“It was a day filled with the glow of ordinary things & we passed them quietly from hand to hand for a long time & someone said she had picked a perfect day to be born & I think all of us felt the same.”
Week 8: HIV/AIDS & Alternative Care for Children Deprived of Parental Care
This week our teachers were Larry and Joyce Sandberg, who are MISSIONARY PROS. They met and married at Wheaton, and became missionaries in 1959 when they traveled to Africa. In those days… travel was by ship, and it took them three weeks to get there! They worked in Nigeria for many years, and also in Swaziland where they have a children’s home, and they still travel to Africa every year. Larry is a bio-chemist and a physician, and he still works as a consultant at a university, and Joyce is a nurse with advanced training in psychology. Talk about inspirational.
The hard thing about this week is that it was on HIV/AIDS, which reminded me of working at a hospice in Cancun where people were dying of AIDS, and of people I love who have HIV, and those are not fun things to be thinking about. Something I didn’t know is that HIV can be transmitted through breast milk, which is so unfortunate because impoverished women often lack the resources to buy formula and are therefore faced with the dilemma of either risking infecting their child with HIV through their breast milk or not nourishing their child at all. What would you do? Most of them breastfeed despite the risk, and therefore more children are infected. I also hadn’t thought about how AIDS is different from most epidemics because instead of taking the lives of the most vulnerable, it has generally taken the lives of the strongest people, and left the most vulnerable (the elderly and the children). This has especially devastated Africa, where there are many child-headed households. We watched a documentary called Dear Francis, in which a story was told of an eleven year old African girl who was trying to raise her younger siblings. There is a myth in Africa that HIV can be cured by having sex with a virgin, so one day a man approached this girl and offered her a loaf of bread and an orange in exchange for her virginity, and because she and her siblings were hungry, she agreed.
And this happens all. the. time.
We also watched the movie Philadelphia this week, which is about an American man with AIDS and his struggle against the social stigma of the disease. That… broke my heart.
Which seems to be a theme of the week because that’s also how I felt during an intercession time we had this week, when we prayed for the U.S. of A. I realized that morning that I feel guilty for being American. I was at a table with girls from Canada, Denmark, Japan, and New Zealand, and when it was announced that we would be interceding for my country… I felt guilty. I felt that surely, deep down, my international peers would rather pray for anything else in the world than my country. I know the global perception of Americans is not a good one, and I carry that with me. And it is heavy. I love my country, I love that I am American, but I feel guilty for that. So during our intercession time the three Americans at my table prayed, and I wasn’t really expecting to hear any other prayers, but to my surprise there were many more. And I cried, because they were beautiful prayers, beautiful prayers for my country. I didn’t realize how important it was for me to be loved for every part of me, nation included.
We also had another teacher this week, who is actually so stunningly beautiful I had to avert my eyes to keep from being blinded by her radiant face. = ) Haha. Lenneke is staff for our school, and is also my small group leader, and we had the grand privilege of receiving a teaching from her. Lenneke is from The Netherlands, and works for the Women’s and Children’s Advocacy Centre in Portland. She talked to us about “Alternative Care for Children Deprived of Parental Care” which basically means other options besides orphanages. I know that lovely orphanages exist, but what I’ve been learning in this school is that God’s heart for children is to be raised in a family, or a family setting, and that environment is most often not created in an institution. Also, many children are in orphanages as a result of poverty, and would probably be more greatly benefited if their family was assisted as a whole, rather than the children alone. Lenneke shared some statistics with us of the percentage of children living in orphanages who actually still have one or two living parents.
Brazil 80%, Liberia 88%, Ghana 90%, Sri Lanka 80%, Soviet Union/Central Eastern Europe 98%.
Whaaaa?! Are you as shocked as I was?
But… the best shocking and exciting thing that happened this week is that…
I TURNED TWENTY ONE!!!!
and it was lovely. = )