Tomorrow a young
mother will be buried next to her father near her childhood home in rural
Kenya. She leaves behind her three-year old daughter. Janet’s story is a bleak
reminder of the need for improved healthcare for those who cannot afford to
She had grown used to the shame that surrounded her. Shame
infected her like the HIV she carried in her body. Separated from her husband. Shunned. Alone.
Now lying sick in a hospital bed with some undiagnosed, misdiagnosed,
misunderstood illness that left her body reduced to fevers, head-to-toe peeling
skin and intractable pain. Nurses,
repelled by the sight, wouldn’t touch her. Did their whispers and their unwillingness
to care, reach through her fog of pain?
What did she know? What could she hear? Who could she trust?
Left alone, she would have suffered even more, but through
the haze of ignorance, came mercy. Mercy embodied in two women, her older
sister, Mary and another relative, Rose, who tended to her 24 hours a day during
her two- week ordeal. Their hands gently cleansed her pain- wracked body, wiped
her fevered brow, changed her sheets and bedclothes. Their voices softly spoke
familiar words of comfort, words of prayer. Their voices sung hymns through
tears, as they helplessly witnessed the decline of one they knew and loved.
Embodied mercy. Jesus came bearing mercy in His body, to
live among us and heal us in body and soul.
Jesus’ love knew no boundaries. He touched, embraced and healed those
afflicted with leprosy and other “shameful” diseases that rendered a person
unclean, untouchable. Jesus entered into a person’s shame and suffering,
embraced it and released them from it, thus restoring them to community.
Jesus still brings mercy to those who suffer in body and
soul. He brings mercy to those who are broken like you and me. In the face of
fear and shame, mercy comes. It comes not with great fanfare, but in humility,
doing what is necessary and compassionate. It comes not to bring attention to
oneself, but to give attention to those who are suffering and in need. It comes
through women like Mary and Rose who embodied Christ’s mercy and brought
compassion and care to Janet in her great suffering. It is embodied in us as we
care for one another.
Sadly, Janet, age 34, died fourteen days after struggling
with intense pain. Likely, she suffered from toxic shock syndrome which left
her body succumbing to great infection, causing intense pain from organ
failure, peeling skin and the lack of care from medical staff due to fear and
misunderstanding. But, she died in the tenderness of love and mercy. She died
in Christ whose love embraced her throughout her great suffering and pain.
The mercy of Mary and Rose is reflected beautifully in The
Leper’s Return–a gift of St. Francis by the poet Scott Cairns. In
this poem, Cairns writes of another saint known for his mercy, St. Francis of
Assisi (born 1182 AD). After his conversion to Christianity, one day while
riding in the forest outside of Assisi, Francis saw a leper. Instinctively,
Francis drew back in fear. Victims of leprosy, were objects of great dread. They
were required to carry a wooden bell or clacker, singing out “Beware! Leprosy.
Beware!” Then Francis decided that he must embrace the thing he feared most. He
grasped the mangled limbs and embraced the withered body of the leper, and in
doing so realized he was embracing Christ Jesus.
The Leper’s Return
gift of Saint Francis
He had grown used to the fear he brought
to every soul he passed along the road,
though the chagrin he bore inside became
a bitterness worse that the fetid taste
that never left his mouth.
He could not bear
to stay near town for long, nor could he yet
walk far enough away.
His days were marked
in varied degrees of suffering, varied
degrees of shame. So
when the brilliant youth
stood trembling, waiting in the road ahead,
he felt the weight of his long burden briefly
lift, and when the youth rushed to embrace him,
the leper started to discern his body
gently held, and held in firm, benevolent
esteem, and when he felt the kiss across
his ruined cheek, he found forgotten light
returning to his eyes, and looked to meet
the brother light approaching from the young man’s
beaming face. Each
man blessed the other
with this light that then became the way,
thereafter, each would travel every road.
Compass of Affection
Let us be Christ’s light and
mercy in the world. Let us embrace and bear one another’s burdens in love
whether close by or far away.
Besides the grief of her illness
and death, Janet’s family is burdened with the cost of her hospital stay and
now the funeral expenses. Janet is the sister of Mary Chuchu (wife of Pastor
David Chuchu). David and Mary will take Janet’s daughter into their home and
care for her as their own.
Mary and David Chuchu–embodied Mercy
Donations may be sent to Holy
Cross Lutheran Church (earmarked for Kenya). 4701 Grove St. Rocklin, CA 95677
Janet’s plight has rekindled the dream Pastor David Chuchu and I have
of adding a hospital and hospice to the existing clinic building, so that those
in need, like Janet, might be given care born of mercy, compassion and
competence, instead of fear and ignorance.
via Always Mercy http://ift.tt/2l1EcWS