A start?

My tough new car is earning its keep, carrying me and my team across bumpy, dusty, rutted dirt roads to homes out in the far reaches of the province. I know that's a lot of adjectives, but these roads deserve them.  I thought I could not be stared at any more than I already am as a tall, blond woman in Kenya, but it turns out that driving a big Land Cruiser that's all equipped for off-roading does increase the staring.

Two of my team members and I made a home visit for a patient who we are following for my medication adherence project. We made our way across the fields to visit an 8-year-old boy who was diagnosed with HIV and started on medicines two years ago. His name is Thomas, like my father.

Boys _Nyanza

This Thomas is a tiny thing. He weighs less than a 3-year-old should. Even worse, I found out that he has been having a lot of trouble walking during the last month, and I think he may have a TB infection in his spine that is the source of the problems. That can be a very difficult problem to fix here, even with the right medicines for the TB. With one look at him, I knew I was going to take him back to the hospital with us in the big, blue Land Cruiser.

Thomas has also been missing some of his HIV medicines. Two of the three bottles of medicines that he should be taking were completely empty, and his mother could not really tell us how long he had been out of those medicines. Not good. The HIV virus becomes resistant to a medicine very quickly when you are only taking 1 medicine instead of all 3.  Missing medicines is probably what weakened his body and led to the TB infection.

The real problem for this family, of course, is money. No money to take the public bus for the hour-long drive to clinic to pick up the free medicines. No money for treatments. No money for food. The four children in the family get one meal a day.

Nyanza _mud _house

They live in this house of red, cracking mud, all in one room about 8 feet by 8 feet. They sleep on a mat on the floor. They have 2 wooden stools, one small cookstove, a plastic water bucket, and one change of clothes each. That's it. That's all that was in the entire house. Oh, and a plastic bag full of HIV medicines (or empty bottles for HIV medicines.) Crazy sad.

My heart still breaks here. There is poverty and then there is POVERTY.

I am a do-er. I like to fix things. I like to dream big dreams. I like to do my best to make things better. But what can I do in the face of extreme poverty? In the face of a hungry, sick family that is barely scraping by? When I compare my clothes and cars and computers and vacations and too-much food to this, what can I do except feel ashamed and broken?

Yes, I ended up buying the family some food and a blanket that can serve as extra padding on the floor. And I did slip the mother some extra money after I got them checked in at the hospital for the medicines that Thomas needs. And we are surely working as hard as we can to build a healthcare system that will keep this family on the medicines they need. But the heart breaks.

I like these words from Jen Hatmaker:

Jesus always told us that the kingdom would come in small ways: like a seed, like yeast in dough, like a small pearl in a shell, through children and the meek. It may not feel fancy or totally comprehensive or enormous. But it is in the million small moments of obedience, of sacrifice, of trust in the power of Jesus that the kingdom advances. It's in your little offering and my small part and all of that added together turns into hope and a future. Building a school in the middle of poverty will not change everything…

But it's a start.

It counts.

My start was taking care of Thomas. And I'm encouraged by the thought of a million more small moments of obedience, of sacrifice, of offering that might make some small dent, some small dent. And I am overwhelmed with gratitude that, despite all my flaws and selfishness and spoiled self, I am in this place where I can make a start.

 

Posted at 06:04

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