September 10, 2013 Update

Adorable, smiling, five year old Fatuma...  One look at this sweet child standing at my door and the whole problem came into focus: two mothers and one living child. It made me think of King Solomon.  Except I’m no King Solomon.


It was at the clinic, on our big AIDS day, in the midst of the chaos of hundreds of people meeting with doctors and getting their medicine that Mary had told me the story of her daughter Fatuma.  She share with me that Fatuma wasn’t always healthy and happy.  At age two, she was skin and bones and sick, and now for the past three years Mary had worked hard to care for her.  As she lovingly told me the story of her daughter, I kept asking myself where Fatuma was.  The convoluted history began with the fact that Mary’s husband had given Fatuma to her – three years ago.  Mary was his second wife but she couldn’t have any children and so after his first wife, the woman who had given birth to Fatuma, ran away, her husband gave her Fatuma.  And so for the next three years, as Mary cared for this sick child and brought her back to health, she grew to love Fatuma.  Caring for Fatuma meant finding out that she had HIV and getting her into treatment.  Little Fatuma grew to love Mary and to call her mother.  The result of diligent and loving care is a beautiful, adorable five-year old who is the picture of good health.


Now, three years later, Fatuma’s birth mother re-enters the scene, wanting her daughter back.  There is a violent fight and Mary ends up with a slice above her eye from something sharp – and Fatuma is gone.  And there’s really nothing Mary can do.


But Fatuma’s birth mother hasn’t brought Fatuma to the clinic for her HIV medicines since she was taken from Mary.  And Mary is determined not to see Fatuma slip back into wasting away to nothing.  And so Mary told me the whole story, and I went off to see a government official friend of mine.  And a couple of days later, I have Fatuma and her birth mother at my front door.


A quick prayer for wisdom.  (Not real sure if Solomon needed to do that, but I did!)


So I gave her the facts about living – or dying – with HIV, and that it all begins with getting tested and treated and that if she herself wasn’t going to get tested and get on treatment it would be better if we both went off to the government right now.  Because if, as the mom, she was going to start getting sick and wasn’t going to be alive, wouldn’t it be better if Fatuma stayed with her husband’s other wife?


And then I really went out on a limb and said that  Fatuma’s mothers seriously needed to make “it” work because they need each other.  Fatuma’s father, their husband, is a traveling lumber jack and until he is dying no one should count on him ever showing up to get tested and to start any treatment.  And that was going to make life worse for both of them.  Instead of fighting this was the time for the two of them to decide to work together, or else it was going to ruin life for both of them – and for Fatuma.


And so what I wanted was for both of them to agree to seek me out each month at the AIDS clinic so together we could all take stock of everyone’s health -- and if anybody’s health was going down then we would be back to the government.  So that means faithfully following all of the rules and making sure that Fatuma gets her medicine every single day. 


Amazingly enough the conversation ended nicely and I have hope that the two mothers can indeed make it work.  Not sure if King Solomon would have given the same advice I did, but I prayed for wisdom and that’s what came out of my mouth and so I want to believe that somehow we can make it work.


When it was all done and they were gone I sat down and had to laugh – who am I to tell it like it is to Fatuma’s mother?  The government doctors have a name for me – mdau – “someone who has a stake in things.”  In a way I guess I do indeed have a stake in all of these situations here, but mostly I just see myself as a “good neighbor” – someone trying to follow what Jesus says about seeing everyone who is in need as “my neighbor”.  I certainly never planned for it to be this way when we came here to this village – I really just thought I was going to teach my students English!  And yet I have now come to see that God has placed us precisely where He wanted us to be at this point in history.  Sometimes I marvel at it all – we’ve always had just enough money, just enough time, and hopefully even just enough wisdom – to handle things. 


And in the process I’ve come to love – and to feel a lot of love back – from the kids like Fatuma, the moms like Mary, and all of these people who now come  to our clinic.  When I see them all I am just so very thankful that this is the village where God brought us to live!





Steve & Susan Vinton

Village Schools International

Box 1929 Tomball Texas 77377

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