Thursday, September 20, 2007

Learning from Hannah

Hannah was sitting on her bed in her 8' x 10' mud-walled room, some clothes bundled up behind her for support. The wooden shutter was pushed all the way the let in as much sunshine as one can get through a little hole in the wall. And today, it seemed like the sun was shining brightly outside and inside.

As I rubbed her feet, it was just skin and bones. As is the rest of her body, really. Her knees stand out like huge balls compared the the bony leg on either side. Yet, the most amazing joy filled the room.

She's hardly older than I am, this mother of four. "My mother used to be a very hard worker," her second-born, Nancy, told me as we walked to my car later. "She really struggled to put us through school. But my sister and I had just completed Form 4 (12th grade) when things got bad..."

Nancy's eyes welled up with tears. "Some days, I don't know if I can make it. I have asked God many times, why could I finish Form 4 and now I am stuck at home? He could heal my mother, and then I could continue with my life."

Nancy and her sister takes such good care of their mother. Nowhere on her body is there any sign of skin breakdown. Her hair is combed. Her sheets are clean. She is clean.

"Look!" Hannah had told me soon after I got seated at the foot of her bed. "It's so clean!" She reached her bony hand out and I admired it. It's not like they knew we were coming. We simply showed up at their house this morning in order to drop off some more meds. And good body moisturizer.

And chicken livers. Hannah had told us on Sunday that she's been craving chicken livers. A lot. As we handed her the bag with some papayas and the frozen chicken livers, she held it up in the air, thanking God sincerely for his provision.

At times, it's hard to make out what she says.

At first, it was hard to look at her.

But in the two visits I've paid to her home, Hannah has found a place in my heart. Today, she wanted to sing worship songs. "She really has a song in her heart," Nancy explained. Hannah started singing her favorite Luya chorus, and her daughter joined in. The other children and their father came to stand in the small doorway, next to the roosting chicken. They joined the singing.

Juli shared some thoughts from John 14 and 15 as everyone listened. We prayed Psalm 23 together in multiple languages, with Hannah sticking her bony arm into the air saying her only English phrase over and over. "Thank you. Thank you very much."

"God is so good, my daughters," she told us in Kiswahili. "He has done a good thing..."

I had to fight back the tears, amazed at this woman's faith.

When you look at her, you won't think she has anything to praise God for. But as Juli started another chorus and our colleague Phoebe continued leading song after song, the room was filled with the most amazing, spontaneous worship.

"I have not felt God's presence so strongly in a long time," Phoebe commented later.

It is true. God dwells in that room. He is the one who carries Hannah, the one who encourages her husband and the children. If one thing - no, two things - are evident, is that they love God, and that they love Hannah.

With this family, I honestly am believing that God will heal Hannah! Even though the odds are stacked against her.

Hannah has a huge tumor in her face. It showed up three years ago, and at this stage, it is inoperable. The tumor has destroyed much of the bone on the left side of her face. Her left eye, in fact, sort of sits on the side of her head. Her nose is deformed because of the tumor, so it's hard for her to breathe. It's also hard to swallow since the tumor is pushing into her mouth cavity. Some of her teeth have fallen out.

But today, Hannah was eating. Slowly. But she was eating. The meds we had taken on Sunday was helping. Yet she seemed more concerned about what we might be eating. "Are you having chai, my daughter?" she asked me. "Good!"

And she was singing. Hard as it was for her to sing, she sang. "It has been a while since I've sung," she said. "But God has put a song back in my heart."

Later, her husband poked his head back in the door. "I have a verse for you girls. You can read it at home. I believe it is for you. Go and read Hosea 2:19-20."

As we left, the family asked that we please come back. We will. Perhaps to encourage Hannah and Nancy. Perhaps to be encouraged by this family's faith.

What a gift it is to see God work in the lives of people like Hannah, and the Sifunas, and the countless others around me. What a gift to walk this journey with God. My God. My husband.

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