I started working again this week, after a few weeks of rest. At a conference hosted by HEARD, which I attended last year at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, I was privileged to meet Prof Robin Root, associate professor at the Baruch College in New York, in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. She has been working on the topic of the role of faith-based organisations in the fight against AIDS in Swaziland for some years. After we met in Durban, I invited her to come and visit our home-based care project in Swaziland, which she did, and at the moment she is back in Swaziland to continue her research. Not only has she been interviewing the coordinators of the different home-based care groups (twelve at the moment), but she has also been visiting some of the clients who are being supported by our caregivers.
So this was a long introduction to speak about a situation we came across on Thursday. Before we entered the home, the specific caregiver working at the homestead warned us that the client is in a bad shape. Oh boy! Nothing could have prepared us for what we saw. This man was lying on a very thin mattress on the floor with the most grotesque sores on his feet imaginable. (I’ve seen something similar before and a doctor told me that it was most probably Kaposi’s sarcoma, a type of skin cancer caused by the herpes virus.) What does one say to a person in this situation. He cannot walk, because the huge tumours are covering the soles of both his feet. He has been taken to a rural clinic for blood tests to try and determine the cause of the tumours, but the clinic either lost the blood sample or they lost the report (I’m not sure which). He lives in a house without running water and without electricity. As we sat with him, he was using a rag to try and chase the flies away from his feet! Furthermore, he is living in severe pain, but the local clinic was only able to give him the weakest form of pain killers available in Swaziland.
As we left, I said to Robin that we should try and imagine a similar situation in the USA. Had anything like this happened there, the patient would have been hospitalised. He would have received medication. Most probably the tumours would have been surgically removed. Once he returned home, he would have had access to medication which would at least have kept the symptoms under control. Physiotherapy, occupational therapy and whatever else was prescribed by the doctors would have been available to assist this person to lead as normal a life as possible.
But in Swaziland this will not happen. At the moment he has no other future, except to wait for his inevitable death.
This is a blog where I would like to share some of my ideas about contemporary mission. I have more than 25 years experience as a full-time missionary in Swaziland, have done a PhD on the theology of mission – specifically on the relationship between mission and eschatology – and am presently specialising in the problem of HIV/AIDS and how the church should approach this problem. You are welcome to respond and share your ideas on this blog.
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