One of the youth connected Fatima with Mashiah Foundation. Since her family wanted nothing to do with her, the family completed our forms, and 'gave' her to us. When she was discharged from the hospital, we picked her up and took her to Bezer Home which is where we care for women and children affected by HIV/AIDS. She is extremely weak and cannot walk on her own. She weighs about 90-100 pounds and has severe blisters all over one thigh.
On Thursday, five of our Mashiah Foundation staff members in the Women of Hope sewing program went to Fatima's room to meet her. As they approached her bed, they could see that she had her stocking cap pulled down over her eyes. Sarah said, "Are you sleeping?" Fatima responded weakly, "Yes." Fatima appeared to want nothing to do with her visitors. She gave minimal responses to their inquiries about her life and her health. Sarah, as is often the case, saw straight through the situation and said, "Fatima, we want you to know you are welcome in Bezer Home, and we just want to introduce ourselves to you."
"The Welcoming Committee": Nene, Larai, Angela, Nanwor
"I'm Nene. I'm HIV+. You're sleeping in the bed I used to have. When I first came here my legs were so swollen, I couldn't even walk. Look at me now. I'm living a normal life. I've rented my own house and I work upstairs."
"I'm Larai. I lived in Bezer Home for 3 1/2 years. My room was on the other side of the house. I came here as a widow, alone and very sick with HIV, but I got stronger. Later I was able to gather all four of my children to live with me once again. I have a job upstairs in the sewing program."
"I'm Angela, a widow. I have HIV. You see my bed over there? My son and I lived here for 1 year and 3 months. Now I rented my own house. I work upstairs as the purchasing officer."
Nanwor sat next to her on the bed and put her hand on her even though Fatima's leg is covered with about 100 water blisters. "See me? I've known about my HIV status since 2002. My wedding was cancelled because of HIV. I thought I was going to die, but look at me now. I work upstairs."
With new, hope-filled eyes and a strong voice, Fatima said, "So do you want me just to introduce myself or should I tell you my whole story?"The ladies laughed and told her to share anything she wanted.
The power of an introduction.
The power of vulnerability.
The power of shared circumstances.
The power of shared hope.
I have a photo of Fatima, but the time for sharing is not now. We don't intend to make a spectacle of her, but one day I will use that photo when I post her own "before and after" story on this blog. We have a lot of wonderful testimonies of what God is doing in the lives of people who were "quarter to go" as they say here in Nigeria.