Where does one run for truth and mercy near Donnybrook, South Africa? Today, as Pastor Bongamusa and I are ready to visit homes a tall, slender woman from the mountains of Lesotho is running toward us with her head wrapped in purple cloth.
She has run about ½ a mile from the large Spar Grocery Market where many people have come to spend their pension and social grant payments which they stand in line to collect while security men keep order.
Word is going around that the Baptists are helping people with HIV/AIDS to learn their status and there is no gossiping and betrayal of confidentiality. Many people report that they are scared to go for the test to the mobile clinic which visits this area because of perceptions that the nurses are cruel and would reveal people’s HIV positive status to their neighbors.
The running woman from Lesotho catches her breath inside the church and asks us to check her CD4 count. If this count is below 250 in South Africa, anti-retroviral therapy is offered, along with a $45-60 dollar monthly grant from the state. After telling her we do not have the portable technology to run this special test, she is disappointed. I have been seeking and praying for this very equipment for the past three years. We pray for her. She goes away knowing our limitations and our desire to help in this way another day.
When we arrived this morning, three women and their children were waiting for us. We set them to watching our HIV pretest video in Zulu and then commenced testing in the privacy of the church’s meeting place. Three out of four people we tested were positive today.
One of the women cried as she held onto her four month old baby and saw the multiple lines appearing on the dual tests we ran confirming her status as HIV positive. She was disappointed because she had trusted in expensive sorcery herbs called “muthi” in Zulu. She fully believed the muthi would make her HIV go away. The sangoma (sorcerer) had charged her big money and made the false promise that the virus would disappear from her blood. Now she sees the truth through her tears.
Pastor Bongamusa told her that these sorcery herbs cannot remove the virus, but with proper medicines she could live to become a gogo (old granny) and see her son’s children. As we prayed with her in the name of Jesus, she seemed inclined to believe us and she accepted our referral for treatment. Her baby boy appeared healthy and robust, but we cannot test him with our current technology.
Our God has promised us truth and mercy. This is our heritage in Christ, and our duty to share with these lost people who trust in sorcery to cure their virus. A part of the truth we proclaim to increasing numbers of people here is that the virus is treatable and they can lead a full, long life if caught early enough. We do this with the love and mercy of saved persons. One person and one test at a time, we carry out our commission.
Truth and mercy,
You will give truth to Jacob and mercy to Abraham which you have sworn to our fathers from days of old. Micah 7:20