Sunday, June 13, 2010

I Remember

I remember where I was around the time Mt. St. Helens erupted: I was a 5th grader in Sidney, Montana. I could see the volcanic ash as I walked home from school: 1980.

I remember where I was when President Reagan was shot: I was in 6th grade band: 1981.

I remember where I was when I heard that Rock Hudson had died of a new-found disease called AIDS: walking down the high school hallway with my classmates who all knew more than I did about Rock Hudson, but I was able to grasp that this AIDS was a new and terrible disease: 1985.

I remember where I was when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded into bits one minute after take-off: Home, sick on the couch during my junior year of high school: 1986.

I remember where I was when the Berlin Wall came down: Victorian Lit. class at Luther. A German student kept exclaiming: "I can't believe I'm in America while this is happening in my country!" 1989.

Why this walk down memory lane? This week we had some visitors who came to Bezer Home, and I asked a few of our women to share a story from their life of living with HIV. Three of them shared from the heart about what it has meant to live with HIV. Then one of our visitors from California stood up and shared her own story with us: "My daughter has been living with HIV since 1988 when she was 17, and she's still alive today." She proceeded to give us a brief sketch of her daughter's life and to report to us that she's quite healthy today because of the ARV drugs she is taking. Her daughter openly tells her story to the people around her, and she also speaks to large gatherings.

I had to take a walk down memory lane because her daughter and I were in high school at the same time. Her daughter contracted this disease near the beginning of its known existence. I find it interesting that I have such a clear picture in my mind of where I was when I learned about this disease. I have it catalogued inside my brain alongside major national and international events. Of course, back in those days, I never knew that I would one day work alongside people living with HIV/AIDS.

Our women are used to being open with our visitors; we have learned that there is freedom in sharing. When visitors are open with us, something clicks between us and instant friendship is forged as stories of intense pain are shared mutually. That day our women sang and danced with great joy, knowing they are not alone in their struggles.  

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Yes, cats in Nigeria catch mice and rats, but occasionally they're even quick enough to catch a lizard. This mama cat is enjoying playing with her food before she eats it.

We started having cats a few years ago because I was tired of always seeing mouse droppings in kitchen drawers and cupboards. I haven't seen signs of a mouse now for years--and I don't hear them above the ceiling anymore either.

I no longer have the cats in the house because one of them had an affinity for urinating on the cloth bean bag chair. But just having them in the garage and the outdoors has still prevented the mice from coming back to my kitchen.

Tying a Quilt

I had the opportunity to give the sewing ladies a little history lesson on quilting the other day. We were repairing an old quilt for one of our customers. I asked them to guess how old this quilt is. They guessed between 10-18 years. It's actually about 35 years old. They were amazed.

This quilt was originally tied in order to keep the top, batting, and back together. We untied it and replaced the batting as well as fixed a number of threadbare seams. The women had never seen a tied quilt before. We either do top-stitching with a sewing machine or machine quilting.

I also talked to them about how quilts were made from scraps of fabrics. People didn't just go out and buy yards and yards of cloth in order to cut it all up into a quilt.

We put a new binding on the quilt because the previous one had disintegrated. A lot of quilts can be preserved by simply putting a new binding on. I've started to do that with quilts around our house. We can get a lot more wear out of them in the years to come just by replacing the binding.

It was a privilege to work on this old quilt and to learn something about quilts of the past. It also feels really good to repair something instead of tossing it out.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


About two months ago 11-year-old Hope* came to live at Bezer Home. Her parents had both died of AIDS as well as her twin sister. She had been living in the village with a woman who was taking care of many children. Some youth corpers took it upon themselves to take care of her feeding. When one set of corpers would finish their term in the village, they would ask the next batch of corpers to help feed the little girl. Eventually they got to know about Mashiah Foundation and brought Hope to Bezer Home.

Hope appeared to be a very withdrawn child when she first arrived, but now she has begun to smile more freely and to move closer to people. She's quite small; heightwise she is between my 4 & 6 year-olds. Her stomach is a bit distended, probably from malnutrition.

Today we finally had success in getting Hope enrolled for anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs). These are the drugs that will supress the HIV virus and help to prolong her life. One of our staff members had to attend four sessions on drug adherence at the hospital before they would release the drugs. The drugs on the picnic table in the photo must be taken faithfully, every day at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Hope will finish these drugs in one month and then we will take her back to collect another month's worth.

* Name has been changed.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Changing Seasons

The other day I tore the Christmas wrapping paper and big bow off my home office door. My son David was indignant: "Mom, why did you do that?!" I left it there when we moved into the new year because I thought I would find time to do some of those fun Christmas activities that December was just too busy for. Then we had 'rioting activities' in January and lots of plans were tossed to the wayside.

Over the weekend I decided that it would be nice to have a change of dishes for awhile. I put away the white-with-blue-trim stoneware and got out a set of deep purple plates. David, my aesthetic child, said, "Mom, these plates are really nice."

"Yes, let's call them our summer plates." Even when I said that it didn't quite sound right because I think of summer colors as bright and perky.

David had a better idea: "Actually, I think we should call them Rainy Season plates." Ahh...he got it exactly. That's a much better term for the deep purple.

Although it's summertime, it's actually quite a bit cooler now than it was in February and March. We went swimming over the weekend, but that was the first time in about two months. We just have to watch the sky and go whenever it looks a bit clear.

I've been enjoying our slightly lengthening days as we approach June 21. Our daylight only varies about one hour on each end of the day throughout the year. It's now getting dark at 7 p.m. In December it will be dark at 6. Many people hardly notice the change here because it's so subtle. By the way, there's no such thing as Daylight Savings Time here.

Monday, June 7, 2010


In April and May we experienced a number of deaths around us.

Victor, 20, was on his way to work in the Mashiah Foundation Youth Ministry computer school early one morning. He was riding on a 'motorcycle taxi.' A speeding car approached the motorcycle from behind and did not realize they had stopped. The motorcycle driver and Victor were severely injured by the crushing impact. Victor went into a coma and died five days later. His funeral service was held the day after he died. There were easily 1400 people in attendance. I was shocked at the turnout.  I had not realized the vast reach Victor had already obtained with his young life.

A few days later the father of one of the Mashiah Foundation accountants died in a head-on collision. The father had recently retired and was enjoying running an egg-laying business.

Then came the death of Samson. We had found Samson propped up near one of the major intersections in Jos. He was HIV+, hungry and homeless. We took him to Bezer Home where the medical team cared for him for 2-3 months. His health fluctuated from week to week. At times he appeared to be improving, but then he would languish, and we would have to take him to a hospital for more intensive care. He died while under the hospital's care. He was buried with dignity with only members of Mashiah Foundation as the mourners.

Then on May 5, we learned that Nigerian President Yar'Adua was declared dead after a six-month illness. Thankfully the swearing-in of Vice President Goodluck Jonathan went smoothly.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Email Scam

Over the weekend a hacker got into my Yahoo account and sent out an email to my entire mailing list. This was a scam, and I just want to let everyone know that I am NOT in London, NOT being held at gunpoint, and NOT asking for money.

I have now regained control of my Yahoo account thanks to a very helpful Yahoo tech support who spent 40 min. on the phone with me.

Thankfully I was able to get into my account and warn would-be donors before they sent any money to the hacker. The only real damage that was done was that the hacker wiped out all of my email contacts in my address book after sending out the fake email. Because of that, I can't send out a mass email letting everyone know that I'm o.k.

Thanks to everyone who has expressed concern in the past few days.