Wednesday, April 18, 2012

“My favorite color is purple! When I was a little girl I had a purple dress!” She said. “Next time can you make my finger nails to be purple?” She struggled to push out each word; just that one sentence left her exhausted. She looked over at me from where she lay. Breathless. But I was unable to look back at the woman stretched out in front of me. My eyes quickly found the tiled floor where I sat. I wanted to hide the stream of tears that was now freely flowing. She asked again. “Mamma Selah, please?” I looked up into her big brown eyes that were sunken deep into her beautiful brown face and said, “Of course we can!” And just as she used everything in her to form those few words it took everything in me to smile. But my smile only went as far as my lips because inside I know that there would not be a next time…

On that warm December night our home was very quiet. It was December 25th. Christmas night. I had come home early from dinner with some of the best friends anyone could ever ask for. I was filled with good food and encouragement as I made my way back to a practically empty and dark malnutrition center. Our big brick house that’s normally ever booming with people, noise, and light was strangely still. This night as I opened the squeaky front door and I stepped into the house I could hear only the crickets outside, and the hum of a refrigerator...but as I moved into the stillness there were faint voices heard in the distance. In the darkness there was light streaming from one small yellow room. I closed the door and made my way through the house, my footsteps echoing in the empty hall, toward the soft voices where 2 ladies that are very near to my heart met me with smiles…

I relieved one of our workers who had come to sit with our only remaining patient, Lydia a 23 year old mother of 3 who had become a dear friend of mine.

For weeks we had been preparing children who were enrolled in our program for discharge-we had pretty much cleared the center out. So by the time Christmas morning came we only had 2 children remaining at our house. Well, one child and one adult. They were both unable to go home because they were in such a severe, advanced state of malnutrition. They both required 24-hour a day care so as others left for home, they remained…

Lydia had lived in our community since before I ever moved to Masese. Over the past few years I have gone through a lot with this sweet friend. We used to buy bananas for feeding program from her. Her oldest son, Allafat was enrolled into our program for 2 months back in 2009. He is now fat and healthy and we see him at our gate and running around near our house almost daily! I sat with her in her empty house after she delivered stillborn twins. I picked her up off the dirt floor and attempted to offer comfort, to tell her that it would be ok even though I knew nothing about losing the life that’s been growing inside of you is just ok. I tested her for HIV and took her to start on ARV treatment when the result was positive. She stayed at my house after her husband forced her out and refused to allow her to see their children. I walked to their house everyday for a week trying to convince him to change his mind. I was there when she delivered a happy, healthy baby girl! I looked in horror as I was told that my friend was dying of anemia because there was no blood. I drove like a mad woman to a small Catholic hospital in the middle of a sugar cane field because they had one unit of blood. I went to the hospital every day with food and literally watched her come back life over the course of a week. I prayed with her every day. Everyday. I sat in the lab with her as she told me that she wanted to know Jesus in her own heart!!! And then she moved to “the village” to stay with her family for a while….

6 months later I got a phone call from her brother who said that Lydia was very sick, so the next morning we went to visit. I don’t think there was a whole lot that could have prepared us for what we would see…

Standing before us was the same woman I’ve always known; when I looked into her eyes I saw little difference but as I looked at her physical body I didn’t see the friend I’d grown to know and love. I saw a frail, thin, tired, very sick woman. My heart broke. I tried not to show the shock I was feeling on my face. When we moved Lydia into our house the next day she weighed a meager 53 pounds. 53.

For days we forced her to take her medicine, eat and drink. It was a constant battle; she had seemingly lost all desire to live. She refused to take the medication that was her only chance at life. We tried and tried. She was counseled, prayed with, prayed over, and over and over again. But as the days passed she continued to grow weaker. She lost the strength to walk, and then even to sit on her own. We were told that there was nothing more we could do. So we just did all we knew. Pray without ceasing, and love unconditionally.

So Christmas day… There we sat, two people, broken and hurting. For different reasons that seemingly felt very much the same. Two people from opposite worlds who had yet been brought together by the God who created us both.

