Let me be the hands of Jesus is a beautiful song that has moved me to silent tears at Lord of Love (Bwana wa Upendo) over the last couple years..
I met someone yesterday. It was Saturday and so rather than do my usual morning jog I just started hiking up Mt Kilimanjaro.-Across beautiful rivers and log bridges. After about 1 and ½ hours I was sort of like Daniel Boone- not really lost but then I didn’t know exactly where I was either. I plunged forward, climbing climbing and edging back to the East (I think), The terrain is all cool green forest, bananas, and lots of little stone or mud homes. After a rain, many of the local folks were out working their gardens (beans, peas).
Finally I gave up and called to a women, bent over her jembe (hoe), in my few word of Kimachame (the local dialect) “Ne-intwa-ma” , she understood (amazingly!) and laughed at my attempt and then I continued with my lousy swahili. “mimi nimepotea kidogo” ( I have become a bit lost). She continued smiling and directed a young girl working in the mud with her to go with me…(I assumed to lead me back home. I guess a lot at what I am hearing since I only understand part of it). She was a pretty girl of I guessed 15 with a dirty skirt and an absolute winner of a smile. She was thin and her feet were covered with half dried mud which was also on her hands and fingers as she had been working the garden. She balanced on her head a plastic container, formerly containing cooking oil but now cut away to be able to transport maybe 2 gallons of manure and a couple basic hand tools..
In our ten minutes together as we walked down the trail she told me her name in Chagga and then Swahili: Rehema which means “Mercy”. She volunteered she had three children, the last two twins. So I asked here age “miaka mingapi?” and she said 26. I was surprised. She smiled again and said the father of the children “alikufa”. He had died. Then we came upon her kids and a few more.. Her oldest maybe 3 and the twins maybe 2? All being cared for by a 6 year old.. They were excited to see me again (I had passed by them earlier, noting they were dirty but seemed pretty happy and alert). I made a minor fuss over each and then we continued down, taking a couple shortcuts from the path I had taken up.
Rehema said life was hard and then she smiled her wonderful smile. I began to make sense of the terrain and told her I could find my way back to Nkwarungu from here. She said “O.K.” I promised to come again and she asked how I would find my way and I said I would get lost just the same way again. Things work out in Africa.
The hour walk back home was not a good one. Now what? Here in this country full of tragedy I have been successfully focused on the big picture, attempting to do what is best for the most, accepting that you can’t help everyone, and have not let the situation get me down. But something about this young woman who could be my daughter, something about her smile maybe in spite of it all, did me in. Now what? Did the father die of AIDS? Is Rehema HIV positive? What about the kids.? I would rather work with global statistics and concepts. This is too too real. Who’s idea was it to come to Africa?
Let me be the hands of Jesus