Her face is angelic – like I would imagine the young Mary who acquiesced to the angelic pronouncement with such gentle resignation, yet revealing an underlying strength in her questionings. She is only 11, yet has seen more in her young life than ever a child should. Yet somehow, miraculously, she
seems untouched by it. Maybe it is because of her physical deformity.
Her left eye is just a cavity of flesh which has attached itself over the eyeball. The right eye is a cat-eye – the pupil a vertical football shaped affair – with some of the same flesh attaching itself to ¼ of the orb. It seems her best vision is about at about 70 degrees on her right side, and that is limited. So if you are standing in front of her she will often turn her head to the left and check you out from the side of her right eye.
Her name is a mystery. If you ask one person it is Abigail S – the surname of her grandfather. Another will say her name is Peggy J – the surname of her mother’s husband. If you ask her mother she seems to consider for a while before she decides on the Peggy J option. What is the story behind this, I wonder? Was she conceived of another man, or born before wedlock? Or, a more sinister twist that would not be hard to believe, knowing the grandfather as we do, that perhaps it is his child?
But we call her Abigail. She is such a special, gentle dove. She comes to English class and nestles under the wing of a benevolent woman. I watch her from behind and see her trying her hardest to comprehend some of it, quietly asking occasional assistance of her matron. When I ask to see her homework, she is shy yet proud to show me it is complete – by whose hand we never know. I wonder if she has ever had school, yet she understands English more than some, betraying a quick mind.
Regina has found a special clinic about 2 hours from the village where Western Doctors fly in periodically for surgeries. We have found a time when ophthalmologists are coming and schedule an appointment for her and another critical case we know of. We ask the family to do some little things, while we assist with transport. But as the time approaches the little things are not being done. Things that cost nothing but a little effort.
We begin to imagine what a life could be like for an Abigail with full vision and beautiful black eyes. We see small signs of excitement in her – she realizes she is important to us – to somebody! She begins to come out of her shy shell a tiny bit and trust us with an occasional smile.
The day arrives when we are to make final arrangements to meet them at 7am the following morning in town – they may come with us now, or take a taxi early in the morning. As we are leaving the village I happen to ask if all is in order with them and find that it is called off – the parents have not prepared themselves! I am furious! I storm over there and find the grandfather – the patriarch of the clan – squatting on his little stool, watching over his little fiefdom.
The guy is despicable. He is my archenemy. (I admit this is not the attitude a missionary should have towards anyone – more grace, Jesus!) He is wearing tattered clothes with 5 days stubble and probably the same time since he has washed. Yet he is the patriarch. What is worse than his personal hygiene is his morals and decisions and how they affect a wide circle of people who are required, in spite of what he does, to show him respect and allow him ultimate authority in their lives. He used to be the headman of Singanga, but blew that responsibility royally, so they appealed to the Chief to be replaced. Now, every time I make a property payment, he is squabbling to get the biggest share so he can run off to some village to drink and pillage for a few weeks! Then he comes back broke, bringing AIDS and all kinds of demons in tow, only to beg and moan to me and every other white person because of his pitiful state.
One of his daughters lays every day on a matt in front of their house, in the last stages of AIDS. She one day told Nimisha that when she was young her dad used to take her to the Zimbabwe side of the river and offer her to the guards to have their way with her, so that he could do some hunting for meat.
This is the man who is now telling me he has no money to get a taxi into town tomorrow to bring Abigail to us. Well come with us now, then! No, he’s not ready. Well let us just take her and we will allow an intern to spend the night there if she needs to stay for a major surgery. No, it must be a relative. Is there no relative? No. Ok, then I will pay for the taxi – my glasses are starting to steam up at this point – and you can work for me to work off the money. He cracks a big buck toothed smile, reaches out to shake my hand and says, “Yes boss!” I am so angry I just shake my finger in his face and say, “Mr. S. If you do not show up tomorrow morning at 7am with this girl I am going to be VERY ANGRY AT YOU!!!” I don’t know if he even got the message – all he knew is that now he had a job from the white man who would take care of all his problems from now on!
They arrive at 7am! And we get to the clinic and finally get in to see the Dr.
Then the blow falls – they examine little Abigail and tell me there is nothing they can do! I am shaken to the core! What is she going to do? How will she ever survive, in such a world where only the strongest make it? The nurses start chattering at me, oblivious to the emotional precipice I am standing on. They ask me who we are and what we do, etc. I try to answer but cannot – I am trying to hold a dam of emotion. They think I have forgotten my name and occupation! They load her down with treats and colors and book, and out the door we go.
All the way home I am numb. Regina reminds me of two other blind people whom God has used in such amazing ways, and a third I remember too. Jesus, is it possible you can use Abigail as a demonstration of your amazing grace in the state she is in? Is it possible that you have withheld your hand of healing so that you might show your greater power of transforming Life and Grace in spite of adversity? Dear Lord, I pray that she might be a pillar of radiance in your household forever, and that in fact, “NO GOOD THING WILL (YOU) WITHHOLD” from her. Amen
- We just received a wonderful donation for the full cost of our first orphan home! $25,000. Thanks for the wonderful church in Grand Rapids – Crossroads Church.
- I have been praying for a tractor recently. Yesterday I talked to a farmer at a big banana farm near our area – amazing story of God’s providence – how we met last year when I came to confront him with his small pay to the villagers we were working with. Today he is head of a much larger and more advanced farm and more than willing to allow us to use his many tractors and equipment. Thanks Jesus – it would still be nice to own one myself, but this is good too.
- I have been praying for the orphans lately – in the pressure of all the other more urgent issues we have done little for the orphans in the area. So I have been asking for some way to open to us to reach them. Enter Jeremiah and Missy Weismann! They have been here only 3 weeks but what a difference they are making – meeting with social services and NGOs in town; meeting with headmen and school headmasters to identify and find ways to help orphans and vulnerable kids; meeting with a group of young listless guys who have nothing to do – starting hunting expeditions, English classes, etc. Thanks Jesus!
- I am still praying for a job foreman.
- We just lost another camera to the water! Ugh.