Yesterday the veterinary authority called to report that Simba’s autopsy test came back positive for rabies. We were SHOCKED to hear this because Simba had his rabies shot last December and the next one was not due until over a month from now. We were also extremely shaken up over this because of our kids who were bitten. Simba bit Mauricio a few days earlier when he accidentally put his chair on Simba’s leg, which caused Simba to cry and bite him in self defense (one small bite that did not bleed but was still a bite). We all loved Simba and played with him constantly but do not think anyone else was infected by him, though the whole thing is so creepy and horrible to think about (for me at least).
Today Isaque, Mauricio, and a neighbor lady all began receiving anti-rabies treatment from the veterinary authority – they all got the first in a series of five injections. Please pray for them and please pray for the whole orphanage concerning this matter. Please pray that the ones bitten will be completely healed with no further complications. And please pray that no other person was somehow infected without us knowing. This has been a very traumatic experience for all of us. Simba is the first and only pet anyone at the orphanage has ever had. He was a great little dog until Thursday when he turned into a monster. It seems like all the kids (including the ones bitten) are doing okay and it seems like the veterinary authority here has experience handling this type of situation, as rabies is much more common here than in the U.S. Please just keep us all in your prayers and ask God to continue protecting and watching over all of us (and our neighbors), especially concerning this scary matter.
Isaque, age 15, was viciously attacked and had huge bite wounds all over his hands and arms. He is a fantastic kid, always looks out for younger children, is always willing to help others, and loved playing with Simba before this happened. He seems like he’s doing okay and continues hanging out and talking with his friends. Please pray that the anti-rabies treatment works perfectly on him and that he is healed without any further problems.
Mauricio, age 12, was bitten one time on the back when he accidentally put his chair on Simba’s leg. He is also a great kid – quiet, kind, and dearly loved by all the boys his age AND everyone thinks he looks like the president of Mozambique. He seems to be doing okay and is still playing with his friends. Please pray that the anti-rabies treatment also works perfectly on him and that he is healed without any further problems.
Other Very Sad Story - Jackson
Besides the Simba incident we had several other very very difficult things that we had to deal with this week. One that we would like to share is the death of a young man in our church named Jackson who sang in the youth choir and was good friends with all the kids in the orphanage. About two months ago Jackson felt very sick and thought he might have malaria. He went to the hospital and they could see that there was clearly something wrong but found that it was not malaria or any other illness they are familiar with here. Jackson stayed in the hospital from then on and got worse and worse. According to everyone from church who visited him and said they saw this, Jackson then began vomiting up bones, even though he had never eaten anything with bones in it. To me this sounds impossible but everyone here says it is “witchcraft.”
In Mozambique people have been practicing animism/witchcraft for hundreds of years. This includes praying and sacrificing to ancestor spirits, concocting potions and spells to try to make something happen, and lots of other very bad stuff that ends up harming people very very badly physically and spiritually. As Jackson got worse he started asking friends to clean out his baracca (little stand that people sell stuff from) and they found a lot of witchcraft items in there. He also kept telling people to take the bones he had been throwing up and give them to Victor. Since Victor is a pastor I think he imagined that Victor would do something with the bones to undo the witchcraft or something. But Victor reprimanded the people who were bringing the bones and told them he didn’t even want to see them and that as Christians we don’t need to and should not have anything to do with stuff like that.
Victor and other pastors here constantly preach and counsel people to separate themselves completely from all witchcraft practices. But it is very very difficult for many to give up a belief system that has been practiced in their families for endless generations. It is very normal to find Christians in church who have little witchcraft charms tied around their waists under their clothes – they are too frightened to give that up as they believe it is protecting them. When a family here has a serious illness or other problem and they don’t think God is taking care of it, they often revert to witchcraft, even if they are Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, or any other religion.
So a few days ago Jackson died in the hospital. The doctors never figured out what was wrong with him. We believe that he was a Christian but had been struggling to free himself from witchcraft for a long time and was finally discarding all the items involved during the last days before his death. I’ve never heard of someone “throwing up bones” before but nobody here is skeptical or surprised to hear about it.
Victor did Jackson’s funeral on Thursday and it went really well. A lot of people in the neighborhood who are not in the church community were there and seemed very interested in the message. Victor talked about how we would all honor Jackson by remembering the good things about him even though he, like all of us, had both strengths and weaknesses. Victor talked about the importance of living a life in Christ and nothing else and what it means to be a Christian. We hope that Jackson's family and friends who knew how he was trying to rid himself from the bad things in his last days will not wait until they think they are going to die to do the same. Jackson still had things he wanted to do before he passed away and he didn’t get that chance. Jackson’s death was very sad. We hope that somehow whatever happened, though still very mysterious, will help others get rid of any bad things they are holding onto and truly follow God.
And One Good Story from this Week – Visado’s Wedding
This morning Visado and Flora were officially married at Union Baptist Church and had their wedding reception here at the orphanage. This is a really big deal because weddings are pretty rare in Mozambique. When the Portuguese first came here traditional African marriage customs were replaced with the European style wedding ceremony. Hardly anyone here can afford to put on a European style wedding, so weddings stopped happening in most families. Today the majority of couples end up talking to their family and then starting a life together without ever having any kind of official ceremony before the community. This is so common that even the government census recognizes the couple as being "married." Visado and Flora have been considered "married" by their family for many years and have three children of their own but never actually had a wedding.
Since Visado began working at the orphanage a few months ago Victor has been mentoring him on the importance of family and having some kind of wedding ceremony before the church and community. We wanted to help him have his wedding in the church, which finally happened today. Visado’s parents died when he was young but Flora’s family is nearby and sent a goat over for the meal. Last night Victor and the kids slaughtered and marinated it and then everyone was up early this morning cooking the wedding feast. It was a cloudy day with everyone cooking over an open fire and reminded me of the coziness of camping. The kids made goat, beef, chicken, rice and beans, french fries, and hundreds of Christmas cookies (Jenni style, their choice). After the wedding the whole church came to the orphanage (in many singing truck loads). Visado and Flora are both in the Tcharuwani Choir so there was tons of amazing live music from lots of people, including our kids, at the reception. Everyone had a great time and we hope that this wedding will encourage more young people to look for a way to get married in front of their families, church, and whole community.
Visado and Flora were married at Union Baptist Church and then had their reception at the orphanage. Everyone had a good time.
One More Piece of Good News - Dionisio
The last good thing that we are able to report is that Dionisio has recovered from the measles and no other child was infected. He really went through a horrible month alone in his tent in isolation but is now back outside, happy, and playing with the rest of the kids. We thank God that he recovered from this.