Yesterday morning at 1AM I received a phone call from our Zambian team informing me that one of the children in our child sponsorship program, Faith, had died suddenly. My stomach dropped.
You might remember Faith, I blogged about her just a few short weeks ago. She was 13 and had AIDS. She had only been in our program since April and had started receiving her AIDS medicine in December of 2012. Although she was gaining weight with us and we were aggressively feeding her and monitoring her medicine, her body was too beat down. It was too late to help her.
We were shocked at her death because she was making great progress we thought. Brenda, her child sponsorship officer had spent every afternoon since April at Faith's home taking extra food for dinners and talking to Faith's mom about her illness. Brenda went to Faith when she was too ill to come to school and brought her food and the protein milkshakes we had for her. And Brenda prayed with her, everyday. Brenda is remarkable at remembering the most important things in a time like that.
On Thursday Faith was not at school, which sometimes happened when she didn't feel she had the energy to go to school. This wasn't unusual. Brenda went to Faith's home in the afternoon as she always did. She fed Faith and sat with the her and her mom for a while. Faith was concerned about missing school and her work, Brenda promised to bring her schoolwork on Friday. Brenda prayed with Faith and left Thursday afternoon. Just a few hours later that night Brenda received a phone call from Faith's mom that Faith had died. They had tried rushing her to the hospital and during that time Faith was yelling out that she wanted Brenda to come and pray for her. Unfortunately Faith didn't make it long enough for Brenda to arrive.
It is brutal isn't it? There is no way around this story other than this is the truth and this is what the AIDS virus can do to someone. I have sat and contemplated if we did enough. Should we have changed medicines or clinics? What about the food, was it enough or too much? Faith was putting on weight and had more energy after she started eating with us. But what did I miss? I have kicked myself for sitting in Faith's home just three weeks ago telling her and her mother she would be OK, we will take care of her. Why did I say that?!
As much as I want to control this and take it into my own hands, I cannot. Arise Africa did everything we could to help Faith when she came to us in April. This isn't my child to control or cure, this is God's child. I was reminded by a friend that God doesn't make mistakes. We are called to love and help these kids the best we can for as long as we have them on earth. And God took her home. I kept telling my friend Chris that I was so angry I had told the family that Faith would be OK. And now she had died. And Chris politely reminded me, "Faith is OK now." She is in a place we can't even fathom. She isn't tired or in pain. She is FINALLY being a 13 year old girl she deserves to be!
As a staff we are deeply saddened. Brenda and Susan had worked so hard with Faith and did an amazing job. That child wasn't starving the last three months of her life. She smiled and was loving school because she didn't have to worry about her school fees being paid for. She loved her new sweatshirt we had given her when the weather got cold. I saw her and talked to her and she was a sweet kid. She also had accepted Christ and KNEW the Lord because of Brenda and Susan's hard work. As sad as it is that Faith was calling out for Brenda when she was dying, it also shows what an impact we had on her short life. I don't say that to brag about Brenda or Arise Africa, but to remind myself that we are making a difference, even in circumstances like this. And that difference we are making is showing these kids the Lord and the gospel. It is about HIM, not us.
We are now helping plan and pay for Faith's funeral. The family doesn't have the funds for this and we want Faith to be buried with respect. This is an opportunity for us to alleviate a financial burden on Faith's family.
This is not a fun part of my job. I don't like getting text messages telling me how much a coffin is for a child. I hate being on the speakerphone and hearing Brenda, Susan, and Megan crying in sadness over Faith. I don't like knowing I won't see Faith when I visit Zambia again.
I don't understand why this happens and I probably never will on this side of the earth. But I do know I am so thankful for the opportunity to love on and care for these kids even if it is short. I am thankful to serve with brothers and sisters in Christ who want to work everyday for these kids and for them to know the Lord. I am thankful for donors who when I call and tell them their child has died in the sponsorship program immediately ask "What can I do to help her family?" There is no judgement or condemnation.
I thought about not writing this blog post because the insecure side of me was concerned people would read this and think we aren't helping enough. Trust me it has gone through my mind in this situation! But everyone needs to know exactly what we are up against. This is a fight and Arise Africa is in the middle of it. We have to FIGHT for these kids and their salvation. This isn't pretty, this isn't easy.
But everyone needs to be reminded this is all in God's hands. (I need to be reminded that about ten times a day!) I don't care what I try to do to help these kids and what our staff is capable of achieveing, He ultimately has the control. Everyone needs that reminder that life is so short. We all need to be reminded that thing at work or that paper for school that isn't finished, aren't that big of a deal in the whole picture. Let's remember to have grace and patience with others, because we are here on earth too short of a time to be rude. We need to be reminded to quit focusing on us. Let's focus on what is important. And that is Him.