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Saturday, March 14, 2020

A new perspective on viruses

Last week one of our workers was bitten by a dog which was thought to be rabid.  If you don’t know much about rabies, there is no cure, and you have no more than ten days to start a series of five injections or you die. There were no rabies injections in any government hospital in Eswatini, so he went to a private clinic and got his first two shots.  Ian and I learned about this when we just happened to pick him up at the front gate on his way to get his third shot.  Our family was sprayed by a rabid bat when we lived in Ontario, and we know the fear and the pain of many needles, so we gave him our sympathy. The next morning during our morning walk, Ian saw him and asked how he was doing. He was visibly upset as he told us that the private hospital was out of rabies vaccine and they couldn’t complete his five-shot treatment. He was afraid he was going to die a horrific death.

Ian spoke with our nurses who were able to find a pharmacy in Nelspruit, South Africa (a 3-hour drive crossing two international borders) and we said we would drive and get them. The nurse asked us to please get chicken pox vaccines too as they have not been available in Eswatini for 7+ years.  When we got to the pharmacy, I told the pharmacist that I had strange list of prescriptions:  rabies vaccines for an employee, chicken pox vaccines for our children and blood pressure medication for me, which I need because I deal with rabies and chicken pox!  She suggested that we stop at the liquor store before he headed back to Eswatini!  Meanwhile, that huge pharmacy had already sold out of hand sanitizer, but that happened months ago before the coronavirus scare began.  She pointed to a poster that told us how to make our own hand sanitizer – good to know. She also told us that they had been out of chicken pox vaccines for months, but we ended up driving home with rabies vaccines, blood pressure medication and little tequila.

Eswatini has the highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world. HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and it is the very reason we moved here.  There also is no cure for this disease, and medication is antiquated, sometimes out of stock, but effective if take properly twice a day, every day at the same time of day (7AM/7PM).  It’s effectiveness is also dependent on proper nutrition and protein.  People don’t die from HIV/AIDS, they die from a common cold or the flu or Tuberculosis (TB), which 70% of our total population are estimated to have active or inactive TB.  If their TB is inactive it can be activated by getting sick with something as simple as a cold, or the flu, or coronavirus. 

Most of our 315 employees have children, and most of those children are cared for by elderly parents or grandparents while the employee is at work.  Many of their children are sickly with conditions that could be treated if hospitals weren’t out of medicine, but they are.  We are a country with a very broken healthcare system, virtually no hospital care and both clinics and hospitals have run out of many/most essential medications.

This morning we had our first coronavirus patient confirmed to be positive in Eswatini. She came from the US, traveled to Lesotho, and then came back here and tested positive at a private clinic.  It bears repeating that this is a country of very old and sick people, very young and sick people and an HIV/AIDS rate that could be as high as 40%. 

As the world is facing unknown fears, which includes health and economics uncertainties, I would like to say two things to you today. First, I am personally committed to post on social media every day with words of encouragement from our children, our staff and our volunteers so that you know we are thinking of you and praying for you.  Second, I am asking if you will help us raise the funds we need to build the rest of Emseni #7 for 40 big boys.  When I spoke at an event last month in front of 15,000+ Keller Williams agents, they collectively gave almost $100,000 towards the $225,000 cost of the building. Only a few short weeks later a gathering of that size is impossible, and none of us know when there will be speaking opportunities again to build awareness and raise funds for our needs here. I know that this is a time of financial fears for many people around the world, but I also know that we need to get this building finished quickly as the children are still coming and they are in desperate need of a home. 

Please consider putting your fear aside today and help us do what we can do for these children while waiting to see what happens as the coronavirus spreads throughout the Kingdom.  Please buy a block for $25 or 100 blocks or 1,000 blocks and help us get this done. Would you also please share this post today? Everyone is looking for content to read and looking for hope for the future. I hope that our lives can be a beacon of hope from afar in the days and weeks ahead.

Just yesterday as we drove back from South Africa we got a call about two different new born baby boys that needed a home. We haven’t received a new baby in SEVEN WEEKS, so this was a surprise.  One was the result of a violent rape and the other was found in the bushes covered in his own waste which burned his face.  Both tiny boys were in government hospitals, and very vulnerable.  We stopped and picked up baby Solomon and baby Rocky (the one who looked like he had been in a fight … a fight for his life!), and we brought them home, along with the rabies vaccinations.  That is the world we are living in.  We may not be able to stop the coronavirus (although we did a hand washing seminar with all our 315 employees yesterday and gave everyone a big bar of soap), but we can help these two little guys who are not safe in a government hospital.

Isaiah 41:10 says, "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

Live from Eswatini … we are washing our hands and praying.


P.S. There are rumors that our borders to South Africa may close soon.  90% of all food is imported, so that will cause another problem.

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