Mamajojo's Muse

"Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: To loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and He will say; here am I.
If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
Isaiah 58: 6-11

Saturday, December 4, 2010

I have two sons, and one of my sons has four brothers.
A riddle?
No, just a family blended by the great adventure of ten years in Africa, the tragedy of AIDS, and the joy of adoption. Matthew was born in the US, but grew up in Tanzania, inseparable from his best friend, Will. When Will’s mom lost her battle with AIDS, we adopted him as a young teen and brought him with us when we moved back to Pennsylvania. He now makes us proud as an engineering student at Pitt.

For a few years, we lost track of Will’s youngest brother, Rama, who spent time in a village with relatives. Then, in 2007, my daughter and I visited Mtwara, our old home in Tanzania, and found him, back with his grandmother and the other grandchildren she cared for so well. Sadly, we discovered that Rama, the little boy Will had watched out for as a young boy, had contracted HIV from his mom at birth. But at 13, Rama was still attending school, playing soccer, and growing into a teenager himself.

We had left Tanzania in 2000, when anyone who contracted HIV could expect to live only a few years. But Rama seemed to be doing amazingly well! His brothers and grandmother had been caring for him, faithfully taking him for retroviral medications that PEPFAR had provided to so many in Africa. We were anxious to see him, but the day we visited he was at school, with the same teacher that Will had known years before.

Just before we saw Rama at school, he had been diagnosed with TB, in addition to AIDS. At the time, I was afraid that that would be too much for any boy to bear, but Rama has even beaten TB, and is still thriving! This is more than I had ever hoped for, after having lost my own cousin to AIDS in 1991, and then living in East Africa in the earlier years, when HIV was a hopeless diagnosis.

I am so proud to be part of a nation that extends the miracle of life to kids like Rama, not a stranger or a statistic, but my son’s little brother.

Joanna, Rama, older brother, Jackson

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