An AIDs Hospital
his describes one of the more life changing events in my life. It happened 3 summers ago in Mozambique. I thought it pertinent for this site as my wife and I prepare to embark full time to Africa.
Every week without fail, Luis makes two trips: one to the Maputo jail and one to an AIDs hospital. While staying at the orphanage, we had the opportunity to join him in these missions. Today I’ll turn your attentions to our time at the AIDs hospital. Looking back, it was one of the more impacting times for myself (and I think that I’m not the only one of the eleven of us who would say that).
About the Hospital
The hospital was actually in the town we were staying in, Matola. It is divided into gendered floors, the bottom couple being for the newer patients and the upper couple for the highly contagious terminal patients. We rode a chappa to the hospital and upon exiting were met with an interesting site. The building itself looks kind of like any other bland government building — honestly there is not much to set it apart. It is surrounded by a fence with a gate but security wasn’t an issue. I expected to have to go through something in order to get in, but we just walked right on through the gate (I don’t think the security booth was even being manned by anyone at the time). Upon entering the hospital we were met with drab, dark halls on the bottom floor. It was rather depressing — in comparison our hospitals look like amazingly bright and cheery places. I remember the colors as gray scale and just blah. The second and third floors weren’t much better although numerous windows made for a much brighter atmosphere. On these patient floors, the stairs emptied into a kind of common room that had tables and chairs setup (it was here we talked to and prayed with the patients). On either side of the common rooms were the halls with patient rooms.
About the Patients
All of the patients here had AIDs. Most had other, secondary diseases as well, the most common being tuberculosis. Generally speaking, its not AIDs that kills people — its the opportunistic secondary diseases that their bodies can’t take care because of immunodeficiency. The onset of these diseases is generally what takes people to these hospitals to spend their final days. The patients on the two floors we couldn’t go onto where in their final stage of life. The highly contagious form of tuberculosis is mostly what we heard they had. The plan in future years is to bring HEPA masks and robes so that we can go onto these floors but lack of appropriate safety equipment kept us from talking with these patients this time.
The patients on the two floors we could go onto where dieing as well, some from diseases other than tuberculosis, I would guess. Many of them looked too weak to even be up and moving around, but come out they did. I remember praying for one woman, my hand on her shoulder as we generally did, and quickly moving my hand off in fear that I would break her. It felt like i was touching bone (and that’s all most of these individuals were — skin and bones).
Sharing and Praying
All eleven of us did not descend on the hospital at once; rather, five went the first week and six the next. I went in the first group. We had originally thought that we would just be going around to rooms, chatting briefly and then praying with the occupants. The common room was a surprise to us (as was Luis telling us that someone needed to stand up and share). I decided that I would take the opportunity to do that on the guys floor and felt led to share briefly and broadly about what I was reading in Isaiah and how their lives were important to us and more importantly, were important to Jesus. We then paired up and prayed for everyone of them. We next went up to the girls floor and did the same. As the “have something to share” thing to our group slightly by surprise, none of the ladies with us had anything in particularly to share so I once again took the lead. Rather than talk about the same thing I did on the guys floor, I decided that it’d be much more worthwhile to talk about Hosea. Don’t ask me why — it was a last minute change as when I stood up the Isaiah bit was still on my mind — but Hosea it was and it seemed to go alright. And after the sharing we followed the same routine, praying for everyone individually.
The Aftermath of the Visit
There were several important aspects of this visit. If I haven’t said it before, I’ll say it right now — this was one of the most important things we did in my mind. At least, it was one of the most impacting things we did to me. For one thing it was one of the more emotional things we did. I’m generally not an emotional dude but it was impossible not to tear up, standing in front of these hopeless, dieing people and not tear up. Their environment just felt wrong and depressing. They really had no hope to ever leave that hospital. They knew there days were numbered and that there was pretty much nothing that they could do about it. And what where we to do? How where we to pray knowing that it would take one crazy miracle of God to ever get them free of that hospital? It’s important to be able to look deep inside of the dark and hopeless places and know that the light of God can penetrate even there and that’s what we were there to do, and what Luis is there to do week after week. It’d be easy to find places like this here in the states but we shelter ourselves off from it for no good reason. That’s definitely one thought I took away.
Other things I took away were much more trivial (or at least they feel trivial compared to the above). One — God will give you the words if you trust. Two — I want to be given the words more, I need to put myself in that kind of situation more, however you want to word that. Three — One of the oddest sites I have ever seen occurred on the ride to the hospital (because it happened on the way there, and with everything else going on, it’s automatically lumped with the hospital experience in my brain even though it doesn’t necessarily deal directly with it). As we were driving past a poor village, one much like the one I’ve posted pictures of with dirty roads and small poorly built houses that lack what we consider basic needs (running water, etc), I never expected to see a brand new, blazingly clean and white, four door Mercedes sedan pull out from its dirty streets. The contrast of rich and poor was never clearer (or more inappropriate, or so it felt). That will be a fuller conversation for another post yet it is tied intimately to the whole hospital experience, which is why I mention it here.
I would post pictures but I don’t have any of the hospital. It is illegal in Mozambique to take pictures of government building, monuments and officials and not knowing if the hospital falled into one of those categories I decided against whipping my camera out. Better a post without pictures than time in a Mozambiquan jail I think. The lack of color in this post is more fitting anyways to the environment of the hospital I think.