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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Nontsiekilelo

Nontsiekilelo - yeah, good luck with that name...we call her 'Ntsieki for convenience sake - came to live with us in May of 2012.  At the time she was about 6 months.  Her mother had been accused of abuse, but claims that it was a false accusation because her sister was angry and wanted to hurt her.

'Ntsieki lived with us until March of this year while her mother was completing court ordered courses in good parenting.  During the 10 months that she was with us her mother visited faithfully each week.  Her English is limited but our houseparents got to know her well.  Papa Revival told me that a couple times she didn't have enough money for a taxi but she would still walk the 15 km from Thabong to town so she could still visit 'Ntsieki.

In March everything was finally completed with the social workers.  We had known for several months that 'Ntsieki would be leaving, but that didn't make it any less easy.  It was especially difficult for Mama Selina.  Having cared for an infant for almost a full year, Selina had developed some strong maternal bonds.  The other girls in her house also struggled, especially young Monica.  Monica is 9 and was very close to 'Ntsieki.  Her crib was next to Monica's bed and every morning 'Ntsieki would wake up calling for Monica and singing some little song to her.

Those are some of the hardest times of this type of ministry.  But we must ask ourselves if we really believe the theology we teach.  Is God completely sovereign?  Is He completely loving, unable to do anything bad?  Our answer is an unequivocal YES!  So while it hurts, we also know that He is working it together for good.  Already we've seen some good come of it, as it opened a place for Atlehang, our new 9 year old.

The day she was scheduled to leave I went down to her house.  All the other kids were in school and Selina was packing up 'Ntsieki's things.  Having lived with us for 10 months, including Christmas and her birthday, she collected lots of stuff!  I found Selina in sobbing while neatly folding each piece of clothing and placing it gently in the box.  'Ntsieki was sitting on the bed probably wondering what in the world was going on.  It's no secret that I kind of get emotional once in awhile, and the worst of it is, I'm a sympathetic crier.  When I see someone else emotional I start to choke up.
(That's why my sister Rosina is a terrible influence on me.  She caused me to weep uncontrollably throughout my entire wedding.  She is also the one who usually kicks things off at the airport when we leave the States.  I place the blame firmly on her.)
For some reason I was able to help Selina without more than damp eyes.  But, later that morning when the social worker showed up, it was my job to actually go collect the box.  It was then I noticed a note that all the kids had made for her.  Of course, I read the note and that's when my emotions got the best of me.  I was touched by their messages to her and I thought you might be as well.  Here it is:














Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Meet Atlehang

For anyone who follows Restoring Hope on Facebook, you've probably seen our posts about Atlehang.    For the rest of you, here is an introduction into the newest member of our Village family.




Atlehang came into our care in March this year.  We had been over capacity, but our youngest girl, 'Ntsieki was placed back into her mother's care early this year (and seems to be doing well).  While that was a very difficult experience, it opened a space for us to receive a new child.  Atlehang is that child.

At 9 years old, she only weighs 27 lbs.  To give you some perspective, the average 2 year old weighs about the same.  She came to us very sick and malnourished.  In fact, she spent her first 2 weeks under our care in the public hospital.  She was discharged for a week and then readmitted for another 10 days.  Lois and Abby oversaw daily visits to the hospital.  Mama Selina and the teenage girls were faithful in their attendance and Dieketseng began bringing her guitar so they could sing to Atlehang and the other patients in her room.  Not many of the kids get visitors that actually bring some cheer with them, so even the doctors and nurses began to stop by to listen to our girls sing.

Her illnesses have ranged from HIV to thrush.  Many of her medical problems are the result of inconsistent care.  Since HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus, it stands to reason that people suffering from this disease tend to contract other illnesses quite easily.  She had been bounced between several different family members for care, finally settling with a very elderly and frail grandmother.    The Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ARV's) that HIV+ people use are very strictly to be administered at 12 hour intervals.  Because of her inconsistent care she frequently defaulted on her medication, leading to a host of other ailments.

Normally an HIV+ person qualifies for ARV treatment when their CD4 count (the white blood cells that fight infection) drops below 200.  Atlehang's CD4 count is 2, meaning she has basically no immune system whatsoever right now.  It is possible that her CD4 levels will rise, but it will take time.

Our daughter Meredith, who is 7 years old, was carrying Atlehang around on her hip like a toddler at church.  Out of the hospital now she seems to be doing as well as can be hoped.  She still struggles with health issues but God has provided strength for her in the last couple weeks.  A big part of that is a healthy diet, a warm and secure home environment, and knowledge that she is loved.  Her face is filling out and she is starting to put on some weight.  In fact, in the short time she's been here we had to increase her clothing size from 4T to bigger clothing (for all you guys out there reading, my wife informs me that 4T is meant to be worn by the average 4 year old).

Since she is so weak and sickly she hasn't attended school much.  Even now we haven't sent her to school because of weakness and fear of exposure to so many other illnesses.  Instead, Abby Hall (volunteering at RHI for 12 months) has been tutoring her one-on-one.  Abby has done a great job and it seems that she and Atlehang have developed a special bond.

Just because she's been so weak and sickly doesn't mean she is without personality.  She has a strong will and wacky sense of humor.  You can see it is an effort for her to smile sometimes, but when she does smile it lights up her whole face.  We hear from the other girls that when she is falling asleep, when she just wakes up, or sometimes just in the middle of the night she bursts out into song.  Sometimes in Sotho, sometimes in English, at 2:00am no one seems to enjoy it but her!

Please keep Atlehang in your prayers, for her health, her growth and her spiritual life.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Teams?

Well, Team Hope from Walnut Park Baptist Church has now been gone for almost two weeks.  On the one hand, we miss them quite a bit.  They were a joy, a huge encouragement, and a great blessing to our kids.  On the other hand, apparently they had a negative influence on two of our kids (tongue-in-cheek, obviously).  For proof of that check out the evidence below:

The front of Kamohelo's card to the Walnut Park Baptist Youth Group.  This is in direct rebellion to my teaching that the only team one should follow is the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  We'll have to rethink things after this...

A personal message from Kamohelo to his sponsors from the Youth Group at Walnut Park Baptist.  Doesn't this make you wish you were sponsoring one of these precious kids (hint, hint).

Pastor Jake recruiting children to the St Louis Cardinals' fan base.  Again, this is an afront to all loyal Cubs fans everywhere, which I would prefer the children to become!

In all seriousness, the team was great.  Thanks for the special influence you've had on both the kids and staff here.  Thanks also for the follow-up communication.  It's a blessing and encouragement.

Pastor Jake, Loren, Daniel, Haley, Mike, Pam, Taylor and Murph, we miss you all here!

...but we don't miss your ugly sports gear and shameless proselytizing!