Living with Aids
A Look At The Moriel Mission Work Headed by Dave Royle in South Africa
A father of the fatherless and a judge and protector of the widows is God in His holy habitation. God places the solitary in families and gives the desolate a home in which to dwell. (Psalm 68:5,6a) (Amplified)
By way of introduction my name is Dave Royle and I am the head of the Ebyown (Ebyown is a Hebrew word describing a poor and oppressed person, someone who is in need of advocate) orphanage planted by Moriel Ministries in South Africa. This article is intended to introduce our Moriel readers, prayer partners and supporters to one of the main problems we are dealing with (AIDS) at this orphanage and the work here in Springs, Gauteng, South Africa. It is my hope that this article will touch those reading it to be move by the Spirit of The Lord Jesus, to become partners with us to bring hope, health, life and Jesus to these wonderful children and expand this work unto the Lord. My wife, Lyn, and my children, Anthony (20), Christopher (17) and Aaron (15), partner me in this work here in South Africa. Our foster children are Johannes (6) S’Phewi (6) Paulina (6)
Some of our key staff and volunteers include : Mission Manager – Catherine Kent, Pastor – Lovejoy Chinhengo
Parenting children who are HIV+ has been the most challenging obstacle of our life to date. I want to share with you the difficulties of working with AIDS children and some of the ups and downs we experience as their caregivers, in the hope that you will gain a better understanding of the situation parents like ourselves find themselves handling.
But first of all, a reminder of the nature of the deadly virus that infects so many people and children in Sub-Saharan Africa.
First the basics: what is AIDS? AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is a condition caused by a virus called HIV. This virus attacks the immune system, the body’s “security force” that fights off infections. When the immune system breaks down, you lose this protection and can develop many serious, often deadly infections and cancers. These are called opportunistic infections (Ols) because they take advantage of the body’s weakened defences. You have heard it said that someone “died of AIDS.” This is not an entirely accurate statement, since it is the opportunistic infections that cause death. AIDS is the condition that lets the OIs take hold.
And what is HIV? HIV is a virus, like the flu or cold only deadly and incurable! A virus is really nothing but a set of instructions for making new viruses, wrapped up in some fat, protein and sugar. Without living cells, a virus can’t do anything – it’s like a brain with no body. In order to make more viruses, a virus has to infect a cell. HIV mostly infects T-cells, also known as CD4+ cells, or T-helper cells. These cells are white blood cells that turn the immune system on to fight disease. Once inside the cell, HIV starts producing millions of viruses, which eventually kill the cell and then go out to infect other cells. All of the drugs marketed to treat HIV work by interfering with this process.
Some myths. You cannot get aids by:
- Someone sneezing or coughing near you, its not airborne.
- From eating utensils.
- Touching or hugging.
- Sharing the same toilet.
- Sharing the same room.
- Shaking hands
Some of the things mentioned sound really obvious, but you would be surprised by how many people are ignorant of how HIV is really transmitted, which is mainly through body fluid contact transmitted sexually, baby to mother cross infection and the sharing of hypodermic needles.
First of all, lets put another myth to sleep. Our children are normal children who just happen to carry an infection. They eat, sleep, play and are even very naughty little kids sometimes in need of correction. But most of all they are in need of love.
There are, however some things that make them different from most children. Because AIDS makes people more prone to opportunistic infections diseases like Herpes simplex, which causes their lips to become very sore, thus causing problems with normal everyday functions like, eating, drinking and kissing. This condition combined with a lessen intake of substance can weaken their bodies and result in an opportunistic infection rearing its ugly head, which could end with their deaths. Even the use of antibiotics can sometimes prove to be a problem. A fungal disease like Thrush can sometimes appear after antibiotic use, again, causing sores in the mouth to appear. We had a little lad, Sibusiso who was fostered by a friend of ours, and it killed him at age 2 and a half years. Thrush infected his mouth, throat and went into his lungs.
Other specific issues are developmental problems. It is quite common for HIV children to be physically and intellectually behind their healthy counterparts. This becomes especially true in the Africa context and this issue is compounded by current South African institutionalisation standards and the lack of parental care. We have actually demonstrated that through home schooling and additional one on one parental involvement, children can be brought up to a higher standard of living very quickly. Our hearts are breaking for the million other orphans who are now in state homes or running wild on the streets of Gauteng’s cities who have no hope. Our prayer is to expand this work to include as many of these children as possible and give them a hope for health, love and life both here and eternity.
