Friday, November 30, 2012

Miriam and Esther's Story: World AIDS Day

My name is Miriam and I had my tenth birthday last week.  I did not have a party or a cake because I was very sick.  I had AIDS.  But I was only ten for six days because today was my funeral.  So many of my friends and classmates came to my funeral and they were so sad.  Teacher came, too and she was crying for me because I was first in my class.  She knows how much I loved school, especially English.  She knows that I wanted to be a teacher, too, and she was sad for me because I did not reach my goal.  

Pastor and our choir teacher from church, Jonas, were there, too.  I loved to go to church and sing as much as I loved to go to school.  Pastor read a poem that I wrote about how much I loved to sing English songs about Jesus.  It made him smile.  All of my friends from the choir danced and sang and the girls brought flowers to put on my grave.  Aren't they pretty? 

I am sad to leave behind my baby sister, Esther, to be an orphan all alone now.  She has been very angry at God since I got sick and she just doesn't understand why I died.  She was crying the most at the funeral and stayed back when they put the flowers on my grave.  See her back there?  I think she did not want to see them cover me up with dirt.  Or maybe she was remembering Mama's funeral two years ago.  She would not remember Daddy's funeral because she was so little when he died.  I was only 6 then.

I hope Esther knows that things will not be like they used to be for us after Mama's funeral.  You see, we lived on the street for 6 months and it was very scary.  We were afraid someone would hurt us and we were hungry all the time.  But that was before we met our choir teacher, Jonas.  He saw us begging for food and invited us to his church.  He said there would be free food to eat and that we could sing in the choir, so of course we went!  He told us that even if we did not have a Father on earth anymore, we have a Father in Heaven who loves us and cares for us.  He told us about how He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins.  He told us that Jesus rose from the grave, overcoming death and sin and everything bad.  He told us how Jesus loves us and wants to take care of us if we put our trust in Him.  I knew Jonas was telling me the truth.  Miriam said she had to think about it some more, but I didn't!  It was the very best thing that ever happened to me.  I was so happy and no longer felt so all alone and sad, even when I started to get so sick.  It filled my heart with joy to sing to Jesus to thank him for loving a poor orphan girl like me.  I hope Miriam will trust Jesus, too.  Will you pray for her?

The second best thing that ever happened to me was when Jonas took us to live with Auntie Sarah.  She sings in the choir, just like Mama did.  And she is a widow whose husband died of AIDS, just like Mama, too.  You see, our church has a program to help widows and orphans, and that is how we met our Auntie Sarah.  Widows and families in our church take in orphans and care for them just like they are their own kids.  Really nice Christians from Canada and America send money to help them buy food for us and to help with our school supplies and school fees, too.  

But Tanzania is such a poor country and we still couldn't make ends meet.  There was not enough for medicines or enough healthy food for me.  Auntie Sarah tried very hard, but she did not know how to to take care of me when I got sick.  And many of the other families don't know how to take care of their orphans, either.  Some of my friends have special problems because they lived on the streets longer than Esther and I did and mean people hurt them.  No one ever hurt us, but many of them suffered terrible things before they got their new families.  Some of them still run away and are even mean to their new parents.  Some of them have bad dreams and cry alot, too.  We used to pray for those kids and families every day because many days nobody knew what else to do to help them. 

One day at church, Jonas told us that he had been praying for six years that God would bring back his friend, Ms. Kay, to help teach the aunties and families how to take care of us and to help him with the orphans and widows program.  He said that Ms. Kay is an American lady who used to live here as a missionary and teach English and work with the youth in our church.  He said that she is a counselor and has worked with many special kids--in America and Tanzania--just like us!  On the day I went to the hospital and they told me that I had AIDS, he came to our house and told us that Ms. Kay was coming back!  God had answered his prayer!  I was very happy because you know how much I love English, and I was thinking that she would be able to help me get really good at it!  And  that she would have so much to teach us about Jesus!  Oh, and she would teach me more English songs, too! 

Well, now that I have died, I will not get to meet Ms. Kay when she returns to my beautiful country of Tanzania.  But I am so happy that she will be coming to help all the families taking care of orphans at our church.  I hope she will teach the widows and other parents more about how to care for my friends who are sick.  I hope she will help my friends to stop being so sad and to stop running away so much. But most of all, I hope she will show God's love to Esther so that she will trust Jesus like I did.  Because He loves her more than I ever can and He will take better care of her than even Auntie Sarah does.  Yes, this is what I hope for most of all!

*The story of Miriam and Esther is a fictional account based on the above picture of an actual funeral of one of the girls in the Orphans and Widows of Nyanza (OWN) Program. She and her parents did die of AIDS and she is survived by a sister who is living with one of the widows being supported by the program.

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