Saturday, 10 December 2016

Charity's Story

Charity is one of the guardians in our Arise Project. Many of you will have heard me talk about her. Rosie has developed a strong bond of friendship with Charity and has been an advocate for her in her health battles. I asked Rosie to tell you some of Charity's story and the miraculous change we have seen in her recently...

Rosie with Charity in her home

Part of our work in Arise involves visiting guardians in their homes and encouraging them in whatever situation they might be facing. This can mean different things for different families, ranging from a struggle to find food or being unable to pay rent, to being worried about what the future might hold. Over the past couple of years we have been meeting regularly with one particular guardian, a lady called Charity. Even though she faces a situation which often feels bleak, she has actually encouraged us just as much as we have her, in fact probably even more.

Charity is a widow with five children. She and her family originally joined the Arise project many years ago. She has two daughters who are married with their own families and have long since moved away. Her three sons are aged 17, 19 and 21 and are active members of our youth group as well as incredibly hard workers.

Charity's sons, who are a real credit to her

For the last seven years, Charity has battled with a severe skin disease which has had no clear cause or treatment. This initially started on and inside her mouth, then gradually spread to her hands, feet and other parts of her body. Later on it also started affecting her eyes and the top of her head, as well as causing her body to become completely emaciated.  For the last two years Charity has been completely bed-bound and Ellie and I have known several times when we saw her and thought she was probably very close to death. She has often been in excruciating pain, unable to sit up or even move, yet somehow throughout the time we have spent with her, she has often manage to testify to God’s goodness in her life and her assurance that one day she will be healed, in this life or the next. Charity used to be in the local church choir before she got ill, and so her love of singing often led us to share times of praise and worship together.

Rosie on an Arise visit at Charity's home

Before Ellie and I arrived in Kaniki, Charity had spent time in hospital but the doctors there had been unable to diagnose or treat her condition, and with nobody available to care for her at her bedside it was agreed that hospital treatment was not an effective way forward. It’s questionable how helpful the treatment she did receive actually was – the hospital told her to use bleach to clean her skin. So over the last two years, we have made a number of different attempts to help Charity with medical care and support within her own home. We even took some photos of her skin to a shocked but very helpful local pharmacist who helped us source some strong antibiotics and other medications to try and help her. Unfortunately nothing we tried had any lasting effect on Charity’s ailments. We often found that one week she might show huge improvement, and then the next time we saw her she could be worse than ever. Even then, after any tears we saw her cry, she still managed to sing.

Charity in the Arise vehicle with two of her sons on the way to the hospice

A few months ago Ellie and I invited our friend Marci who has extensive medical knowledge and experience of working out here in Zambia, to come and visit Charity in her home with us. After our visit she mentioned a local hospice she was aware of, and we agreed that we may need to start thinking about end of life care for Charity. Unfortunately the hospice is no longer able to run as a 24/7 facility due to lack of funds, but they are open two days a week as a day centre. So earlier this year Rhi (Ellie's sister) and I took Charity there for an initial visit and were really impressed with the service that they provide.

Charity at the hospice

Over the last few months I have taken Charity to the hospice every other week, and the difference it has made is nothing short of incredible. So much so that we are no longer having to think about end of life care. The hospice has the facilities to offer Charity breakfast, a snack and a large lunch, give her a hot bath, and have her seen by a doctor from a local hospital for a few hours each week. They have been able to give advice, training, referrals and prescribed medications. Most notably, these visits have given Charity a real sense of dignity and worth. The staff treat her with respect, and her sense of humour is really given time to shine.

Charity doing physio at Ndola Hospital

After our first visit to the hospice, the staff’s advice was that Charity needed to be bathed for an hour each day. As an Arise team we therefore decided to ask a group of ladies supported by Arise if they would be willing to work with Charity to help take care of her. I was bowled over by their willingness to help and their kindness towards her, whereas previously she has been ostracised because of people’s fear of catching her illnesses. The ladies came with me during the next few times we went to the hospice, so that they could receive training and ask the staff for advice on how best to help Charity at home. It has been great to see a stronger sense of community growing among them. 

Rosie with Charity and the Arise guardians who care for her

Although the journey to get Charity back to full health is a long one and it is difficult to know how far down that road she will get, this approach has brought great success so far. Her body weight has doubled since starting the visits to the hospice. It is amazing to see the changes to Charity’s physical condition and so we will continue to seek professional help and advice as much as we can and continue to pray for her. Last week we bought Charity her first pair of shoes in two years, and with help she was able to shuffle the short distance from the car to a wheelchair. These victories, however small, are a reminder that the God who she has been singing to from her bed for all these years is still with her, and that He, like us, is cheering her on. 

Me with Charity, showing off her healed hands

The LORD said…“I have loved you with an everlasting love; with unfailing love I have drawn you to myself. I will build you up again, you will be rebuilt. You will again be happy and dance merrily with your tambourines.” 

Jeremiah 31 v 3 - 4

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