I never thought I’d ever really love work, but at my job at Masiebumbane, I LOVE working. My first day involved me working at the soup kitchen serving kids food, but I also got to do more than that. I got the chance to form relationships with these kids who never thought a white teenager would talk to them. The reality is pretty sad, eh? I’ll never forget their faces when I approached them with the greeting, “Sawubona!” which means hello in Zulu. Some laughed at me, some looked at me with shock that I even knew how to say hello, and some looked scared. But the second I asked them to tell me their names, their faces instantly lit up! They got a lot of enjoyment out of me attempting to pronounce their crazy Zulu names. My favorite part was playing soccer with them; I’ve never seen better 8 year old female soccer players in my life.
There are 2 things I’ll never forget. I sat down with these two Zulu girls, 13 and 14 years old. I wish I could remember their names right now, but so many Zulu words are going through my head at the moment that I can’t remember. Their faces, however, I will never forget; and I also get the pleasure of seeing them every day for the next 9 months. While I was sitting there, they were teaching me some Zulu words, laughing as I was struggling pronouncing the words with clicks in them; the words with x’s and q’s. (It’s much more difficult than they make it seem.) The 14 year old stopped and said, “Abby, this is cool! Weird, but cool.” I replied with, “What’s cool?” She smiled and said, “You’re young, you’re white, and you’re talking to us.” I didn’t think any words could be so sad, yet beautiful at the same time.
Today, Rob took us to see how the gardening works for the people of Mpophomeni that are infected with HIV/AIDS. The gardeners of Masiebumbane plant gardens in their yard that provide those people with healthy food, making their lives easier and healthier while living with HIV and/or tuberculosis. (TB) Rob took us to this one family’s garden, where we got the chance to meet the young girl living there; she looked to be about 12 years old. She greeted us warmly, and we shook her hand. She talked to us for a little bit about school, her 96% in economics, and music. She loves to sing, and she told me that sometime, she would sing for me. (A child after my own heart, I’m telling you.) Rob told us both that we’d be seeing a lot of each other for the next 9 months, as she’ll be coming up to the area where I’ll be working with children. She seemed really happy about that, and so did I. When I first saw this girl, I knew there was something about her that would stick with me for the rest of my life. I’m not sure what it was, but I felt connected to her. As we got back into the car, Rob said these words to me that I will never forget: “Abby, she’s a special girl, and you should form a good relationship with her.” He paused for a moment, and then continued. “You see,” he said, “She’s HIV positive, and she also has tuberculosis. But just look at her; she’s so happy.” I looked out my window to see that smiling, beautiful girl carrying laundry outside to hang. As we drove away, I silently started to cry. This was the first person I’ve met in my whole entire life that was living with HIV…and she was only 12 years old.
Let me make this clear; she will not die from HIV/AIDS; no one actually dies from that. What happens is that the immune system is weakened immensely from HIV, so if someone catches a common cold and they’re also infected with HIV, they can die. Any small thing can trigger death for them because of there being almost no immunity in their body. Will her life be shortened? Yes. And I think that’s what really kills me the most. We complain every single day about stupid, petty things that are going on in our lives. But what about that little girl? She has EVERY SINGLE RIGHT to not want to get out of bed. She has EVERY SINGLE RIGHT to complain about the situation she’s in. But she doesn’t. Instead, she’s a beautiful, joyful, at the top of her class, singing, smiling, 12 year old girl, who may recognize that her life is shortened by the situation she’s in, but refuses to let that define the way she lives. I cannot think of anything more beautiful than that.
All the time, life seems unfair. I’ve been struggling with that a lot here. Why does being white give me superiority? Why do people live in these townships with little to next to nothing? Why does that girl have HIV and tuberculosis? I don’t have the answers; and I don’t think anyone ever will. Those are questions people have been struggling to understand for years now, but the understanding of it all is just too vast. One thing I’m beginning to understand more though is how big my God is. We’ve been through a lot of radical things these past few days: I was being followed by two men and had to think of a plan of action to escape, I saw a Zulu woman being beat up by a Zulu man in public and no one stopped to help her, Nat and I got pulled over by traffic control and immigration authority on our way to work and got threatened to be deported because we didn’t have our passports on us at the moment, we’ve gotten lost in downtown PMB, we get stared at everywhere we go, and I met a young girl who was infected with HIV/AIDS. The South Africa team is definitely putting the radical part in Radical Journey. But one thing I’ve really noticed was that during those moments, God’s hand was over me, us, my team. He never left us once. During all of those circumstances, even though I was scared, I felt my Savior there; my comforter, my rock, my provider, my Dad. He’s emptying my hands and filling up my heart.
Psalm 121:3 He will not let your foot slip- He who watches over you will not slumber. ❤