Two people at a loss for words, or was it just that we were unable to speak them…

Earlier that day the other baby girl who had remained, died. She fought so hard but her fragile body just could fight no more. She was in so much pain. God decided to take her to be with him; I know there was a celebration in Heaven as she made her way through those big golden gates!

So there we were at the end of the day, Lydia’s hand in mine. It’s hard to say whether I was holding her hand, or if she was really holding mine. I guess it’s safe to say that we were comforting each other in the silence of those few moments. It was then that I noticed her long beautiful fingers... So much of her body had been overtaken, consumed by her sickness. She was scarcely recognizable. But her hands. And her feet. They remained the same. Almost untouched! I rushed upstairs and dug through my bathroom. After finding what I was in search of I ran back down. She lay still in bed, just the way I left her-her skeletal figure almost invisible underneath a single sheet.

I sat down near her and spoke softly. “Would you like me to paint your finger nails?” She slowly opened her eyes and barely nodded in response.

I picked up one of her limp hands and started to change her dull nails into a bright shade of red! I painted each fingernail slowly, with care. Praying healing over her body. Praying for God to restore strength. To renew what had been lost… To give her the opportunity to use her hands for His glory; to allow her the privilege of holding her baby girl again, even just once more…so that the next time I could paint her fingers purple… because purple was her favorite!

The next day God decided it was time to restore Lydia, to make her completely whole by taking her to be with Him. It was sad to say goodbye. But I know I’ll see her again, dancing in heaven, clothed in many shades of purple!


  1. I LOVE your blog. Every post touches my heart and brings me to tears.
    Thank You for sharing & doing what you do.
    May God truly bless you!!!

  2. Thank you for finding a way to share such pain and such faith! Thank you for allowing our Lord to use you in such a way! God Bless you. I am praying for you, all of you! Hugs to you, from someone you do not know!

  3. Amazing story...I'm a missionary in Haiti and could relate to so much of what you wrote. Thanks for sharing your heart and being the hands of Jesus to this precious lady!

  4. Renee- I have the stomach flu and feel physically miserable tonight. I sometimes grow so weary. This story has encouraged my heart to keep going and has put things in perspective again. His Mercy fails me not. I look forward to meeting Lydia one day soon in purple robes of majesty, with a healed, healthy, perfect body. He is Faithful.

    Praying your heart is encouraged too sister. -Alisha

  5. Kaitlyn from MichiganApril 21, 2012 at 10:12 PM

    Thank you so much for sharing... thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus and pouring out His love, even when it hurts. Beautiful to see, to read, and to be challenged by in my own life..

    BLESS you, Renee.. I know HE will continue to give you strength and grace; believe it and rest on His Word, don't ever give up.


  6. Oh, Renee. this blessed my heart. and moved me to tears. as you so often your life so often does. You are such a light. shining for the true Light. You are the hands and feet. You are love lived out because of the Love inside of you. You bless my life. and the lives of countless other believers, children of God, and least of these.
    Oh, how He is using you for the kingdom, Renee. How He is using your heart - your precious, tender, compassionate, Jesus-filled-to-overflowing heart to touch the least of these. Bless you, girl. I know He is, but praying over you, this precious ministry that He has given you, and praying for each one that you are able to touch and influence for Christ. Jesus just radiates from you. and I praise His name that each one that leaves your loving hands down here and enters His waiting arms up blessed beyond measure for having known Jesus through you.
    Love ya, girl.

    Amy Washington

  7. Renee your compassion and heart for others has always inspired me... Since we were kids ive been blessed to call you friend and sister thank you for sharing

  8. Your heart and your hope is so inspiring even in midst of death that surrounds you, Renee.
    Thank you for breaking open for love and moving me to be more broken.
    Praying for you

  9. Renee, I'm sorry you lost your friend. Sometimes when I read your blog, I read your words...and because you're so good at getting HIS point across I fail to remember a very human person wrote those words from an experience. And experience that was very real and hurt very much. So, I'm sorry for your heart and that hurt. I am thankful that our God's promises are true, too, because-like you-I believe that's the only thing that can bring us comfort. You will see her again, healthy and happy. And she will hold her babies again. You have a beautiful crown and many loved ones waiting for you in Heaven, Renee. May your heart find peace and comfort and encouragement in the hard days.