Have you ever tried to carry a bundle of firewood on your head? Or balance a bucket of water?
I get a headache just from wearing a snug baseball cap, let alone using my skull as a transportation device! But you’d be surprised what a person can do when there are no other options. And you’d be surprised what a child – robbed of his parents by the AIDS pandemic and forced to fend for himself in a rural African village – can endure.
In Mozambique, orphaned children sell firewood just to survive. Their tattered clothes and heavy bundles are not just a show for passing tourists, but an everyday way of life. They are forced to grow up fast, with the oldest sibling assuming the role of head of household if there are no relatives to take them in. They are hungry, thirsty, uneducated, afraid, and desperate for someone to love them. And if they are girls, there is the added danger of falling into prostitution.
But thank God for people like Olinda Mugabe, our Cross Catholic partner in Mozambique who refuses to let these children bear their burdens alone. Right now, through the support of our donors, Olinda’s Reencontro ministry is rescuing AIDS orphans from despair and giving them food, clothing, health care, education, safe shelter, and a taste of God’s love. Her work reminds me of Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I pray that each one of these precious orphans will find rest at the foot of the cross.