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.
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
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.
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
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
But it's a start.
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