Saturday, October 4, 2014
You want to do what???
This past week I got a call from a woman whom I could barely hear and who said she wanted to come see me about some children. It seemed that she had children in her care whom she wanted help with, but I told her that she must go through the Social Welfare Department before coming to Project Canaan. But she pushed, in fact she demanded a meeting with me and her forcefulness was surprising, and seemingly un-Swazi, but because it was so unusual I agreed to meet with her for a short visit on Saturday morning.
The lady arrived at 10AM sharp, and when I met her at the gate I found a Gogo, two middle-aged women and a man who said we had met before. He did not look at all familiar and I didn’t know why all four were there. When they told me who they were, and I felt like I had been hit with a 2” x 4” from the side and didn’t see it coming.
That Gogo was the Mother to the Father of Nomsa’s twin girls (!!). The man was Nomsa’s Uncle (her mothers’ brother) and then the two women with her were his sisters (I think Nomsa’s Aunt’s, but could be something else as he introduced them as his sisters not Nomsa’s Aunts). They had come for several reasons, which I would not find out until later in the conversation, but they started by thanking me for all the help we had given Nomsa over the past two years. He also danced around the notion of us not attending Nomsa’s burial that there was disagreement as to where she was to be buried, and then there was a pause. It seemed as though there was more to be said, but standing at the front gate was not where it was to be done.
We don’t have an office at Project Canaan so, maybe against my better judgment, I took them to the baby home to sit out back under the shade where there is a picnic table. I sent a cryptic message to Ian to come and join me, and he did. If he had not, the day may not have ended the way it did.
After a repeat of the conversation at the gate (“thanks” and “sorry”) they dropped the bomb. They were there to find out how to get Leah and Rachel and take them back to the family.
The Gogo (again, for emphasis, she is the Mother of the FATHER of the babies) wanted the girls and had come to claim them. I asked where the father was and they said he was working. I reminded them that he had never laid eyes on his twins and I asked (as politely and graciously as I possibly could) why the family didn’t want to help the twins when they were dying of hunger and malnutrition on a mud floor while their mother lay dying beside them of MDR-TB? None of the Father's family had every seen or met the twins and none had gone to visit Nomsa in the hospital. Why would they want to now come and take the babies in to their home?? They started to give an explanation of how sometimes children don’t share with their family what is really going on, they tried to say that they really didn’t know about the twins until recently and that they were ready to take the girls home.
I remember after Nomsa died and I was pleading with a Social Welfare officer to help explain to the family that she wanted to be buried at Project Canaan. The Officer said to me, “Janine, the problem with us Swazi’s is that no one cares about you when you are alive, but they fight over your body when you are dead.”
Yes, that is a direct quote.
While my brain was madly trying to process what was being said to me, and my mouth was trying to stay closed so that I would not say anything that was inappropriate, offensive or that I would regret later. Ian jumped in and was my knight in shining armor. He gently explained how this home is under the Deputy Prime Ministers (DPM) office and how it is run. He explained that all of the children who we are for are placed with us through the DPM’s office and we are under their authority. Court orders are given for each child and if they wanted to appeal the court order they would need to do that before the girls would leave.
He then offered to take them through the baby home (where we have 39 babies with a capacity of 40), then on to the toddler home where they could not even identify which children had belonged to Nomsa (because they had never met them!) and then on to the preschool where the girls would learn to read and write.
Ian then offered to take them to Nomsa’s House where she lived up until the last 4 days of her life. He opened the room, which I have not been in since she passed away, and showed them the large “Welcome Home” sign that was still on the wall with the hand and foot prints of her twin girls.
All four of them walked out of the home shaking their heads. I was not sure how to interpret that.
We moved on to show them the new Kindergarten that is being assembled/set up by our WLA friends from the US Bank today, and they were greeted by everyone who was preparing that incredible place of learning for Leah and Rachel, and all their brothers and sisters.
And then we took them to the cemetery, where Nomsa is honored with a beautiful stone carving in memory of a beautiful African woman. They stood in silence. Maybe they saw that Nomsa was loved? Maybe they saw that she truly was our daughter, our sister and our friend? Maybe they were overwhelmed with all that they saw? There was silence, and then they started to sing a song, which said, “We give you all the glory. We worship you our Lord, you are worthy to be praised.”
All four of our visitors wept. They walked slowly to their cars and then hugged us, thanked us and prayed the Lord’s blessing over us, then left.
My prayer is that I can honor my promise to Nomsa and raise Leah and Rachel to the very best of my ability in the safety of Project Canaan. After we went back to the house and had a complete meltdown at the thought of losing those beautiful twins, Ian reminded me that they are His children, not mine, and that I must trust Him in all things. That is not always easy, but it was a timely reminder from my best friend, and husband of 23 years tomorrow, October 5th. Happy Anniversary Ian, and thank you.
Live from Swaziland … trusting.