Tuesday took us into the of Kangemi and Kamirithu to visit with clients of CFA in their homes. These people happily opened their homes to us so we could sit down and visit. We heard their personal stories about how HIV/AIDS have affected their lives. Their stories were tragic and yet, they were hopeful. We were able to see first-hand how CFA has helped them turn their lives around…in some cases, bring them back from the brink of death. (Each of these stories contain prayer requests made by the individuals. Feel free to include any or all of them in your prayers.)
Our group split up into two groups, and each group visited of 5 families. At the final home, we helped make a traditional Kenyan meal and shared it together with the client and his/her family. In this blog, I will share only a couple of stories of the people we visited.
Meet Ann, who lives in the community of Kangemi. She is 41 years old, and has been married for 25 years.
Ann and her husband have 5 children:
Rose is 20 years old and has special needs. She can hear but cannot talk. She has convulsions and has weakness on one side of her body.
Cynthia is 13 years old and just finished her 8th grade exams. For her, school is over because her family is unable to afford the fees for further schooling.
Michelle is 8 years old and does not go to school because of the cost of the fees. The cost of the fees for secondary education is the equivalent of $2.50 USD per month.
Maxwell is 3 years old.
Nelvin is 3 months old.
Thankfully, none of the children have the virus.
This family of 5 lives in a home that is approximately 10’ x 12’. All of the furniture of the house consists of one bed behind a curtain, one stool and one chair. They are a family of faith – all of the walls of the home are covered with pictures of Jesus.
Seventeen years ago, Ann discovered that she was HIV positive. She told the group that she felt lonely and afraid because of the stigma that is associated with the virus. She lived isolated from the community for many years. When she finally shared her status with some friends, and they told her that they had heard about about the CFA program, and encouraged her to enroll.
Ann enrolled in the program in November 2016, and is about to graduate in July 2017. Over the past 9 months within the program, she has learned to overcome the stigma and is not ashamed or embarrassed to have our group visit her. She spoke openly about her situation and what she has learned in the program.
Ann’s favorite aspect about the CFA program is that she learned that there is a balance between hearing God’s word and learning new skills to enable her to “earn her daily bread.” She learned how to make colorful beads out of magazine paper, and to make liquid detergent. Both skills will enable her to make products to sell at market to earn enough money for food for her family.
When asked about her prayer requests, she had several:
She wants to start a business, but her challenge is that she doesn’t have enough money to get it started.
Her husband is a “casual worker. “ He does not have a steady job and wants to find something more stable.
She wants to get help for Rose, but nothing is available to her that she can afford.
She asked for prayers for continued health for her and her family.
Ann believes that prayer will open doors for her family. God is working in her life, and she has come a long way from hopelessness to hope for a better life and future!
Meet Elizabeth, also from the Kengami community. She is 29 years old and works as a casual laborer. She and her husband have 3 children – Frederick (4 yrs), Elliott (14 months), and an older daughter who does not live with them.
Elizabeth’s husband works as a security guard. He was infected with HIV for 2 years before Elizabeth found out about his status. He didn’t tell her about his condition…she found out about it when she discovered his medicine in their home.
She became very physically sick from the virus, and entered the CFA program in November 2016. Her pastor, David, and the CFA staff have worked with Elizabeth over the past 8 months, and her health has improved significantly.
Elizabeth has disclosed her status to her family and they have been very supportive, for which she is grateful. Her mother is her “accountability partner” – she makes sure her daughter is taking her medications every day.
Throughout her time within the program, Elizabeth has been working through her challenges of stress and anger. She has a very difficult time controlling her anger toward her husband. In fact, she used to sleep with a knife under her pillow. When her husband was sleeping soundly, she thought about killing him. When the group asked her how she handles that impulse when it rises again, she said that she turns to Pastor David, who talks and prays with her. “Pastor David is like my father,” said Elizabeth. “He is the only reason I haven’t killed my husband.”
She will graduate from the program in July.
Elizabeth gave the visiting group a list of prayer requests:
Prayers for a better relationship with her husband.
Prayers for help dealing with her anger toward her husband.
Prayers for her father, who recently died, and for her brother Ken, who is at school.
Prayers for health for Elliott.
Prayers for help as she wants to start a business selling yogurt.
Meet Mercy, who also lives in the Kangemi community.
Mercy was the first client that my group visited yesterday. She was delighted to see us and welcomed us into her home. As each one of the 8 of us crossed the threshold, we were silently shocked; I could see it in the faces of the others that their surprise reflected my own. The size of her home was approximately 6 feet by 9 feet and contained two couches facing each other and a small half table in the middle. We squeezed together, sitting almost on top of one another, so that we could all fit.
Mercy was not ashamed of her status, and was willing to talk openly about her experience. Her husband passed away from AIDS many years ago, so she was left to take care of her three children on her own. At the time, she operated a grocery stand at the local market, which helped provide income for Mercy and her children. All was good until about 8 years ago when Mercy began to develop rashes on her arms. People noticed the rashes and began to talk…her customers stopped buying from her because they were afraid she had HIV/AIDS. Mercy was then forced to close her grocery business and find work elsewhere.
As time went on, the rashes did not go away and soon spread to cover her face. She went to the hospital to find out how to treat her rashes and in the process, discovered that she was HIV positive. When her in-laws found out about her status, they told her that they wanted nothing to do with her or her children, and they were thereby shunned. (Her children, now 24, 18 and 17 do not have the virus.) Mercy’s parents, however, have been very supportive of her, and for that she is grateful. She held her head high and was determined to survive.
In November, 2016, Mercy entered the CFA program, and her life has changed significantly. She will graduate from the 9 month program in July. Over the duration of the program, she learned how to make beads out of magazine paper, and then decided to make baskets and purses using the beads she created. (Her work is beautiful…I bought one of her purses!) She even opened up a grocery stand within her neighborhood, and is once again selling goods to customers!
We asked her what she appreciates most about the program. Her answer was similar to most of the clients that we have met on this trip: the connection to others in her community that are like her. CFA encourages clients to continue contact with the social group that is created during the 9 months. This gives them the ability to share experiences and develop strong relationships with others who have the virus.
When asked if she had any prayer requests, Mercy mentioned the following:
Prayers for her parents because they have been so supportive of her throughout all of her hardship and growth.
Prayers that her financial status will improve enough to afford school fees so her children can stay in school.
Mercy is a beautiful soul who has many more years to live and love. She touched the hearts of all of us who met her on Tuesday. Lori Overholt, who is traveling with us from Virginia Beach, was with our group that visited Mercy. When we shared our thoughts about the visit later in the evening, Lori shared a scripture that she felt reflects Mercy and her story. I couldn’t agree with her more:
Psalms 34:5 – “Those who look to Him are radiant.
Their faces are never covered with shame.
These three women are only a few examples of the stories we heard that day. They illustrate their journeys from sickness to health, anger to acceptance, and most of all, hopelessness to HOPE.
God’s gift to me from this experience:
I witnessed the power that faith played in the lives of these people to bring them from hopelessness into hope and new beginnings.