As a family there are various ways that we combat the HIV problems. For example:
- Food There are foods that help strengthen the children’s immune systems. Coconut is one such food, unrefined it contains natural acids that help fight viral infections.
- Exercise. Often children brought up in state institutions have very low self-esteem, never having gained confidence through behavioural reinforcement. Good exercise not only keeps them fit but releases natural endorphins within the brain giving a feel – good factor.
- Medicines etc. Our children are on a daily dose of antibiotics that we vary from time to time, painkillers, inhalers to fight LIP (LIP is a form of pneumonia symptomatic with HIV sufferers and can be deadly if you don’t keep on top of it) and creams to keep their skin soft. The creams are E45 supplement and a mixture of Aquas cream and Cocoa solids. We also bolster their diet by adding vitamin supplements. Yet these cost a great deal here in South Africa and are hard to come by. Work is now underway by Moriel staffers to obtain drugs and funding from the companies that make the medicines to help stem the spread of AIDS. Please pray for this effort!
- Love and affection. Cuddles and hugs go a long way in helping any child feel wanted and protected, especially when they are sick.
There are some peculiarities though that are common in Africa.
- Very poor health care in the public sector. Having no national health system or advanced medical help as the Western democracies enjoy; private medical treatment is the only option for treating with retroviral’s. South Africa for example has laid aside one (1) billion South African Rand ($195,000,000 Australian, $133,000,000 US and ‚ £ 80, 000,000) for AIDS treatment. To get this into perspective the South African president has spent many more billions on the presidential jet. Anyway not wanting to get into the politics, this leaves us with millions of sufferers without any treatment and little hope.
- Racial issues are still at the forefront in South Africa. Just try walking three black children down the main street as a white parent and you will get an understanding of the issues. We have caused several accidents, one man falling over a billboard on the pavement and nearly breaking his neck. Once, a complete stranger came up to me while I was browsing in a shop window, (thank the Lord the children were at home) and proceeded to speak with such a hated and angry towards these little ones that I cannot even repeat the foul language here. His prejudice towards blacks was shocking and hurtful. While this type of public hatred shown is disgusting, it is not as disgusting as the subtle racism that goes on by people who say “I’m not racist” but who murmur behind the scenes. But I do want to inject that while this is most distasteful to me, I know Jesus loves them too, and want them to be saved, so please pray for them too and this spirit of hated to be defeated! I do want to say that there are plenty of non-racists, lovely people of all races who have no problem with the fact that you are white, black or green with pink spots, and I thank God for them, those that support a work like this orphanage.
So what does the future hold for our children and the children of Southern Africa?
Well our own kids are blessed. They have a stable environment, lots of love and medical care. The reality is we do not know how long they will be with us; in fact it breaks our hearts to contemplate burying Joe or Peewee. They have become OUR children and it is unnatural to outlive your young ones. Who knows, they may have 10 years or an opportunistic virus may take them to the Lord tomorrow. The blessing is, that we know where our little ones are going. They will be with the One who said ‘Suffer little children to come unto me”. One day they will have perfect bodies free from viral infections and a secure eternal home with the Father.
But what of the other million kids out there? When you say a million, it says nothing. The figure is huge and impersonal. But when you say Joe or Peewee, then it has an effect because you have put a name to a child of God. I just think about the other Joe’s and Peewee’s out there and the Thabo’s and Siyabonga’s who as I type have no hope, no parent, just a lonely anonymous death in an open field or at best in a institution cot.
There is one way we can make a difference to a few. It’s a project called Ebyown, the vision of a children’s village where every child will receive the love that God. People have been very generous up to now and we are almost at the stage when we can purchase land and build, but we are still around ‚ £15,000 ($37,000 Australian, $25,000 American) short of our start up costs if we are to do this right. This will only happen when we make the task ahead personal. When the million kids receive a name and a face they can impact our hearts, hearts often hardened by many things in this fallen world. Please become a part of this work, either through prayer, financial or material support. Maybe, even a short term mission trip over here to lend a hand. But, I warn you will have your heart broken and learn to love like Jesus loves.
Well, that’s an insight into our family living with AIDS; I hope it has given you a little more understanding as to why we are so passionate about our calling. We covet you prayers. If you are interested in more information on this work unto the Lord a very detailed Word document of the vision and work of Ebyown is available through the Moriel Website or your local Moriel branch.