Thursday, October 3, 2013

Day 3 part 2: Care for Aids home visits

This one has been hard for me to write. God used this one afternoon more than any moment in the entire trip to rock me. To challenge me. To call me closer. To ask me to look at my life and see where I am missing out. To let me taste community in a way that I have never experienced.

We met up with a few Kenyan care for Aids staff off a dirt road in a more rural village. We meandered down paths past people drawing water, crowds of kids laughing as they chased us, muddy paths with chickens crossing and people selling vegetables. Home visits are just meant to check in on people in the 9 month program for Care for Aids, encourage them, hear their stories.
Care for Aids is a vision to meet the marginalized, the lepers of our time, to bring healing body and soul.  It is a 9 month program run through the local church in the area that will serve 80 families at a time. Its vision is to equip the church to be more than a place of worship, but a house of healing, a place to receive medical care, spiritual counseling and health counseling on how to thrive with a disease that normally kills. It gives the clients access to ARV medication, health counseling to make good choices, hygiene, diet. It also addresses the spiritual needs, Gospel sharing, affirmation and love despite HIV status that normally ostracizes them from family and community, discipleship, marriage counsel. It also empowers them with self care skills, trade skills such as farming, animal tending, soap, jewelry, wood making to provide sustainable income. It is not only changing these 80 families life in 13 centers a year but also changing the church that would normally shirk its responsibility of loving and serving these "least" and training them how to actually be the hands and feet of Jesus to the sick, the outsiders, the broken.

As we approached the first home, there was something not quite right. I first saw a lady walking away with her 2 year old son, crying, holding her face. The spiritual counselor with us went towards her as we entered the home. We sat down in this 10x10 home and met Amos, who shared with us his story of finding out he was infected, the brokenness that came with that, and how Care for Aids had introduced him to Jesus and he was now living trying to be a child of God. He talked about how things had changed for the better and life was so much better now with Jesus. He had recently lost his job laying tile and talked about the struggles with that. And with piercing truth, as Amos' wife re-entered the home, the Kenyan staff John (pictured above with the kids) looked at Amos and we then witnessed the most beautiful display of truth and grace, a call to honesty and change like nothing I've ever seen.

John said (to the best of my recollection). "Amos, my child, I begot you in the faith just like Paul begot Timothy, You are my son, I want to charge you with this. You are the priest of this home. You are the one calling your family to the feet of Jesus. You have to go to God with your anger. It is not right for you to hurt your family, your wife. Your situation is hard, but Jesus is strong. You can lean on him for control of your emotions, your anger. You are the priest of this home."
Amos began to cry, his wife, Tabitha began to cry, we all teared up. It was a beautiful moment. Kenyans are strong, they see death and poverty every day. Tears are not something to show. You stuff it and only show your strength. So this was a sacred moment and you could feel it in the room. A piercing moment of vulnerability and accountability. I honestly felt like I was intruding on such a beautiful moment, but yet equally so grateful to have witnessed it. It was the most beautiful intervention of grace I have ever seen. It was done with such love and tenderness. It was as if I could see how God speaks to me and sees me in the midst of my sin. He is not a wrath-filled father looking down on my mess thinking "seriously? Again Kylie? I've had it with you!" No, he is a tender father, looking down on his daughter calling me to more, reminding me of who I am in him, my value, and that this is not what I was made for. He sees me right there in my sin and says "you are my daughter, my daughter I have paid for with my son, You are a child of the king, you are the one shining my light on this earth. You have to come to me with this. I don't want you experiencing this pain. Your circumstances may be a lot to bear but I am bigger, I can handle this all, your anger, your emotions, your pain."
Seeing John approach Amos in such truth and grace has changed me. It was the pinnacle of my trip. It allowed me to see the community we were intended for, how the body of Christ can actually function in the way God designed it. It made me desire more of Jesus, it made me want to be closer to my Father who will correct me with such value and love and tenderness.

All this and the day was still not over...
We then hugged and prayed over Amos and Tabitha, and walked on to the next home where we would spend the remainder of the evening. We next met Grace, she had to be a little younger than me, with her 7 year old son Marvin and husband James. Grace is HIV positive and in the program now. Grace opened up her home and we sat in perfect plastic lawn chairs on the dirt floor of her home together and cut vegetables, laughed, sang, and prepared dinner together. Grace taught us how to make chipati, Reese kneaded the dough and we all took turns rolling it out into tortilla shapes as they laughed at our meager attempts and faulty rolling abilities.
 There is something about just being in the home together, sharing stories, learning about their culture, that bridges every gap of difference between Grace and I. Truth is, Grace is HIV+, living in a dirt floor home, desiring desperately to get pregnant again. Here I am, an American, Grace's home was a little bigger than my bathroom, I am healthy, I don't really "want" for anything of value. But in that moment we were the same. Moms of 7 year olds, daughters of God, laughing about the way I cut vegetables and couldn't roll out dough. Listening to her praise as we sang Amazing grace as we rolled out dough and cut carrots. In that moment we were just both daughters of God in need of Him more than anything else. The ground is level at the cross. I don't see myself as better than Grace, or having more than her. If anything, she has more than me. A dependence on God I have not known. An intimacy with him I long for. A hope and a freedom that I want to feel more tangibly.  Those moments are so holy and dear to me. As we prepared dinner, the kids were running off together, at some points I didn't even know where they were. At one point, Reese was teaching Marvin how to take a selfie on my phone, they laughed as she tried to get him to make a silly face or smile for his picture.

Another moment, I found Reese trying successfully to build a fire with some of the boys that lived nearby and climbing piles of rocks and just being kids. Again, level ground at the cross. Community done right is such a picture of Jesus. We dined together and laughed as we sopped up the stew with our imperfect chipati Grace had entrusted to us. There were 10 of us crammed in the room, some standing, some on the floor, all around the bowl of stew and pile of bread. Jesus was palpable in the room. We finished the meal and shared a thank you gift with Grace and her family we had brought for letting us in her home. She pulled the fleece blanket out of the bag and covered her face as she cried. She took out the spatula and ladel with such excitement. She then found the box of dial soap and sniffed it in as if it were the finest perfume with the biggest smile on her face. We told her to look in for the last thing, special scented soap especially for her. In a beautiful tin container was some sort of jasmine soap and you could see the value she felt as she opened it and smelled it. It was not the americans who gave the gift. It was Jesus, reminding her of her beauty, her immense value. Her identity is not a poverty stricken woman with AIDS, she is a daughter of God, a treasure of priceless worth. I pray (and I think) she felt it that moment.
We asked how we could pray for her and she is asking God for a child. She also asked God for chickens. We prayed for her, Marvin and James, her infertility, and her desire to provide for her family, and the night was over.
A beautifully exhausting day seeing the face of Jesus so clearly.

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