by Ellen Shaffer, Director of Project Management
In Zimbabwe and Zambia, when a woman becomes a mother, she is often thereafter referred to by her child’s name. If I lived among the Tonga-speaking people of Zambia, instead of being called Ellen, people in my community would call me Bina Caiden. I would wear that name with pride – not as a complete definition of who I am, but as a statement of how greatly honored I am to be a mother to my son.
Mother’s Day is Sunday. I was talking with a friend yesterday about how hard Mother’s Day can be. It’s a day that reminds us to celebrate, but also reminds many of us of loss or of something we never had. Personally, it’s a complicated day for me on several levels and I always struggle knowing how to mark it in a meaningful way.
As we prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend, I want you to meet some of the women who have taught me – often in their own excruciating circumstances – lessons in motherhood. Help me honor them by reading their stories today. Join me in learning from them. You can click their names to read more about these women and their families served through Forgotten Voices partnerships with local churches.
Shareen’s mom - trusting God to make a way. In great faith, she and her husband are raising 3 healthy children while the HIV virus was slowly tearing down their own health. I’ll never forget her face as she quietly told her family’s story and concluded, “We are tired of living this kind of life. Pray that God can make a way.”
Emmanuel and Ethel’s mom - summoning strength to face a mother’s worst fear. Like most of you, I have never met this sweet woman face to face. But through the stories of Forgotten Voices staff who met her in 2010, she gripped my heart in a way that still makes me catch my breath. She’s HIV+, as is her husband. She’s a mom of twins. Baby Emmanuel was born HIV- … but Baby Ethel is HIV+. Neither parent is employed, food is scarce, medicine and travel to the hospital is costly. How do you make a plan to care for two children – one sick and one healthy – when you don’t have enough resources? I can’t imagine the strength it took to care for her family each day – loving, playing, teaching, encouraging, nurturing – trying to make plans for the future, yet dreading what that future could become.
Christine and Jonathan’s mom - appreciating the time that is left. When asked what she likes most about being a mom, she responded, through the pain of advanced AIDS, “being with them”. At that moment no one knew how much time she had left to be with her 7th grade daughter and 2nd grade son. As it turns out, she had less than a year. She challenges me to think about how I would “be” with my child – and who I would want to be for him – if I had less than a year left.
Setty’s mom – trusting God when nothing else makes sense. I met her on the day of Setty’s funeral, sitting small inside the house next to her daughter’s coffin. Setty and I were the same age – early twenties – and I was too late to have met her myself. AIDS had claimed her. But the church wasn’t too late. The local church’s presence was clear and compelling as they had walked with this family through the shadow of death (including the death of Setty’s infant daughter some months prior) and would continue to love and encircle those left behind.
Blessed’s mom – living in the moment, planning for the future. I remember how proudly she showed us her daughter’s school work, and how grateful she was that the school fees were being paid by her local church through Forgotten Voices’ partnership. In our visit that day, we followed her lead in focusing our conversation on Blessed’s schoolwork, rather than the reality that this mother was dying of AIDS and needed to make a plan for her daughter’s future. When she passed away a year later, the family honored her wishes that Blessed go and live with an aunt in another region. The church continued their efforts to check in when possible on this little girl who had lost so much, yet had seen her mother live out her faith day by day in the most difficult circumstances.
Gregory, Ordeal and Agnus’s mom - choosing hope over despair. A single mother, she was relying on her local church to keep her two sons in school. Despite all she had lost and the seeming hopelessness of her situation, she was driven to somehow better provide for her family on her own. Carefully stewarding a small grant from her church, she grew a small home business into enough profit to expand her inventory, improve her home and contribute to her own children’s school fees.
Mom to too many to count - always giving thanks. She was widowed many years ago, but has chosen to open her heart again and again to those in need around her. She raised her own children alone, then continued to take a growing number of vulnerable kids under her wing and into her home. There are now so many that call her “mom” and consider her house their home, it’s hard to keep track. She works as an HIV/AIDS ministry coordinator in her community and serves on our Zambia board. She, more than anyone, has taught me about giving thanks to God regardless of our circumstances.
These are women to be honored, celebrated and lifted up in prayer. I thank them for what they have taught me and it’s my privilege to introduce them to you.
This Mother’s Day you can honor their lives, their sacrifices and their dreams by making a donation to Forgotten Voices. If you’re still looking for a Mother’s Day gift, you can make a donation in honor of a mother in your life and receive a personalized certificate to give her. Consider giving
$15 to help one mother’s child attend school in the next term
$65 to provide home based care, cleaning and counseling for a mother who is too sick to take care of her home and children
$120 to help provide for the basic needs of one mother’s child for a whole year
Join me in making it a happy Mother’s Day for even more families this week.
Tags: children, church, community, death, faith, health, HIV/AIDS, hope, mothers, poverty, sacrifice, zambia, zimbabwe
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