Friday, October 27, 2006

For Moali

About a year ago, I heard a sermon at church by a guest speaker. The title of the sermon was "Will You Give Jesus Your Lunch?" which sounds sort of funny. The premise though was the story in the Bible when Jesus fed the 5,000. He had been teaching a large crowd (and actually, 5,000 was the count for the men there. Probably, including women and children, it was closer to 20,000), and it had come time for food to be passed around--to feed all these hungry people. But there wasn't any food. The 12 disciples got together and tried to brainstorm, but all they came up with was a little boy who offered up his lunch--5 little loaves of bread and 2 fish. That tiny amount wouldn't have made much of a snack for the disciples alone, let alone 20,000 people. But Jesus blessed it, and everyone had as much as they wanted to eat, plus twelve baskets left over. The point of the sermon was that, with regard to world needs, we may feel like we have nothing to give. But if we place what little we have in God's hands, He will be able to do mighty things with it, things we could never dream of. At the end of the sermon, the speaker asked us, if we were willing, to hold out our hands, palms up, in a symbolic gesture that we are giving our time, prayer, resources, whatever little bit that we have. Well, even though we're in an EV Free church, I'm still a Presbyterian at heart, and we *don't* raise our hands. But...I kept turning the ideas over in my head long after we left.

A few weeks later, I was sitting at our kitchen island, reading the Chicago Tribune. There was a feature story on AIDS orphans in Africa. Ever since I volunteered teaching ESL to refugee pre-schoolers with World Relief, African children have been in my heart. I've actually read quite a few articles about the epidemic in Africa and have seen a number of news pieces. This one was different. This told the story of a 13-year-old South African girl named Moali Mthombeni. She had been orphaned as a toddler; her parents dead from AIDS. She had been living in various foster care situations. Her uncle had begun raping her when she was 10. Honestly, on the surface, as sad as that story is, there are thousands, millions, just like hers. But the article went on. At school, the other children laughed at Moali and wouldn't play with her because she wasn't a virgin anymore. I think it was at that point that I put my head down on the counter and started to cry. The rest of the piece said that she had been asked to leave school because she did not have the fees for her uniform, and at the end she said simply, "I have no one to help me."

I have no one to help me.

I sat at the counter with the tears flowing and I felt my hands kind of open up involuntarily and I said, "I don't really have much. I'm a mom in Rockford, Illinois. We don't have a lot of extra money. I'm pregnant. I'm totally overwhelmed. But Jesus, I give you my lunch. You are welcome to do with it what you will."

There was a picture of Moali accompanying the article. I cut it out, and it's been on our refrigerator ever since. Every time I open the door, I see her. I touch her sweet face. I say a prayer that she'll be protected from violence, that she'll be kept safe, that she will not get AIDS, that she will live without fear.

I've tried to find her. I've searched and searched and searched. And then I've searched some more. I've contacted world organizations and Oprah and anyone I can think of. Needle in a haystack doesn't even begin to describe it. She's one of millions and millions and millions of orphans in this world.

We have adopted her, in our hearts for the time being, as a family. Darren prays for her and Lucy, sweet little Lucy, prays for her "that she won't be sad anymore because she doesn't have a mommy and a daddy" and I pray for her without ceasing. I wish we could adopt her and bring her to live with us and be a part of our family. I'd like to make sure she gets an education. I'd like to buy her clothes and feed her and tuck her in bed at night. I'd like to talk to her and listen to her.

Right now I feel like we've done everything we can. I don't feel like it's enough, but it's our little lunch; we've offered it up, and so be it. God's ways are not our ways. There are lots of great organizations out there, and many that are helping orphans of AIDS in Africa. Every time I see an African child I think of "our" African child. We try to send money whenever we can, and any little bit that we can help one child is good, I guess. We do for Moali's sake. We do it for Jesus' sake.

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