Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

My friend died today

One of my long-time friends in Swaziland passed away today. He had been one of my first Swazi friends I ever made and for many years we were next-door neighbours. We were the same age. He had a lovely wife. He also had four children (like us). His oldest daughter and my oldest son are nearly the same age and were very close friends when they were small. We still laugh at what happened when both these children started speaking. We were very excited about this friendship because we believed that our son would naturally start speaking SiSwati as this girl obviously knew no other language. And then one day we passed by where the two of them were playing and we heard the girl speak Afrikaans! (I maintain that my son’s stubbornness is to be attributed to my in-laws 😉
Towards the end of November I went to visit him at his home in the northern part of Swaziland. I had heard that he was not well and was shocked to see him that day. He had lost a lot of weight and it was obvious that his body was very weak. When I asked him what was wrong, he told me that he had been working hard in his garden. In my heart I knew that this wasn’t the reason for his illness, but I left it at that. I prayed with him and returned home.
Last Saturday I had a meeting in Mbabane, the capital of Swaziland. While there I was informed that he had been admitted to the government hospital a few days before. After the meeting I drove to the hospital to see him. Only his familiar face was visible above the blankets. I’m not sure if he ever recognised me. Most of the time that I was there he seemed to be sleeping. His wife, standing next to his bed, tried to wake him up and after a while he lay, staring somewhere but not aware of what was going on around him. I prayed for him and his family. I was on the point of leaving when I tried again to communicate with him. At that stage it seemed as if he may have recognised me. His wife once again told me that he was very weak because he was stressed and he had been working hard in his garden. But the symptoms of course were clear. His sickness had nothing to do with gardening!
This morning he died. And I thought to myself, after hearing the news, that we know that between 70 and 80 people are dying in Swaziland on a daily base due to AIDS. In South Africa 1000 people are dying daily because of this pandemic and in sub-Saharan Africa around 6000 people are dying daily for the same reason. For most of us this is nothing more than statistics. And then one day you receive the news that your friend has died. And suddenly you are confronted with the reality of this terrible disease and you know that you have to keep on fighting to lessen the effects of this disease. Eighty families are mourning in Swaziland today. Tomorrow another eighty families will join them. On and on, more and more.
When will it ever stop?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008 - Posted by | Africa, Death, HIV & AIDS, Home-based Caring, Mission, Prayer, Swaziland


  1. My deepest condolences to you, Arnau. It is obvious you cared for this man very deeply. I’m so sorry you have lost him. It is so terribly difficult to lose friends who we’ve known for so many years and all through the milestones of our lives.

    Comment by Maya | Wednesday, January 23, 2008 | Reply

  2. Long before he was your friend we stayed in Swaziland and Philemon stayed with us. When I read the news it was like hearing that my brother died.
    May I remind you, and by doing so myself reminding myself, that the LORD is my shepherd ……..

    Comment by Hennie Maré | Thursday, April 3, 2008 | Reply

  3. […] the battle against AIDS? One of things I mentioned in the article was the problem of denial. In a previous post I wrote about a friend of mine who had died of AIDS. When I asked him, shortly before his death, […]

    Pingback by Dodging the AIDS issue « Mission Issues | Friday, July 25, 2008 | Reply

  4. Condolences. My friend just died of AIDS. I didnt think about AIDS much before until now. Seems incredible there is no cure out there after so many years and deaths. My friend was young, and had accomplished so much in his time. I think about him everyday.

    Comment by Russ | Friday, October 10, 2008 | Reply

  5. That is so sad! Once confronted with the death of someone due to AIDS, you will never feel the same again about the disease. One of our coordinators of our home-based caring project told me last week that two of her clients had died (in one week!) These clients become like family to them, and I can see what she is going through. May God be with you.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Friday, October 10, 2008 | Reply

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