Thursday, June 16, 2005

thinking on Africa

Jena, the director of Blood:Water Mission, is in the midst of a 5 week trip through Africa (Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa primarily). As I have been reading the frequent updates, I wish I were there. Since that's not the case, I try to think long and hard about the words she shares. I invite you to do the same, as I share one of her latest stories...

"greetings from kenya! my last few days in kisumu were wonderful. i was able to visit all wells already built by blood:water funds and then visit the projected sites for this upcoming year. i spent a considerable amount of time with people who have really been affected by AIDS. i would have hour-long conversations with orphans and widows and people who had the courage to tell me that they were hiv positive.

joseph is 14 years old. he's very quiet and a little unsure of himself. he was 8 years old when his parents died from AIDS. he and his little brother are being taken care of by his 80 year old grandfather. joseph goes and collects water twice in the morning before school and then twice in the evening after school. he cooks and does all the domestic responsibilities to help his ailing grandfather. his grandfather weaves baskets and tries to sell them to support his two grandchildren. if he is lucky, he makes 70 shillings in a day (about 90 cents US). joseph has white scabs all over his arms and legs. they come and go, and he's had these ones for 3 weeks now. I imagine he is being affected by the filthy water that he drinks – or he, too, may be hiv positive. joseph says he is quiet and often spends his time thinking about his parents. i asked him what makes him smile. he said he can't really think of anything - and he doesn't like jokes. older kids beat and punch him often and he wishes that they would stop. i asked joseph what he would do if he were given a lot of money. "i would go to the hospital. and then buy a shirt (his has been worn daily for the last 2 years) and some food." joseph wants to be a doctor, but he will never be able to afford to go on to secondary school.

i followed joseph and his grandfather to their home. it's a hut made from mud mixed with cow dung. the floor is dirt. there is one single bed for four children. so two sleep on the floor and two sleep on the ground. the grandfather sleeps in a separate shelter - much worse than the other. the place is horrible. our dogs in america live better than joseph and his family do here. my heart just broke.

i went with joseph and some other children and women to walk with them to get water. we walked to a small pond that was filled with mud, filth and brown icky stuff. i'm not kidding you, i'm a pretty adventurous person, but i wouldn't have been comfortable to even step foot in the pond -- let alone drink the water. i filled my big yellow bucket, put a cloth on my head and placed the bucket on top. i raised my arms to hold on to the sloshing bucket of disease-filled water and proceeded to walk with the women and children back to the village. It was hard. it helped me appreciate the women and the work that they do...even for something as worthless as dirty water. it just makes the urgency for all of this so much greater when you're here seeing the horrific conditions. the amazing thing is this: with blood:water funds, i imagine we will be able to provide joseph and his community with a new well this july. please pray that money comes through ($3000)."

May God be glorified for His work in His kingdom yesterday, today and until the end of the age.


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