Posted by: howvoicebegan | 20/04/2012

When There is No Daily Bread

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

Sometimes the best way to keep oneself from being polluted by the world is to look after orphans and widows.

You probably think I’m going to write again about orphans. Actually, today I’m humbled and convicted about the other common distressed person in Africa: the widow.

As my time in South Africa comes to a close, I have found that I have become more focused on myself and accomplishing the things that I want to do before I leave. But today I went on home visits with the hospice, seeing patients in their homes and checking up on them. I brought my HIV nutrition care handouts along to help educate those who need it about eating healthy.

We entered a one-room shack and I sat on the footstool at the end of the bed. The woman looked healthy in terms of managing her HIV but I could sense that her diet was lacking. Over the course of our short visit, she revealed that she was in a dilemma about caring for herself and her child. Being a widow as well as a foreigner to South Africa, she had no family close by to help care for her. Unemployed and unable to receive grants for her child and her health condition, money is a daily struggle. Without money, a healthy diet quickly becomes a problem. Her “daily bread” is a grits-like dish with a tomato and onion sauce.

I carefully went through my nutrition guidelines with her. The last thing I want to do is make a person feel even worse about their condition after hearing about foods that are out of their grasp that will help them stay healthy. Instead I emphasized that when she has money, she should prioritize her shopping in a particular way for the greatest benefit. She seemed grateful for the information, but I could feel that, underneath, she was feeling exactly as I feared: I will never be able to afford these foods.

She asked us to pray with her before we left, and we did. And I prayed, “Father, thank for Busi’s* life. I pray for blessings of resources so she can eat…” my voice choked off with tears. Fortunately God doesn’t need audible words to know what’s on your heart; he knew my prayer before I even met her.

Widows. The marginalized. They were so emphasized in the Bible because they were in such a destitute position without a husband to provide for them. Therefore, the church was called heavily upon to carry the burdens of these women and care for them. Perhaps in the States, widow care isn’t as dire due to life insurance policies and government programs, but in Africa they can still face a very difficult road ahead.

I start my Master’s in September in International Care and Community Development. Women like Busi remind me why I am pursuing a seemingly unrelated degree than my Bachelor’s. These are the people I am here for: my ministry is the destitute, impoverished, under-resourced women and children on this continent who desperately need proper nutrition but will never see the day they have food security until they can get out of poverty. It’s no use to educate people how to stay healthy as an HIV+ person when they aren’t sure if they will even be eating today.

I walked out with a humbled and determined mindset. Taking the time to focus on someone else’s situation other than my own was the cleansing I needed from the “me-first” pollution of the world.

Sometimes I meet people who can afford healthy food. Often I don’t. I hope to change that.

*Name has been changed.

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