Saturday, September 29, 2007

Abelo

My darling Abelo has lost his mom. One of the saddest things about that is, truly, he barely had her. Abelo and his three older brothers have been living in our center for about six years now. I'm not positive about before I moved in but in the three years I've been in the dorm, he visited her for the first time this July. The oldest two brothers, 18 and 16, had been reintgrated in July, meaning they had gone back to live with their mom. During school holidays, Abelo and his next older brother went to stay for the five weeks. They spent a lot of time at their aunt's house but also were with their mom and we were all hopeful about a relationship being built between them again. I think Abelo was actually hopeful that maybe he could go live at home as well. He is a wounded little boy, with lots of barriers around his heart that he sometimes let's down and I was excited at seeing how this process was helping him.

Sadly, his mom passed away yesterday and the funeral was today. While I prepared to go to the funeral, I found out it had already started (it was supposed to start at 3 and it was only 1). So I couldn't have my friend Larry meet me anywhere to show me the way since he was at the funeral already. I called my head educator, Eliza Julieta, who is on holiday now, to tell her about it and - ridiculously - ask her if she could EXPLAIN to me where he lived (we're talking dirt roads, turn at the traintracks, then the twisted tree sort of directions) and she said she'd go with me. Vella went as well. I'm so grateful to EJ because I really wanted to go and couldn't have if she didn't drop everything to go as well. Abelo was so glad to see us. He wasn't crying when we arrived but then he just cried and cried. It's not encouraged to cry here really, but Vella and I always tell the boys it's ok to cry when they're sad, so I think he felt free to cry once he was in our arms.

When we arrived, the burial was over but there was still a service at the house, under a large tree. So we were able to pay our respects, I even said a brief word. I just said I didn't know her but know her beautiful boys who have such lovely hearts so I know she must have been lovely as well and that I was very sorry for their loss. Then we were all served lunch, rice and beans, that neighbor ladies spent all morning cooking for all the people. Larry walked us over to the grave, a few hundred yards away, with two of the four boys, Abelo chose not to go again. One of the things they do here is all the attendees break off a piece of a plant and put it in the fresh dirt covering the grave. Then it will grow and have plants covering it. So me, Vella and Eliza Juliet did that ourselves. While I was at her grave, I thought, Lord Jesus, please help me to have a passion to share your truth with more and more people so that no one should die without knowing you and your love. I don't know what she believed but she didn't go to church which here is fairly indicative of if a person believes in Jesus or not.

An amazing example of the strength of community life here in Mozambique: while we were walking back from the grave, a man passed and began talking to Bebe, Abelo's oldest brother. He explained that his mother was Bebe's mother's neighbor in the north, where she was from. So he offered to get in touch with his mom to tell her what happened so she could tell any remaining family of the mother still living in that community that might not know. I just shook my head in wonder at the close-up view of what's called the Bush Telephone.

My last thought on the funeral: Abelo's grandmother is still alive and had been living with her daughter. As I sat with her and several of her friends, while the men all sat on their side of the tree, and looked at their weather-beaten faces, thinking "she can't be more than 55 or so and looks so much older" I thought how tragic it is in any culture for a parent to bury their child, but how surprising it is here in Mozambique to bury an adult child when the life expectancy rate is so low. This is one of the tolls of AIDS, which is stealing the middle generations.

Abelo just surprised me by coming home a few minutes ago. I thought he was going to stay with family until tomorrow. He's lived here for years so I guess this is just home to him. Tia Raquel knocked on the door to let him enter and he just fell into my arms crying again. We prayed for him and sat and talked for awhile. Meanwhile, four other boys were in my bedroom watching Inspector Gadget on my TV for the Saturday Night Sleepover. So I invited Abelo to join them which he did. I think being the center of 40 plus boys attention is a little overwhelming. So he'll sleep over tonight as well, even though he's in Room 2, not Room 1! He's joined them for popcorn and coke and although he's cried a few more times while sitting there, I think he's glad for the distraction.

I am praying God comforts his heart and helps me know how to comfort him as well.
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