“There is someone looking for you,” the caller said, “but she is dead.” The day before, Carmen and an SCCP volunteer had taken a young woman to the hospital in town for treatment. She was 31 years old, HIV positive, and very sick. She had lost the will to live. The caller informed us that she had died at the hospital, and now her body needed to be delivered back to her family. In Zambia if you take someone to the hospital, it’s your responsibility to take them back if they die. Although she was dead, she was “looking” for a final trip home.
Mark and I left the house at 7:30pm to take her body to the village where a crowd had gathered to receive it. They waited in the dark, in the rain, and in sorrow. Four women and a man joined us in the pickup truck. Three sat inside and the others sat in the truck bed with the body of their loved one. The woman in the back wailed in mourning the entire twenty minute ride. As we approached our destination the sound of her wailing intensified and, as if to signal the village that the body had arrived, some of the people who were gathered took up the sorrowful call. The woman had suffered an incredibly painful death. She was connected to one of the local churches, but I do not know if she was saved.
As I witnessed this scene I was struck by a few things. First, this woman had died young – she was only 31. In this part of the world there are few second chances. If you make a mistake you could pay the price with your life. There is no safety net.
Second, HIV is an insidious virus. It hijacks a basic human function which God designed for pleasure and turns it into a vehicle for a painful death. In addition, it is easily transferred through activities that humans are built to desire and need to desire in order to procreate. In the US, HIV/AIDS is still considered a disease of which, if you get it, you were probably deserving. In Zambia, however, it is much more complicated and widespread. Rampant promiscuity means that an innocent husband or wife could contract the disease through no fault of their own. Furthermore, children born to carriers may also be exposed. Progress is being made in the fight against this virus, but there is still a long way to go.
Finally, Samfya is very dark at night. There are no street lights along the main road, not even one. The only light visible comes from shops that have remained open after dark. Once you turn off the main road onto the unpaved village roads, the darkness becomes more intense, even oppressive. The drizzle on that night only added to the sense of captivity. It was almost palpable. This physical darkness mirrors the deep spiritual darkness of this area. Whereas scientific Americans think little of the spirit world, this is not so for the average Zambian. They are painfully aware of the unseen world, and darkness intensifies the awareness.
Thankfully there are plenty of Christians in this area. Would you join me in praying that they would reach out to this family? Pray that the light of the gospel would enlighten the deep darkness, and pray that God would raise up Zambian Christians who are interested in the medical and public health professions. The need is great.