The Family Shelter is the place where relatives of the patients stay while their loved ones are hospitalized. The concept is similar to our Ronald McDonald House, but there the similarity ends.
When I arrive to teach the class, around 25 ladies are already seated Zambian style with their legs straight out in front of them. We sing a few songs and then I teach my lesson with the help of an interpreter.
As I teach, the toddlers crawl over and around their mothers, and occasionally an infant or two will fuss and cry. Flies are everywhere, and I find myself swishing them away from my face as I teach. The women’s faces are tired and strained from stress and worry. I teach something that will encourage them—a message of hope and assurance that God cares. After the lesson, the college girls sing to the ladies. The girls sing in beautiful harmony, their hearts poured into the melody and the words, and I have to choke back the tears as I watch the ladies in the room. Some close their eyes in contemplation. Others mouth the words or join in on familiar songs. A few just listen.
When we can, we bring food to pass out after the lesson. Bernard, a local evangelist, handles this. The ladies bring their plates, bowls, or plastic bags and line up. Bernard uses the tailgate as his table and scoops mealie meal (cornmeal) or dehydrated food powder into their containers.
A message of hope, the blessing of songs, and nourishment for the body. These are the small gifts we offer to the women who wait and watch.