When I think of the blonde-haired-girl from Colorado named Tarrah, the first thing that comes to mind is her sweet smiling face. My heart is warmed as I reflect on her pleasant disposition and my soul is stirred as I remember her servant heart. These memories go back about one quarter of a century when I was still taking baby-steps in the preaching ministry.
It has been more than a decade since I last saw her. Now, this girl is all grown up. She is a wife and a mother of two young children of her own. A couple of weeks ago she warmed my heart again in a special way. She sent me a couple of emails full of news about things happening in her life. I asked and received her permission to share the salient points with our blogging community.
Before I do, however, I want to tell you that what she is doing now is really no surprise to me at all. Not only was she gifted by God to be an encourager, she had great examples in serving and encouraging others in both of her parents. In her case the apple really hasn’t fallen far from the tree. Her parents, Tanky and Deede Lowry, blessed and encouraged me in ministry in many special ways. Some of my fondest memories go back to the days when our two families composed the complete membership roster of the church that met on Elm Street in the little southern Colorado town of Walsenburg.
So, with this background let me share excerpts from a couple of recent messages I received from Tarrah.
September 10, 2006
We are serving as associate missionaries with WEC international in South Africa. We live and work in a black township and do children’s ministry. My husband Dave is a builder and is very busy here with lots of projects. On a typical day, we hold bible clubs to teach the gospel to children in various neighborhoods, I do hospital ministry and we also have a youth group in one of the government housing areas. Dave has helped build a Christian Hospice in a local squatter camp for AIDS patients, build housing for missionaries and is the fix it man at the mission camp where we live and our local church. We have been here since April and it has been such a growing experience! The Christian growth in ourselves and our young children is a priceless gift God has given us. Please tell all the family hello and I will add your email address to our prayer letters that we send out pretty often. We would appreciate your prayers for protection and also that the gospel would be the answer to all of the millions of Africans coping with poverty and AIDS. I am going to share some of your sermon notes with others here. They are wonderful, Bill. Keep in touch.
— — — — —
September 11, 2006
Today is a day that is in our hearts and prayers. Although the memorial is not quite the same in South Africa, we are quick to remember all that happened on 9/11. This week has been a blessing but also filled with a lot of hard things. The week started off pretty normal. Dave is getting the swimming pool ready for the teenager camp that takes place here at the campground the last week in September. He has also been finishing the plumbing in the little home he has finished for the new missionary arriving from Ethiopia this month. The burn ward at the hospital has been struck with chicken pox and 5 of the kids are in isolation right now. Xoloni is one of the boys with pox but so far, Teboho does not have them. He told one of the nurses that Modimo (God) is protecting him.
On Tuesday morning, I went to Soshanguve with one of the nurses from the hospital. Her church was having a prayer meeting Friday night and wanted to show me where to come. This township is about 45 minutes from home and is also where Alisa lives. I packed a box of fruits and vegetables for her. Most of you know, Alisa was the first child that I met at the hospital. She is 7 years old and HIV+. She is skin and bone but has a sweet heart, regardless what she has been through. She waited 2 and a half weeks to be picked up after she was discharged from the hospital! She lives with her gogo (grandma) and her mother died 5 years ago from AIDS. When Anna and I arrived at “Block T” where Alisa stays, it was one of the squatter camp areas. The shack she stays in was one room with dirt floors, no water, sewer or electricity. Alisa’s gogo was in the bed in the corner and Alisa was sitting in a chair. As soon as we came in, Alisa’s gogo asked in Tsuana “Have you come to fetch the child”. She went on to tell us that she herself was sick and could not care for Alisa and wanted me to take her. I sat and held Alisa who had lost all of the weight she had gained in the hospital. As Anna and the gogo visited, the length of Alisa’s stay with us started out as “would you keep her for 3 weeks” and ended with “if she lives, if she grows up, you can bring her back to visit me”. South Africa has something like welfare for the poor here and since Alisa’s mom died, Alisa is worth about 800 Rand per month which is about $110. To someone in a squatter camp, this would be a lot of money! Unfortunately, that is the only reason the gogo has Alisa. If not for the money, she would have been put in a children’s home long ago. I took Alisa and told the gogo we would come back in 3 weeks. She told me there was no need to. I asked Alisa to hug her gogo and a hug was not given in return. It was amazing and sad that you would give a sick child away to people you really don’t even know! No tears, no sadness, just a grandmother giving away a child that has lived with her for 5 years with a smile.
