Iris Malawi is grieving this week. Ruth Khofi joined our Iris family just as we were finishing building our third girls home about 7 years ago. Each time we brought home another girl, she opened her arms and her heart to receive them as her own. She was gentle and kind, yet also firm when life with 15 girls required it. She was not physically strong and endured both a stroke and a broken leg while mothering Girls 3. Yet, she had an inner strength and God used her need for assistance to hasten the bonds between her and the girls. Nothing is wasted in the Kingdom of heaven, especially not weakness.
Ruth had not felt well all week, and eventually went to the hospital where she was given malaria treatment. She came home and rested and seemed to be recovering. On Monday morning, she was alert and happy, reading her Bible, but then took a downturn. Our local clinic sent her to a bigger hospital, where she died late in the afternoon. We received the news around 6 and immediately told the girls. As I sat in their home, listening to their wailing, and taking in the heart-wrenching sobs, I realized that only Jesus could be their comfort. I prayed and sang and held those who came close, and Jesus did meet us in our grief, amidst our tears.
Later that evening, the whole family met for a time of worship and prayer that had been arranged before we received the news. We gave thanks and remembered Ruth. We wept together and invited the Lord to be our comfort. Having loved Ruth, we grieve, but we are grateful to have known her love.
The Bangula community gathered to grieve Ruth's passing on Tuesday afternoon. There were many people in attendance but we sat in groups of 50. One of our pastors preached a sermon on John 4, the woman at the well. In that story, the woman leaves her water jug at the well and goes to tell the people in her village that she has met the Saviour. How could I have missed this significant detail? She left her bucket and ran. You can't run with a water bucket. There was urgency to tell others what she had discovered. The pastor asked us, 'What do you need to put down and leave behind?' Ruth chose to leave her family, her church, where she was a valued member, and her independence, so that she could love 15 beautiful girls.
Also at Nsanje Hospital, one of our Iris boys is facing a different kind of crisis. Andrew (not his real name) was slashing grass last week near one of the kitchens. He was bitten by either a snake or a poisonous spider, but did not realize it until many hours later. His foot was very swollen and sore and we took him to the local clinic where they started him on antibiotics. At that time we thought it was a thorn lodged near his ankle. The next day his ankle was much more swollen and developing large blisters. He was sent to Nsanje Hospital where they treated him for a snake bite. A large part of his foot has been destroyed by the poison and he is in surgery right now, to remove what is dead and make room for new growth. It is likely to be a long road involving a skin graft. Andrew is supposed to be starting Form 1 when schools open. Please pray for his swift recovery.
I take comfort from 2 Cor.4:7-12: 'But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.' NLT