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Monday, July 26, 2010

The Life & Times of Louis & Amber - Helping Hospice

Lois, Amber and the kids have been going to Thabong every Tuesday for the last several weeks.  There is a hospice organization there that cares for patients in the last stages of life.  Obviously most of their patients are suffering from HIV/AIDS, but a few of them have cancer or other illnesses.  Lois and Amber help care for the children whose guardians are in the hospice program.  They provide some play time, food, and a Bible story and craft.  Most importantly, they want to connect with the children and give them hope in a situation that may seem desperate.

A good friend and supporter of the ministry here was led to donate some funds for coats and blankets.  While it doesn’t get as cold here as in the Midwest winters, when you live in the conditions prevalent in the townships, it doesn’t have to get too cold before people begin to suffer.  Especially those whose health and diet don’t allow them to produce sufficient body heat on their own.  To people such as these, a warm coat and blanket is a tremendous blessing.

Last week Lois and Brian went with Lawrence and Trish (friends of ours here) to a store where you can purchase cheap blankets and used coats.  They were able to get a good supply, and we decided hospice would be able to tell us who needed them most.  This morning we went out to Thabong where we were joined by 4 of the 8 hospice employees.  Two went to the east side of Thabong with Brian and Lois, while we went with the other two to west Thabong, Hani Park, and Extension 18.  Here are a few of the stories we saw today:
-One theme that was repeated several times by the two guys we were with was the overwhelming number of patients, the lack of staff, and the general lack of resources and ability to meet all the needs they encounter.

-At one house we were supposed to be giving a coat to a man in his 40’s.  When we arrived we learned that he had passed away two days before.

  -The hospice workers do things like change bedding, wash clothes and bedding, change dressing on sores, provide food, and take care of other daily needs.  They see about 3 patients per day, because of the time it takes to walk to the different locations, the fact that any washing is done by hand with water heated on a stove, and the fact that the patients typically crave human contact so badly that they try to keep the worker there as long as possible.

  -One of the hospice workers told me that usually the patient’s eyes will absolutely light up when they arrive.  Many times the sick individual has no family at all, or if they do, the family doesn’t “waste time” on them because they know the person is dying.  That applies to food and other things as well.  The family may choose not to feed that person since they feel it is a waste because the person will be dead soon anyway.

  -When we arrived at one house we couldn’t find the patient.  Some neighbors said she was probably gone for some reason or other.  Just before we left a young woman came out of the house with a 3 year old girl.  She told us the mother had passed away three days ago leaving the small girl and a 14 year old boy.  This young woman was just a casual friend of the mother’s, but there were no relatives or anyone else to care for the children, so she stepped in.  A relative of some sort is supposed to be coming from Lesotho, but since that is another country, it may or may not be possible for them to take the child.  They have contacted the social workers, but they can’t do anything until the relative arrives.  I told one of the workers that he’s probably seen this type of situation hundreds of times – he said “No, thousands.”  The lady said the young girl was confused, and she was just waiting for her mom to come home, not understanding that she would not be coming home anymore.

  -As we left that house, the social worker told me it is a good thing the friend is taking care of the child.  He has seen many cases where a child is left alone like that and eventually someone finds out and comes and rapes the child – regardless of the age of the child.

There were many other houses we visited.  These are things we’ve seen and heard about before.  By far, the worst part of this job is seeing so much need, and knowing that you can’t fix every situation, that you can’t help with every problem.

On the other hand, it was a blessing to see the people who were able to receive the coats and blankets.  At every house we left a gospel tract in Sotho.  We are greatly privileged to be the ones who can be a part of this ministry on the ground.  So many of you have faithfully given to support us, and to support the work.  I wish I could communicate to you how wonderful it is on those occasions when you can make a real difference to someone.

I’ll finish this story with a quote from Brilliant the other day.  He said “Uncle Lou and Sister Amber, all the things you do for us we really enjoy.  We have a good time with you, and we love Bible study.  But of all the things we enjoy, the one we enjoy the most is Lunch Time.”  In the midst of such great spiritual need, don’t neglect to reach out to those with physical needs as well.  True faith is exhibited by our actions, especially to those in need.  Thank you to those who have answered the call and been a part of the ministry so far.  Rest assured that you are making a difference for eternity.

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