Army brings love to AIDS babies at Ethembeni

CAPTAIN DARREN MUDGE sings (center) before the prayer of dedication as children are held by Salvationists and friends.

(Ed. Note: Major Vicki Danielson forwarded the following e-mail report to New Frontier; Major Lurlene Mudge, the author, and her husband Captain Darren Mudge are Salvation Army officers from the USA Eastern Territory serving in South Africa.)

Yesterday, I had the privilege of dedicating 46 babies from The Salvation Army Ethembeni Home/orphanage. It was supposed to be 49 babies but two died this week and one was in the hospital.

Standing on the platform looking out at the audience was an amazing sight. Nearly every adult had a baby on their lap. For everyone who attended, it was truly a moving experience. Some of the babies are normal, healthy babies full of life–and others so ill with HIV/AIDs that only the shell of a body remains.

The babies come to the home for various reasons. One was brought by the police after the mother tried to throw him out the window. One was found in a bar. Several have been abandoned in the hospital or in homes.

A set of twins were brought by their mother a few weeks back because she was just too poor to care for them. She had no clothes for nappies for them. They were a month old and had never had milk or formula. She had no bottles or money for milk. Because she was HIV positive, she would not breast feed. It took one of the babies days to learn how to drink, because since birth he had been fed pap, a starch from corn used as a staple here.

Lieutenants Neal and Heather Rousouw have only been stationed at the home for a few months. They do amazing work that most people could not handle. They deal with illness and crisis everyday. I was so impressed with them this weekend. To carry out this dedication was no easy task for them. They had to make arrangements with the local corps for the event. They made certificates, and organized adults to stand with every child; they had to find nice clothes for each child to wear, arrange transport, pack bottles and extra nappies/diapers and even arrange for refreshments. They did all this without public recognition or any kind of personal motives. They simply wanted to thank God for the babies in their care and present them to God for blessing.

Please continue to pray for this country. Quoting from an article in today’s paper: “While responding to the severe food crisis in southern Africa, an even greater disaster has been unearthed. It’s now on the horizon –we’re in the midst of a crisis. It has the potential to overwhelm us,” said James Morris, the head of the World Food Program and UN secretary-general’s special envoy for humanitarian needs in southern Africa.

The calamitous conjunction of HIV/AIDS, severe food shortages and chronic poverty has left more than 15 million people in need across the region. By far the worst affected region, sub-Saharan Africa, is home to 29.4 million people with HIV/AIDS. “The HIV/AIDS pandemic is compounding the premature death of thousands of people­ particularly women–across the region, and is wrecking the livelihoods of millions while sowing the seeds of future famines,” Morris said.

“It is clear to me that we need to redefine what an emergency is. When we have 2.5 million AIDS orphans in six countries or 11 million in sub-Saharan Africa, this is an emergency we’ve never known before.” Morris said he was “overwhelmed by the very real prospect of nations of orphans” on this, his second mission to the region in the past two months. Note–this is not just our territory but those that neighbor us.

I must say, nothing is more heart wrenching then seeing the babies in homes like Ethembeni–and these are the lucky ones. I praise God for people like the Rousouws and pray that God will continue to strengthen them to handle their daily responsibilities.



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