It seems fitting to remember Maria Mavuso during Passion Week. Maria went home to be with the Lord last month. She was a simple, uneducated widow who lived in desperately poor circumstances. Unlike some of the other SHBC volunteers, Maria spoke almost no English, so our previous mission teams weren't able to learn much of Maria's story. It turns out that she, like other SHBC volunteers, also had AIDS. We can only speculate about how she acquired the disease, but a likely scenario is that her husband, as is often the case with Swazi men, had multiple sex partners and brought AIDS home to Maria (and possibly other wives).
If I were in Maria's situation, I would probably stay home in bed, immobilized and victimized, allowing my family and friends to care for me. But Maria didn't allow her poverty, lack or education or AIDS to keep her from serving others. Every morning Maria got up, walked miles to collect firewood and water, then started a fire and cooked for hours so the Dwaleni orphans could have a nutritious mid-day meal. And in addition to these community orphans, Maria went to her simple home every evening and cared for two more children who had been orphaned by AIDS.
This Easter, as you think about the challenges you face which might be preventing you from living sacrificially, consider Maria and the sacrifices she made in spite of her desperate situation. When I think about Maria and the way she she lived, "being Jesus", she encourages me to do more of the same.
In the late 4th or early 5th century, Patrick was growing up in an aristocratic family in what is now northeast England. At about the age of 16 he was captured by Celtic pirates from Ireland and sold into slavery. For about the next six years Patrick was a cattle herder for a prosperous tribal chief. During these years Patrick experienced three profound changes. First, during days in solitude in the beautiful wilderness he encountered God and became a man of prayer. Second, he developed a keen understanding of the Celtic peoples. Third, he came to love his captors and developed a deep hope that they would have reconciliation with God.
One night, after six years of captivity, a voice spoke to Patrick in a dream saying, “You are going home. Look! Your ship is ready.” The voice directed him to flee for his freedom the next morning. He awakened before daybreak, walked to a seacoast, saw athe ship, and negotiated his way on board.
"At the central railway station in Madras, India, lay a beggar woman more pitiful than the others I saw there. She had positioned herself alongside the stream of passengers hurrying to catch their trains. Businessmen with briefcases passed by her, as did wealthy tourists and government officials.
Like many Indian beggars, the woman was emaciated, with sunken cheeks and eyes and bony limbs. But, paradoxically, a huge mass of plump skin, round and sleek like a sausage, was growing from her side. It lay beside her like a formless baby, connected to her by a broad bridge of skin. The woman had exposed her flank with its grotesque deformity to give her an advantage in the rivalry for pity. Though I only saw her briefly, I felt sure that the growth was a lipoma, a tumor of fat cells. It was part of her and yet not, as if some surgeon had carved a hunk of fat out of a three hundred pound person, wrapped in in live skin, and deftly sewed it on this woman. She was starving; she feebly held up a spidery hand for alms. But her tumor was thriving, nearly equaling the weight of the rest of her body. It gleamed in the sun, exuding health, sucking lie from her."
On December 11th, 1964, Martin Luther King addressed the Norwegian parliament in Oslo Norway in his Nobel lecture entitled "The Quest for Peace and Justice." On this day in America, as we celebrate the life and legacy of MLK, I share a few excerpts from this great speech, as it speaks as powerfully today as it did in 1964, about our responsibility as Christian people to the engage in the struggle of the "least of these."
"Some years ago a famous novelist died. Among his papers was found a list of suggested story plots for future stories, the most prominently underscored being this one: "A widely separated family inherits a house in which they have to live together.
"This is the great new problem of mankind. We have inherited a big house, a great 'world house' in which we have to live together - black and white, Easterners and Westerners, Gentiles and Jews, Catholics and Protestants, Moslem and Hindu, a family unduly separated in ideas, culture, and interests who, because we can never again live without each other, must learn, somehow, in this one big world, to live with each other. This means that more and more our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. We must now give an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in our individual societies.
"This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of man. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response which is little more than emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life . . . .
"Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day . . . . "