Thursday, November 8, 2007

Living on the edge...

Several days ago, this Kwejuna mother, Bena, turned up at my door. She had travelled many miles to see me, probablyat least 20 kilometers. She is a mother of 6, including the twin girls you see here which she has named Patricia and Pamela, after Pat & I. She is very sick, has advanced HIV disease, and lost her husband who was a soldier in early May just before the twins were born. She is from eastern Uganda, but since her husband is from Bundibugyo and she has been away from her own area for many years due to her husband's work transfers, she has nothing to go back to there. Besides, culturally speaking, all her children belong to her husband's family, so it makes sense for her to remain here. But she is desperate: extremely weak, unable to afford to send her older children to secondary school, living with her in-laws in one room (she and the 6 children) which doesn't have walls that go up to the ceiling, no income, no land on which to dig and grow food for her family (land passes from husbands to male children only here), and trying to nurse twins.
When I first met her at Bundibugyo Hospital shortly after the twins were born, she had turned up in the HIV care clinic, for a refill of her antiretroviral drugs. She and the twins were suffering from a skin condition, and she was already struggling to produce enough breast milk for both babies. The next week, she made the trip to the mission and Dr. Scott examined her and prescribed some antibiotics for them all. Because she lives too far away to benefit from our existing nutrition program, I have taken to providing boxed long life milk for the twins, which her teenage son comes to pick up from Bundibugyo Town every 2 weeks. To my surprise and delight, they have continue to grow and thrive. At our last food distribution, when she heard I was leaving next month, she began to worry about how she would manage when I am gone and who would help her. She had come to tell me this and to see if I could help her with money to start a business. I reminded her that God is the one who has always helped her, (though sometimes he has used me to do so), and that he will continue to be faithful to her.... I believe those words, but does she?
As I look at her twins, just shy of 6 months, I wonder what their future holds. Should their mother die in a few years - if she lasts that long - what will become of them? What will become of her teenage son and daughter, or her other children? It looks like such a bleak situation, and yet I pray that for her, as for us that Paul's words ring true, that her "light and momentary troubles are achieving ... an eternal glory that far outweighs them all". I don't know if this is true for her because I don't know if she has a belief in the Christ who died to make this a reality, but I pray that if not, she will come to know in a real and personal way, the God of the universe who gives us a hope in a life beyond this one.


Anonymous said...

One cannot but marvel at the perserverance, tenacity and courage demonstrated by the hapless victims of these unhappy circumstances.

Pamela's compelling and moving narrative on the situation only underscores the gravity of sheer desperation and hopelessness that characterises life among over a third of mankind.

This scenario is a telling indictment and makes a caricature of the inadequacy and futility of half-hearted efforts by advanced societies and their moral and religious platforms/institutions at intervention.

Kimiko said...

Pamela, I read your letter yesterday and wept with you. As you fly to UK today, may you grieve and believe. I have no real message except that I have taken that sobbing flight out of BGO, although under no where near as painful conditions as you. Praying and weeping over Bundibugyo with you. Praying for Patricia and Pamela, the elder and younger. God be with you.