Dia, her 13 Year Old Daughter, and 4 of her Grandchildren
A Widow Wondering How Many of Children are HIV positive
When something has happened that impacts me heavily, I usually take awhile to process it. Maybe after some time - a few days or weeks, if it’s still in my head, I figure it was something significant and so may write it down. But today, (9 Sept 09) one of these events took place that I feel I need to write down now.
Early this morning, with the kids farmed out at friends’ homes, Tan and I joined two of MMF’s staff, a Hmong pastor and a Thai leader from the local presbytery to visit the church where the Hmong pastor is serving. The village, 2 hours ride East of Chiang Rai, is located high in the hills just a few kilometers from the Lao border. It is large Hmong community made up two groups of Hmong; those who are considered Thai nationals and those who are recent immigrants from across the border in Lao or even Vietnam. Apparently, many of the immigrants have come because of religious persecution. They became believers, probably through Christian radio broadcasts and have been harassed because of it.
After the service and a lunch together, several women came to us and asked that we’d visit them in their homes before we returned back to Chiang Rai. We agreed to visit a few of them. After 5 hours of visiting from house to house, I was reeling with what I saw and heard. Two out of three stories were essentially the same.
Let me relate one: Dia (not her real name) is about 40 years old. She was very young when she married her husband. By the time she was 25 years old she’d had six children, four of whom had died. Her next and last child lived. It was a girl. Meanwhile, the husband, possibly frustrated with a the small number of offspring, took another wife. After some time, he began to abuse the first wife and even allowed the new wife to hurl insults at her and beat her as well. One day after 10 years of living in this abusive situation, he went after her with a machete. That’s when Dia decided that she’d had enough and asked for a divorce. Dia’s husband gladly agreed to this as he wouldn’t have to be responsible for her or her children. She moved out of his house into a 4 by 3 meter little bamboo hut with a mud floor. By this time her oldest son had a wife and 4 of his own children, so Dia moved into the hut with her two younger children who were in their early teens. Soon afterward a young man took Dia’s youngest daughter as his wife. She was 13 years old. Within months Dia found out she was going to be a grandmother – for the fifth time. About the time the baby was due Dia’s daughter was kicked out of her husband’s home apparently because his parents didn’t think she was a suitable-daughter-in-law. The son, though he appeared to care for his young bride, was unable to go against his father’s wishes and gave in to leaving her. Within weeks of moving back in with Dia, the teenager had a baby boy. So here was Dia, without a husband, living in a small hut with her two teenage kids and a new grandchild.
Then, three days ago, Dia was notified that her oldest son, had been arrested and charged with some as yet unknown crime leaving her to look after her daughter-in-law and her 4 young children.
All the while that Dia told us her story, she sat in her little hut holding one of her five grandchildren, while her daughter and daughter- in – law each held nursing infants and the other two children clambered for attention. Dia asked us to pray for her. She has become a believer only a few years ago and is wondering how this new Faith will help her to get through life as she’s no husband – meaning no clan to look after her - and a little band of helpless children and grandchildren.
Every story we heard today was only a slight variation of Dia’s. In another case, a young mother knew that her recently deceased husband had died of AIDS and was wondering how many of her three children were HIV positive, but was too afraid of finding out the results. In every case, abandoned mothers in traditional Hmong society have little place to turn. It’s taboo for parents to take them back as they have already left the clan to be a part of the husband’s. They are truly unwanted by anyone.
That’s why I was encouraged by Pastor Shalom who pastors the newly planted village church. It is he and his local congregation representing the community of Faith and it’s offer of love and concern for the whole family of believers that lives out the eternal hope we have in Jesus. These people have a lot to teach us. They know what it is to experience Grace, when they are able have hope in what would seem a truly hopeless situation.
Please pray for these abandoned mothers, Pastor Shalom and this church as they reach out, and the MMF as we seek to encourage and strengthen the church and it’s pastor.