Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Becoming immune to death

Yesterday I felt so hopeless. I was visiting our group of caregivers at Dwaleni. Except for the AIDS home-based caring program, we also have an orphan feeding scheme as well as a creche which is run from our church. The teacher at the creche is, although fairly young, such a wonderful person. As with most pre-school teachers in Swaziland, she only had one year’s training. We have now arranged that she attend in-service training in South Africa next week, during Swaziland’s school break. I had arranged that I will transport her there on Sunday after our church service.
As I left Dwaleni today, I saw her and another young woman next to the road and stopped to give them a lift. Asking where they were going to, they told me that they were on their way to a funeral. Both of them seemed to be in fairly high spirits so I obviously concluded that the deceased would not be a close relative. When I asked the teacher whose funeral she was going to, she answered: “The father of my children.” A shock went through me. I know she has children and I had also realised that she wasn’t married (unfortunately fairly common in Swaziland), but this high-spirited girl was actually telling me that she was on the way to the funeral of her “husband” and it did not even seem as if she was sad! I couldn’t think of anything else to say except for: “I’m sorry to hear that.” He had become sick some time ago. He died in hospital. AIDS? Most probably. Later she mentioned that her children should have accompanied her to the funeral, but she didn’t have enough money to take them along!
I had recognised the other girl. She was the sister of the twenty three year old girl whom I had visited who had TB. See When AIDS becomes a death sentence. I asked her: “How is your sister now?” She answered: “She’s dead.” In disbelief I asked her to repeat what she had said: “She’s dead. She died last Wednesday.”
But what shocked me the most was that I hardly noticed any emotion when they shared this news with me. The one had lost a the father of her children, the other a sister. And I just wondered whether these people are becoming so immune to death, that it doesn’t seem to bother them anymore.
In a survey that we did last year in the Dwaleni area we found that in 62% of the homesteads someone had died during the course of the year. In one homestead five people had died within twelve months. In another four people had died. If people have to go through a process of mourning every time someone close to them die, then they will surely go out of their minds. But what will the long term effect be of this situation in the lives and minds of these people?

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Saturday, August 25, 2007 - Posted by | Death, HIV & AIDS, Mission, Swaziland, Theology

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