There are days when I really feel sorry for myself. Days when I feel like I have had to suffer.....because I was SO hot in church and the bench was uncomfortable, or I was sick with a virus, or because I live so far away from my family and we miss getting to celebrate together, or because our water is off again for several hours and we had to haul in buckets of water to flush the toilets and I couldn't shower when I wanted to, or they were out of lunch meat at Shoprite and my kids will have to take pbj sandwiches in their lunch this week.
Then I hear stories of Mozambicans. Stories of real suffering.
And I am shamed and humbled.
Eugenia, age 41 year, died of AIDs on Saturday. She had 5 children. She was so weak and ill in the days leading up to her death that she would cry out in pain when her friends tried to move her. Her eyes appeared to bulge out of her head. She begged for Jesus to take her. She knew Jesus and assured her friends that she would see Him soon.
She is not from this province, so besides her alcoholic husband, she had no one. Her church family had been caring for her. Her oldest child has a child of her own. Her youngest child is about 2 1/2 and is probably HIV positive.
After her funeral, church family came to bring food and other items for the family. Some brought a few coins, others a bag of sugar or some tea, others some fruit. There was no family to come and take her children. Her church family members aren't in much better shape, financially, than she was. So there was no roster going around at church to sign up to bring a hot meal to them for the next week. No one bringing frozen casseroles to stick in the freezer.
Here, if you have HIV you are known as "positivo". Some people will shun you. Eugenia was very involved in her church, where she was loved and accepted. The family of God was her only family here. Sometimes she would come to church and quietly ask a friend for money because she had nothing to feed her children. When she looked thin, her friends would ask if she was eating. "If there's food there, I eat," she would answer.
Her church family has taken care of her as well as they could. Sat with her, prayed with her, and given from their meager means. They gave when it looks like to these American eyes that they had nothing themselves to give.
Another young woman, Lily, just had twins last week. She had been hospitalized because of high blood pressure and the babies were finally delivered by c-section. She and the babies left the hospital to return to a tiny house that was filthy and full of mosquitoes.
There was no family waiting with welcome signs and a hot meal. No clean bassinets and sweet little baby clothes. No running water with baby bathtubs and sweet smelling baby soaps and shampoos.
We get upset when we lose the remote control to the TV or someone ate the last cookie and we didn't get one or we run out of toilet paper, or I'm tired and don't feel like cooking but I have to because going out to eat is not a viable option tonight.
Our houseworker, Lucilia, goes through our garbage on the days she comes to work. If I have thrown away a package of half-eaten, stale cookies, she takes it out. A half -a loaf of moldy bread, goes in her bag. Not for her family to eat - she and her husband have good, steady jobs - she gives it to her neighbors who have nothing. I have a package of cookies in my pantry right now that my kids don't like. So it sits there going stale. Lucilia's neighbors don't have the luxury of turning down food. They'll eat anything and be glad to get it.
So the next time I feel like I'm suffering, I hope the Lord kicks me in the tail again, like He did this morning when I heard these stories, so that I can stop and count my many, many blessings.