Single file we climbed through the small door to enter the home for our first home visit. As I made my way inside my eyes took a few moments to adjust to the darkness that now surrounded us. I felt my way to sit next to Barbra as I was instructed and began to take in my surroundings. We had entered the home of a family of 5. As I looked around me I took in the dimensions of the one room house, we were now sitting in. The width of the room was no more than 1.5 meters wide, and approximately 3 meters long. 3/4 of the room was taken up with a wooden structure that was the bed. The remaining 1/4 of the space housed the families worldly possessions – some cooking pots, plates and cups on some roughly built shelving. Once we were all in we closed the door. The darkness enveloped us. There were no windows and no airflow. Sweat was rolling down the back of my legs from the heat. This is no place for a mother to be raising her four children, however this is the home of Sithelo, a 28 year old, mother of four.
Sithelo has been abandoned by her husband, and the house the family used to stay in was burnt down. With no income to support the family, Sithelo is struggling to pay the rent for this tiny dwelling and faces being evicted from the premises.
As we sat and chatted with Sithelo, she just stared towards the door. I could not but help notice the despondency in her eyes. Life has been hard on her. At the age of 3, she was herself orphaned. She has not known a life with a mother or a father. I can only imagine that when her husband came along and she was married, how her heart must have leapt at the hope of a better life, only to have that hope shattered again when one day he left and never came back. And now she was faced with the challenge of raising 4 boys alone: a 10 year old, 7 year old, 4 year old and a 3 month old.
In stark contrast to the despondency in Sithelos eyes, I could not help but notice the hope and life in baby Rufaro’s eyes. At the age of 3 months, he is currently blissfully unaware of the utterly vulnerable situation he has been born into and like any baby was smiling and chatting away as we sat together with this family. I wonder how long it will take for him to realise how hard life really is for him and his family? Will one day he grow to have the same look of despondency in his eyes as his mother? It is my prayer this is not the case, but he is facing a very tough reality, if he even makes it to adulthood.
In an attempt to provide for her family, the only option Sithelo has is to walk 15km to a location where she can collect firewood, carry this back with her, and attempt to sell this for 5 Rand (approx. 50 cents) to be able to provide a small amount of food for the family. The three older boys attend Sakubva Christian Caring Trust, one of our Community Based Organisations (CBO) in Zimbabwe, where they do receive a meal a day. They are also attending the nursery school at the CBO, as Sithelo cannot afford the fees to send the boys to school.
As we sat together and time went on, John (one of our Zimbabwe field coordinators who I was visiting the home with) asked Sithelo what her favourite song was. Her response was to lead us all in singing:
You are faithful Oh Lord,
You are faithful Oh Lord,
Every day and every hour,
You are faithful Oh Lord.
A song I have sung many times over, but as we sat in this small dark room, the power of the words struck me and I was challenged in my own faith. I held back the tears from rolling down my face. How could this beautiful girl, younger than myself and yet facing such hardship and trouble. How could this be her favourite song to sing? Would I be able to genuinely sing this song if I found myself in her situation? Honestly I am not sure I could/would.
When asked why this song was her favourite, she communicated that when she sung it, it did something in her heart; she felt encouraged in her heart. And so we sang it again. And then we prayed. And I have to trust that God holds this family in His hand and will provide for them and make a way even though everything within me sees and thinks this is such a hopeless situation. My heart is broken for them and I am not sure how to respond. Everything within me wants to fix the situation, and yet anything I could or would do, would only be a temporary fix. I have to trust that God is enough. That prayer can make a difference. That God loves this family – Sithelo and each one of those boys more than I do, and has plans and purposes for their lives as much as he does for mine. I am challenged to trust in God’s faithfulness as much as Sithelo.