rocks, gravel and gullies make the Mlevelwa road a bad one to drive over -- and it requires all of my concentration -- so much so that I almost missed seeing the old man so intently trying to wave me down. I did see him though and I stopped. Sitting further off the road behind him was a very sick and emaciated young man. During our conversation, I learned that the old man had accompanied his son John on the long journey to the mission hospital at Mudabulo where John had just tested positive for HIV.
A soft knock at my door. It was Rose, one of our Madisi students. Shy by nature, strong in her faith – that’s the way I would describe this lovely girl. “I want names of sick people to help.” Really? “I want names of a lot of sick people who need help. We want to help and comfort those who are hurting.” What a joy to learn that more than 50 of our students, entirely on their own, had come up with this idea! Something good had happened inside of them so that they would come to realize that they were indeed blessed enough to help others.
It was very late Friday afternoon, almost evening, while we were stuck in a horrible traffic jam in Dar es Salaam that we got a message from Festo that was as perplexing as it was angering: the director of the primary school met with the 22 people whose farms and forests had been destroyed in the fire which had consumed 20 acres of our forests on the college land -- and basically announced that it had been decided that there would be no compensation for anyone -- that the primary school had nothing to give in the face of such enormous destruction.
"Nina virusi," were the words spoken by Movinus. "I have the virus," the little boy told me. Usually children aren't told anything in our villages about any illness they have, much less AIDS, but somehow 8-year old Movinus had figured it out. He and his mother had been to our house for the make-shift clinic when lovely Dr. Leena had come with two carloads full of doctors -- specialists from Europe -- to spend the whole afternoon one day using our home as the clinic to examine everyone who had "unusual" problems. His mother had been encouraged to bring Movinus and she did.
Sarafina's trial for killing her niece Scola did take place, but not in a court room or a government office, but quite unexpectedly at little Scola's funeral. The head government officials came to the huts where I and a crowd of mourners were sitting outside huddled in groups. They stated that the government had sent them not to mourn but to accuse Sarafina of causing her niece's death. Sarafina was put on a tiny stool in front of the crowd. She was asked to state why she had denied Scola the care that she deserved, especially given that it was all free.
The whole drama surrounding little Scola's life, and her death, has both deeply saddened and angered me. I first met Scola three years ago when I helped the family reunite a group of orphans in a distant village with relatives here in our village. Scola was just two-years old, recently orphaned when both her parents died of AIDS. She was already on the AIDS medications herself and so when she came to live with her aunt we got her enrolled in the program at the Lugoda Hospital and arranged for her to get on the bus every month to get to the hospital to continue getting her medicines.
There were women with babies on their backs, school children, government officials, those campaigning for next week's election, my friends living with AIDS, the orphanage workers, the employees of the local tourist resort and everyone else -- they were all there, more than a thousand people, fighting the fires on the college land.
I learned of the fire out at the college when
Fonita looked like an angel as she sang in the seventh grade choir. No concern on her face, just joy! It was the big day for the Mwefu Primary School, their very first seventh-grade graduation and I was honored to be their special Guest of Honor. Being the Guest of Honour means that when I stand up, everyone stands up, when I sit down, everyone sits down. It means I get to hand out the graduation certificates and it means I get to give a speech.
“Tonight, I believe that God is.” Those were the words I heard come out of the mouth of Kabonge, a man who is feared in these villages, a man who many visit regularly by so many because of his powers. He is our local witch doctor ...
Tonight we indeed witnessed God orchestrate a miracle, as He caused the lives of many people to intersect at just the right moment. What a joy for me to be here and to see it all come together!
We got the first report of the fire while we were in the bus traveling across Malawi -- a short 140 character phone message written in a hurry to say that there was fire out at the college and the call had made made to ask our students to come quickly all the way from Madisi to try to save the buildings The messages that came in on our phone were increasingly alarming; the forests at the college were burning and the fires were out of control. I felt sick at heart.