January 13, 2010

Beauty Is

2010 1501 28 cap met Beauty at orientation. She sat with the other interpreters, but stood out from them.

While they were shy, unsure of themselves, she was animated, vivacious, quick to smile, and quick to laugh. I immediately felt drawn to her, and was delighted when I heard that she was to work with me.
As soon as all the interpreters were paired with their ShareHim speakers, I moved to sit down beside Beauty, to talk to her so she could get used to my accent. After all, it was important for her to be able to understand me, so she could relay the gospel message to her people.
Becoming Acquainted
I introduced myself and told Beauty I was a writer.
2010 1501 28She laughed. Not a self-conscious giggle to hide her discomfiture, but a rollicking, joyous expression of delight. “I’m a teacher,” she said. “I wanted to go into music, but my family insisted ?I do something more useful and financially rewarding. So I teach math.”
“My son-in-law is a teacher too,” I volunteered. “He teaches music at several different schools. One of my daughters is also a teacher, specializing in French, English, and the humanities.”
“How many children do you have?” she asked.
“Four: one son and three daughters.”
“I have one son, too. He’s 5 years old. And I have a 1-month-old daughter.”
“It’s been more than 30 years since I had any children that young,” I replied. “I have eight grandchildren.”
I caught a fleeting expression of pain on her beautiful chocolate-colored features. “You are so fortunate,” she said wistfully. “You are so fortunate to be able to see your grandchildren.”
This time I laughed. “Well, someday you’ll be able to see yours too,” I said.
She turned away. “No,” she said reluctantly, almost as if she didn’t want to burden me with her problem. “I . . . I have a disease. I have a fatal disease and I won’t live long.” She wasn’t asking for pity, just stating a fact.
On to Other Things
I didn’t know what to say. It was Beauty herself who broke the ensuing silence, almost falling over her words in her excitement.

What Do You Think?

1. How have your dreams helped shape you into the person you are?

2. What dreams do you still hope to see fulfilled? What would it take to turn them into reality?

What situations can you imagine in which helping others reach their goals would bring you a feeling of accomplishment?

"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2). How have you experienced this principle in your own life?

“Tell me; you’re a writer. We have so few Christian songs in my language. I want to translate the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal into Ovambo, so that we can use the songs in our church services. Would that be possible? Would I need permission? How would I get that?”

She had more questions than I could answer. I also had questions of my own. I didn’t ask her if she had AIDS, though as the meetings progressed, several acknowledged in anonymous prayer requests that they had the disease or had tested HIV-positive.
My questions had more to do with myself. How would I react in her situation, knowing that I might not live long enough to see my dreams fulfilled? What would my priorities be? What would I want to leave behind? How would I want to be remembered?
I recently saw a documentary entitled Women With AIDS and was amazed at what the photographer had captured. The camera depicted beautiful women, their faces radiant with love as they hugged their children. The photographer explained that the women did not want to be seen as dying from AIDS, but living with it. They accepted their disease with dignity, determined to live their lives, what they had left of them, with joy, rather than lamenting what they would soon lose.
That, I think, is what motivated Beauty. I don’t know what is involved in translating the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal into the Ovambo language, but I hope she can see at least that part of her dream fulfilled. 
Elfriede Volk writes from Summerland, British Columbia. This article was printed January 14, 2010.