Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Moali update

A few months ago after I wrote my entry about our little South African girl, Moali, some amazing things happened. And I don't use 'amazing' lightly since I generally loathe when people use that word. First of all, my friend Melanie read the entry and decided to do a little sleuthing of her own. She managed to do in about 5 minutes what I hadn't been able to in a year. She got ahold of the writer of the Tribune article where I had originally read Moali's story. Then I was able to begin writing to her, Laurie Goering, too. She gave me the phone number for the woman who runs the drop-in center where Moali goes. I purchased an international calling card to Johannesburg, and before I knew it, after all this time, I was talking to Elizabeth Rapuleng in Soweto, South Africa!

Between our two accents and a not-so-great connection, it wasn't that easy, but I found that Moali is still in her same foster home. It's a horrible situation, though she didn't detail why. Her hope (and she is working with a social worker) is to get Moali into a boarding school. In South Africa, school is free, but the boarding costs. I told her that we will pay the boarding school fees. Over the Christmas holiday, I was able to write letters and send a care package and Bible to Moali. It's unbelievable--a year ago I had no idea where to find her--and this year we're actually able to talk to her and help.

I talked to Elizabeth again last week. Not much has progressed in the last couple of months. Moali is still living with her guardian, whom Elizabeth calls "a devil." (It makes my blood run cold.) She tried to visit her over the Christmas holidays, but the guardian had locked up the house and wouldn't answer the door. She's continuing to try to get her into boarding school where "she can finally breathe." She was thrilled with the money we sent for Moali and says it will help so much. I'm hoping that (sadly) money will be a little leverage now to helping remove her from this situation.

Another interesting thing about all this is all the people I've met. Through my search, I've made a new friend, Danny Lucas, who lives in Florida. He actually met Elizabeth when she came to the United States last year in search of funding for her organization (she didn't get any and left early because she missed all the kids so much). Through Danny, I've come in contact with another friend of Elizabeth's in Holland, who started an organization called Kuddlies 4 Kids. He collects stuffed animals from anyone who will donate and gets them to AIDS orphanages in South Africa. He says that often, this is the only toy most of the children will ever have, and they clutch them as they lay dying. I've met another woman who helps South African children, Maureen, and she seems to know the court system of SA pretty well. In addition, of course, Laurie Goering who does the incredible writing of some of these stories.

Last week, Darren called me on the way home from work to tell me to log on to Moody radio because they were about to interview a woman from South Africa. What an unbelievable story. She is a woman named Heather Reynolds. She used to be an atheist. One night she was driving down a hill with her baby in the backseat. She pushed down on the brake pedal, and it was completely gone. Of course, a car was coming through the intersection at the bottom of the hill, and she crashed into it, totaling both cars. Eventually, she realized that she was completely unhurt, but she couldn't even see into the backseat--it was a mass of mangled metal. She got out and said, "God, if my son is alive, I will love You and serve You for the rest of my life." She reached into the back, saw the baby's blanket, pulled on it, and out he came--not a scratch on him.

Then came the realization that she had totaled the other driver's obviously new Jaguar. She saw two tall men, wearing tennis clothes, coming over to her, and she waited for the inevitable verbal beating she was going to get. Instead, one of the men put his hand on her shoulder and said, "Are you all right? Is your baby all right?" when she answered affirmatively, he said, "Then let's pray right now and thank God that none of us was hurt."

Since that night, she has started a wonderful organization called God's Golden Acre. She houses, feeds, provides schooling and medication, and in general just loves on South African orphans either with AIDS or who have been affected by AIDS. She says in the name of Jesus, she never turns anyone away who needs help. All the children call her "Gogo" (Zulu for Grandmother). [And get this: after she began the organization, she knew she needed someone to run the financial aspect of it. One of her fellow workers came to her and said, "I have the most wonderful man and he's agreed to do it!" She said, "I can't just take on someone I don't even know, who is this man?" The worker gave the man's name, and it was the same man who Heather had totaled his Jaguar that night 20 years before.]

Well, this has become a long story and it's still unfolding. I wrote immediately to Elizabeth after hearing Heather's story, wondering if maybe Moali could go there (it's not far from Soweto/Gauteng Province). Another idea I've had is if Moali could come here on a foreign exchange program and live with us. I've found that the expense for that is really high, but...it seems like God has been doing some miracles here, so I just keep praying for more.

Stay tuned!

We love each other until we cry

I debated about what to title this entry: Sister, Sister? Sister Act? Nah, cliche and silly. So I went with what I find myself saying a lot lately about the two girls: "They love each other so much! In fact, they love each other until they cry!" It's true. They can't seem to resist each other, which in turn gets physical and usually somewhat violent. After a few minutes, they're either both crying or Elaine is crying while Lucy stands there with a "Who? Me?" expression on her face.

First of all, Elaine hates having her hands held. I secretly fear that it's some sort of obsessive compulsive thing. I took her to visit at a nursing home, and all the little elderly ladies did just what is natural when you see a baby--they reached out and tried to hold her fat little hands. She quickly snatched them back as if someone was trying to pour boiling water on her. It was embarrassing. At church, she comes in in her white coat and her white woolly hat that looks like a lamb, complete with ears, and with her rosy cheeks, she's just the dearest thing in the world. And everyone rushes to take her hands in theirs because she's utterly adorable, and she yanks them away rudely. I spend my time apologizing for the compulsions of my one-year-old.

Of course, Lucy has discovered how much Elaine hates this and she revels in it. Want some good fun? Hold Smoochie's hands until she cries! It's a blast! Also, if you're hanging on tightly to her hands, she can't reach out and pull your hair like she normally does! If ever I hear Elaine shrieking, I usually don't even run to check anymore. I just say wearily, "Lucy. Let.go.of.her.hands." This happens, oh, two or three trillion times a day.

We've explained and explained to Lucy. Elaine can't talk. When she says, "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!" in her angry voice and her face is all red, what she actually means is, "No, thank you, Lucy. Please don't hold my hands. I don't care for that at all."

I've never had a sister, so I'm learning all sorts of interesting things just watching these two. My brother was always sweet-natured, not that we never argued, but there never seemed to be any element of torture in his fraternal affection for me. I'm always making up little stories for the girls (don't be impressed, they're mind-numbingly dull), and Lucy asks me to tell them over and over. They're usually some variation of this: "Once upon a time, there were two little girls named Lucy and Elaine. Elaine was crying because she didn't have anyone to play with, so Lucy said, 'Don't worry! I'll play with you!' So they decided to dress up. Lucy wore a yellow gown with yellow shoes and a yellow crown. Elaine wore a pink gown with pink shoes and a pink crown. Mama was so happy they were playing together that she went into the kitchen and baked them two cakes. Lucy's cake was a yellow castle, and Elaine's cake was a chocolate puppy dog. Then the girls came downstairs and ate their cakes and drank lemonade. They sang [to the tune of Frere Jacques] 'We are best friends, we are best friends, we're best friends, we're best friends, we are Lucy and Elaine, we are Lucy and Elaine, we're best friends.' The End." Somehow, I hope these dreary, moralizing little tales sink in eventually. I want them to be good friends--those kind of sisters who bicker congenially but are the best of friends and go to lunch together. The kind you can always count on when you feel friendless in the world. (And, truth be told, who are united in amused exasperation with their mother.) So...that's my hope and what I'm aiming toward.

This past Sunday morning in the car, it was, for a few seconds, uncharacteristically quiet. Then I heard Lucy whisper from the back, "Mom, look! We're making a line!" I turned around and looked. Joined across the back seat in their carseats were those two sisters, hand in hand.