A different kind of tears

A different kind of tears

Rain or shine Tua is out there working hard - usually with a baby on her back! She has been doing this for months now. We met when she came to our home to tell me that she needed some kind of work to keep her younger brother Jile in our school. I had no idea how big Jile’s debt was that day, but it turned out that his debt was huge. Impossible in fact. Jile has been in school for years now, but he has only paid a little bit over the last two years and nothing at all this year. Of course no one knows that. Unlike other schools, ours are designed to be for those in villages where money is hard to come by and so everyone is paying a little bit this month, and a little more the next, and some months nothing at all. But no one knows that a kid like Jile hasn’t been paying anything – it’s the kind of little secret that only registrars and headmasters know.

Coming to our school was perfect for Jile because he lived right down the road, practically right next door, with his grandparents, mother, sister, nieces and nephews. Life was good for the family and everyone wanted Jile to go to school. But then his mom got sick. As life ebbed out of her over the last couple of years, the family scrambled to do what they could to save her. Unfortunately she refused to take the ARVs that could have saved her because of some itinerant charlatan pastor who misled her – and others – into believing that taking ARVs was a sign of a lack of faith and that if you just believed enough, AIDS wouldn’t kill you. Everyone tried to convince Jile’s mom otherwise – we have hundreds and hundreds of people right here in our village who have lived now for over a decade. But she died just like the others who attended that particular seminar.

Jile’s grades at school wavered over the last two years, mirroring his mother’s health. I can only imagine what went through his mind and tender heart. So, when Tua asked to work – saying that she could garden - I told her we would make it work. There are always more flowers to plant! (You should see our home, the school here and the college!) It was two weeks ago, however, when I took the first money she had earned to the registrar at school that I was able to see how much the family owed for Jile’s schooling. Tua worked hard, and she worked cheerfully, and she always said thank you that she had a job so her little brother could go to school. But when I saw how much of a debt they had run up during their mother’s illness I just shuddered. Sometimes I just want to cry.

Of course juggling in my brain and heart the multiple needs I see each day is always tremendously hard. But it was the sheer size of the debt that made me gasp and I said a quick prayer – What do I do? This was one of those times when I asked that kind of a question when the answer came quickly - in a matter of a few hours actually. The answer came in the form of one of our sweet, sweet missionaries who had been teaching at the college. She was on her way back to her family in America and came to me with a wad of shillings. All of our missionaries live on almost nothing when they’re here in the village, but even though it wasn’t much it added up over the months, she wasn’t able to spend it all, and she had a ton of money left over – and she handed it to me and said she was hoping I would know of something special to do with it. And I knew at that exact moment precisely what I needed to do with it. I almost ran to the registrar at the school and handed him the money and we counted it out together. Wow! He even wrote on the back of the receipt “The debt has been paid in full." Now I really wanted to cry. But a different kind of tears. With those words that the debt had been paid it full, it felt in my heart like it was Easter.

Tua’s benefactor had left at 5:00 o'clock that morning to begin her long trip across the country and back to America. So I was the one who got to hand Tua the receipt, and read to her the note on the back that said that the debt had been totally paid. Paid in full! She stood there with tears in her eyes as I ran off to teach. It wasn’t until that evening when I walked by Jile’s house that the grandparents came out to say that they had heard about “the miracle”. Tua had run home after I gave her the receipt and called the grandparents and the rest of the family and anyone who would listen to say to them, “There has been a miracle here! Come!” And a miracle it truly was. Over the years, we’ve been able to help a lot of kids stay in school, but only a few times have we helped someone out of an impossibly deep hole like the one Jile and Tua were in. They called it a miracle. A huge and wonderful act of kindness.

Tua came to ask me if she could continue to work so she could earn money to pay for next year’s school fees for Jile. I’m so happy for her. So happy I’ll keep seeing her smile. So happy that she can keep on working, but now she can do so without such a big burden for her small frame to carry. She smiles knowing that she was blessed, and I smile knowing that it was through the wonderful kindness of one of our special friends here that God arranged that blessing. We share with all of our missionaries during their training about being frugal so that we can be generous. I got to see a wonderful example of frugality welling up into extravagant, totally extravagant, kindness. How blessed I am to be here.