Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A story about a friend

Most of the time this space is filled with my musings on life and the life hereafter. Today, I wanted to share with you an e-mail from my friend Juli who writes about her friend Hannah. Although the purpose of Juli's e-mail was to share the strength and hope that she found in Hannah's countenance, a part of the story that Juli left untold is the integral part that she plays in this process. Juli is a nurse ministering to AIDS patients in Kenya. She is amazing and I'm privileged to call her my friend.

Please pray. Not only for Hannah and her family, but for my friend Juli who is doing the work that so many of us are unable to do.

Juli's E-mail:

I went this afternoon to sit with my friend named Hannah. She is 51 years old. She is married and has nine children. By the standards of the world, Hannah is poor. Over the past four years, a tumor has overtaken her face and parts of her brain leaving her body wasted and her face greatly disfigured. Her situation is full of loss and intense suffering. But this is not the whole story.

As I walked into her mud hut, I heard her voice saying: “Mtoto wangu, karibu sana.” meaning “My child, welcome so much”. I sat at Hannah’s bedside and saw how, even in the past five days, the tumor had grown noticeably larger around her eye and further into her mouth. Her speech was slurred but her spirit was full of life. She talked about how God continues to take care of her and then she waved her arms as she sang “Mungu yu mwema”- God is so good. She praised her daughters for the ongoing care they are providing to her as she is bedridden and dependent upon them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is hard for me to imagine talking about God’s goodness when faced with such pain; and yet her words are not a cliché, they are her hope.

I went to encourage Hannah; but I also went because she has something I long for. Hannah is beautiful. If you saw a picture of her, it would be impossible to see it; but there is a beauty that transcends and overshadows her appearance. Hannah knows the love of God, and it has cast out her fears. She is living in freedom and nothing in this world can take it away- not even death.

More than once, I have been humbled by the sweetness of God’s presence that rests upon this home. It causes me to be still and reminds me that God has not changed. Although questions remain unanswered, His faithfulness and love are not lessened by these struggles. In multiple languages, Hannah’s family and I have recited Psalm 23 together bringing life to these often quoted verses:

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

This afternoon, God used Hannah to speak His word to me. As I shared within my last update, I have recently been discouraged and overwhelmed by the challenges that surround. The weight feels so heavy; but this dear mama, on her deathbed, looked into my eyes and saw the burdens that I have been carrying. She said, “Juli, uko na wasi wasi. Usiwe na wasi wasi. Mungu anakulinda;” which means “Juli, you have worries- don’t worry. God is taking care of you”. As she spoke truth into my life, I grabbed her feeble hand, leaned forward and listened.

I pray that Hannah’s testimony will be an encouragement to you this day. I ask that as Hannah and her family come to your mind, please pray on their behalf. With much love, Juli



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A story about a friend