|South African Ladies Praying|
photo credit: Newsday.com
There is a certain point of no return you reach in relationships. The person you know and love is solidly in your heart and you can’t pull back into normal friendship where everyone is supposed ti mind their own business and be friendly and not too familiar. It’s no different in ministry, where you begin relationships that grow and grow and in your heart and then....BOOM! You realize that the person is no longer someone you are “working alongside with” or “helping” or “praying for”...they’re someone you really care about in a way similar to family.
One of these ladies that has worked her way in to my heart is a young woman by the name of Forget. That’s right, her name is Forget. It kind of makes it easy to remember.
Forget lives in Diepsloot extension 11 where there are more shacks than brick houses and only a section has reliable electricity. Her own shack is nothing so special, it’s small and has a double bed, a dresser and a table for her food preparation. It’s been clean every time I’ve visited, even when I’ve surprised her.
Forget runs a prayer group that meets in the courtyard of four separate shacks that face each other. The courtyard is covered with old carpet and sometimes puddles in the rain. Still, the sound of joyful shouting and salvation come from inside of its corners. The ladies are all known to us as “Forget’s Prayer Group”, but they do all have names and I promise I remember them all. These ladies have made a bond of friendship in a harsh place and do their best to take care of one another when things are tough.
Things have been tough lately.
One of the ladies was diagnosed with breast cancer a few months ago and it has spread aggressively. Last week at church Forget told me that Teresa could no longer feed herself and that her breast seemed infected and swollen. I made an appointment to go see her the following day, and when I met her I found it was as she said: bleak. In Teresa’s shack Anna was bathing her and caring for her like a mother cares for a baby. I was touched. How often have I done this for a friend?
“How are you Teresa?” I asked after sitting down. I could tell she was not well. Teresa cried and pleaded for anything to get the pain to stop. We made arrangements for her to go to the hospital the following day and I left after a few hours of planning with Forget’s prayer group. One person to take Teresa, one to wash the bedding while she was gone, how much is taxi fare...etc., etc.
Forget never wavered, speaking matter-of-factly about every detail that would need to be covered. At one point she told me the washing powder was finished and we went to get more at a neighboring spaza. Bessie and I left the place after a good holy dose of prayer that can only be felt if you’ve been in a shack with eight strong Christian women from South Africa. By the time we were done, my ears were ringing.
I kissed Teresa on the head and she began to cry again. In a way I didn’t want to go.
This morning I called Forget to see how the whole thing went at the hospital. She told me some glitches and hiccups, but Teresa was in Helen Joseph where the doctors presented her with even more bleak options for treatment.
“Forget,” I finally said. “How are you?”
“I am feeling fine, Janet.” As is their custom, African women don’t complain. They think it is selfish to unless you are bleeding from the liver or bruised and can’t walk.
“Are you feeling well in your heart?” I ventured further. HOW DO YOU FEEL? I wanted to know. She takes care of everyone and does she feel taken care of?
“I have had an incredible time with God today,” she said. I could tell she was smiling. What a woman! What a rock!
“Okay, Forget,” I said. “If you need to reach me please give me a missed call.” There was silence.
“I think I am alright, Janet.”
“Okay, but just in case...” I persisted.
“Yes, Janet.” A bit of silence again, then “Pray for Teresa.”
“I will,” I said. “I am.”
And then we hung up.
I walked to the car with Mario who was on his way to another meeting. I wanted to go back to extension 11 to check in on Forget. I have never had this feeling before about anyone other than my own kids and Portia.
“Babe,” I asked Mario as we got into the car. “Do we have time to go to Helen Joseph?”
“Not today, babe,” he said. “What happened?”
And as I told him, I asked him if we might go tomorrow. Our day off, but no appointments.
As I type now, I am supposed to be answering emails. I keep getting distracted and returning to thoughts of her.
Forget, my strong friend who needs a hug.