Once we arrived home, it was evident that Alisa was very sick. She has severe diarrhea every time she eats or drinks anything—within minutes. She also has a bad cough. She spent the day on the bed with Jansen and Selah [Tarrah’s children] watching Veggie Tales on the laptop. She loves TV since she only gets to watch it at the hospital. That night, just a few minutes after I got in bed I heard a little frail voice say “mama”. Alisa was calling and needed Maitze (water). I was up several times with her during the night. My friend was able to locate her hospital number and then I took her in for a check up on Thursday. They admitted her and said she either has TB or a bronchial infection and they started antibiotics for the diarrhea as well. When they took us in the admitting room, Alisa immediately started crying. She has been there so many times she remembers what they do in each room. After I watched them try several times in each arm to start an IV, they shaved the side of her head and, after 4 attempts, found a vain that would take the IV. The doctor said Alisa may have died within a week from dehydration had she not been brought in. He also weighed her frail body. At age 7, Alisa weighs 20.4 pounds. She had lost 2 pounds since being discharged. I was allowed to stay one night with her at the hospital. The ward housed nine women and their children this night. It is a special admission ward. There were no beds or evan chairs with a back for the mothers to rest on. We were given a sheet and a wooden bench about 3 feet long for the night. Out of the nine of us, one admitted she was HIV positive. After we all started talking, 3 more admitted they also were. They all were young, healthy looking ladies whose babies were born sick and that is how they found out their own HIV status. After telling one of them I did children’s ministry, I was marked a “priest” and asked to pray for each child. I shared the gospel with one lady, Maria, who is now thinking about baptism and also marriage with her boyfriend. I speak to her daily. Please pray that she will make a commitment to living for Jesus.
After a sleepless night, at noon Alisa was moved to her familiar ward 23 about noon. She cried once we entered the door. As of Sunday evening, Alisa looks a lot better but the chest X-Ray that was to be done Thursday was still not done. I also learned that Alisa has never been on anti-retroviral medication but they will start it during this visit. They said she has never had a caregiver who would continue the medication at home. The medicine is free so is it is only a matter of giving it to her twice a day. I will check back at the hospital today to see if the chest X-ray is done and if the new meds have been started. I will also speak to the social worker about Alisa staying with Urs & Esther at the farm long term. After meeting Alisa, my tears for her were answered with Esther’s tears. Esther said even if Alisa could not go to the US with us in April, they will keep her. This is an answer to prayer. Please, please pray for Alisa this week. Pray for knowledge from the doctors, pray for healing and weight gain and pray she will feel the love of Jesus through our arms. Please pray that I will not get the cold that is going around our house. Friday afternoon, I came home to sick kids and husband.
Dave and I had youth group which went well. We found out that one of our older boys, Thselebofatso, was in a knife fight during the week and was asked to leave the home we was living in. We don’t know where he is. Last week, he wasn’t himself and when Dave asked him what was wrong, he said “I am under a lot of stress”. Just 2 weeks ago, the preacher was talking to him about baptism. Myself and 4 others went to the prayer night in Soshanguve. It was a great night of songs, prayers and worship. The African people dance so much at church that I wasn’t even tired- haha. We left at 2am rather than staying till 4am. Jansen is feeling better today but Selah is still not 100%. We have only had 2 sicknesses hit us since we arrived in April but both have been hard to get over. Our American bodies have never had African colds before!
Baxter, Brianna [Tarrah’s sister] and Charli Kirkland are bringing Miranda and coming to visit September 29th! We are so excited to see them and let them meet our friends and family here in Africa. The car that was totaled in August has been really missed here at the farm. Last night we found out that someone has donated money to replace the car for Urs & Esther. This is an answered prayer. Thank you so much for your prayers and continued support. It is so nice to know that we are covered by your prayers each day. God is good.
I hardly know what to say to follow up on messages like this. So, I just won’t say anything. I will ask you to pray for Tarrah and Dave, their children, little Alisa and all the other sick children, along with the multi-faceted work Dave and Tarrah are doing in South Africa. God willing, I will post Tarrah’s future prayer letters and ask you to join me in honoring her requests for prayer in these messages.