On our first real “work day,” we went out with the HIV/AIDS task force. Swaziland has the highest HIV/AIDS rate per capita. There are many living with the disease, and there are many living after losing someone because of it. This was the most emotionally draining day for me. We took gift buckets full of food to the homes of 8 patients. The first house we visited broke my spirit. We walked into a 2-room home to visit with Philip, a 92 year old man. I have never seen so many flies in my life. They were on the floor, on his bed, and on his body. I immediately started praying, “Lord, please give me strength.” John, another one of our team members, shared the story of Jesus and asked if he could pray for him. I opened my eyes during the prayer and saw tears streaming down Philip’s face. Of course, I started crying as well. It meant so much to him that we would come and pray with him and bring him food. As we walked out of the house I thought, “I don’t know if I can do this seven more times.” My heart was broken. God heard my prayer. Please let me introduce you to little Mandla (it means “strength”). He was outside the home and when I waved to him, he came running towards me. He has the most beautiful smile. I knelt down by him and held his hand for a few moments. I could hear God whispering, “Even when there appears to be such devastation, look into the eyes of this little boy to find joy and hope for a future.” I look at this picture often.
I wish I could share all the stories with you from each home we visited. But I will try to do a brief summary. Our next home had quite a few children. John brought a lot of toys to give away; he was like Santa Clause to these kids.
This little boy was one of my favorites. As you can see, he was giving some big boy attitude, and I copied what he was doing. He quickly learned the game and we had fun playing “copy cat,” complete with reaching for the sky, touching our toes, and flexing our muscles.
This was the patient we went to visit at the home. He barely looked at us when we first arrived, a stark contrast to the reaction of the other kids. When we opened the gift bucket, there was a teddy bear inside for him. His face lit up and he was trying not to smile. I took a picture of him and showed it to him. He really had to fight a smile then. When I look at this picture, I don’t see the wheel chair or even the lack of emotion on his face. I look at his eyes and see the glimmer of a smile that came after he saw his picture on my camera screen.
These women were a riot! I asked them if I could take a picture of them as well. The one in the middle had the shower cap on and ripped it off to fluff her hair before I snapped the picture. I started laughing so hard... women are the same all around the world! The woman on the left said “Give it to me! I’ll wear it!” I still laugh when I look at this photo.
Our next home had some older kids. They spoke English and we talked for a bit. Have you ever seen such beautiful smiles?!
On our way to the final home, a group of little children started chasing our vehicle. When we stopped, Jonathan, Carol and I jumped out with food and candy in hand to share with the kids.
I love this picture. Look at the excitement that came from a few peanut M&Ms!
This picture is currently the background on my computer. I hated watching the little ones leave, but I know that the few moments we spent with them made their day, and ours, a little brighter.