Wednesday 3rd October
I often ask myself what am I meant to be doing here is Zambia.
In 1996 just before I stopped formal work I spent a week on a life changing retreat. It was a difficult time in my life, but during my spiritual searching I was taught to recognise those things that are life-giving and those that are life-draining.
So often we rush around trying to do things, to make changes, to have a positive impact. We become exhausted and frustrated. Even though we seem to be seeking what is good, the effect is far from life-giving and so often our efforts result in failure. At other times we relax and enjoy the company of others, we listen and learn and we have no pretence that we will solve all the problems. This can be hugely life-giving and, despite knowing that little can be done, the results are sometimes immense.
This morning I joined Jennipher on a visit to Pemba where she lives with her family. I wanted to meet up once again with the children I have come to know over the years. Emmanuel and Maggie have grown from babies to bright little toddlers in the past year. They ran up to me and let me scoop them into my arms. They laughed as I carried them both to meet Jennipher's support group. Selina now a lovely girl, who, when not at school, is busy looking after and playing with the little ones, gave me a hug, but is now too grown up to sit on my knee. She was a very small girl when I got to know her 7 years ago – at that time life was a struggle and she was very thin and kept a sad face. She is very different now. She is at school and doing well. She would like some books, new school shoes and a bike, but is otherwise happy. When I first saw Emmanuel he was only a day or two old. His mother, one of Jennipher's clients had died in childbirth. Jennipher was willing to take him in as part of her family, though she would need help to buy dried milk. He was very weak initially, but with care grew strong and is now a lovely mischievous little lad. The smiles from Maggie today touched the depths of my soul.
At another retreat I remember there were lots of pictures that showed two monkeys smiling at each other. I don't understand why I have never seen pictures of Christ where he is shown laughing! At the end of my retreat I imagined myself and God as the two monkeys laughing together. Being together with Jennipher's family just for a short time connected me with what is truly life-giving and in so doing connected me with my God.
Before arriving at her house we passed through the health centre. There I met a man who has been bed-ridden for sometime. He was extremely thin with hardly an ounce of flesh. His ribs showed clearly under his Manchester United tee-shirt and he was attached to a saline drip. He was a teacher and confirmed that he supported Manchester United – though he hadn't heard the result of yesterday's result in the Champions League – I was at least able to give him the good news that United won 2-1. I suspect that with the right treatment he would be back at work. Jennipher told his family that she was HIV+ and had been living on ARVs (Anti-Retroviral drugs) for the past 12 years and was obviously strong.
I was told at the clinic that they no longer had any food supplements to give with the initial supply of ARVs. It used to be the case that 3 months food supplement was given when someone started on the AIDS treatment. This is very important because without enough food the drugs can cause very serious side effects. After 3 months the hope was that they would be strong enough to provide for themselves.
Soloman, who I have also known from the time he came from Zimbabwe in 2005 to join Jennipher, gave me a hug. He has been so important in providing for the family – he works very hard, but is frustrated by the lack of water to grow crops in the garden. The family has moved a long way from their situation when I first got to know them. With a little support they are now healthy and doing reasonably well – yet life itself is still a struggle, as demonstrated by the untimely death of Mike earlier this year– a teenager and another of Jennipher's adopted children.
I have a small thermometer with me and the temperature has stayed at around 30°C inside the house. Today I put it outside on the window ledge (in the shade) and it is showing 35°C – I am not sure of its accuracy, though in Chisamba it was showing a couple of degrees lower than the max min thermometer at the centre.
I caught up with Charles yesterday afternoon. Charles is another long-term friend who has been involved in a small project that supports a number of elderly and disabled people around Monze. When we get together we talk about all sorts. We spent a lot of time yesterday discussing the Olympics and Paralympics, as well as touching on local politics and the development of his projects – I will visit some of the project sites with him on Saturday.
Yesterday we had no mains power from 8 hrs till after 23 hrs. Despite this – and also having no water supply – I had a refreshing shower in the evening. I now know to collect a bucket of water, as well as filling the kettle and a few bottles whenever there is sufficient water. A bucket of water will provide half a dozen showers – and uses more water than my usual dripping shower – though I should confess that recently I have experienced water coming out of the shower head resembling what most of us recognise as a shower – it only last moments, but is a great joy when I experience it here!!