Thank you for praying for Kabale and her recent battle with cancer. She was discharged from the hospital on August 2nd, went back to Marsabit for two weeks and is now back in Nairobi for a follow-up appointment. Enjoy her story and keep rallying for her!
Love comes in various forms, and I am convinced that it comes mostly through the people around us. Many of you have been following the story of my friend, Kabale, who has been thriving as an HIV positive community leader in the desert of Marsabit, Kenya. She was recently diagnosed with throat cancer, and requires a $4000 surgery to remove the tumor, a cost that is unobtainable for those living in extreme poverty. Even with significant generosity from Kabale’s friends and family, any offering would still pale in comparison to the amount of money required for such an operation.
On Sunday July 15th, Kabale hosted her community gathering to raise support for her surgery. As expected, those who are closest to her came to offer what they could. Most of the 100 guests were members of HIV/AIDS support groups who had been impacted by Kabale’s leadership and courage to be the first person to come out publicly about her HIV status.
One by one, women wrapped in brilliant fabrics and men in sandals and traditional caps came with their offerings – some with 300 shillings ($3.75), others with 500 shillings ($6.25) and a few with 1000 shillings ($12.75) – all as demonstrations of sacrificial and joyful love for their sister and leader. It was a magnificent picture of the way community ought to live. And with that demonstration of generosity still came the reality of limitation of resource and geography.
As they sat in fellowship with one another on that Sunday afternoon - knowing that the money they had pooled together was not enough - a surprise parade entered in. First, a group of teachers who had worked with Kabale in a local school. Then, the leaders of her church. And then national staff of our partner, Food for the Hungry. And then the clinicians of the Tumaini clinic where Kabale serves as community advocate. And finally, a group of government officials came in.
This broad array of community had battled all odds and collectively raised 280,000 shillings ($3,500) for Kabale. And there in her home was proof that love had walked in. I spoke with our friend Zachary, who was there that Sunday, and asked him if this is a normal occurrence for someone who is in need of significant medical support or if it was unprecedented.
“No,” he said, “this does not happen for everyone.”
So, why did it happen for Kabale? “Kabale is our hero,” he said. “She is the one who has given the people here hope for life. The school, church, government and hospital all know that their services have been successful because of her leadership. We all need her.” Blood:Water Mission (and many of you) have made an offering to ensure the rest of the expenses are covered, because she is our hero, too.
Today is the day of Kabale’s surgery. She is deep on my heart, and on the heart of so many others. May God be with her through the operation, and may she feel the prayers and love from all of us.
Sometimes just walking through the world will break your heart. Through the cold fog of the morning in Marsabit, Kenya, I went to greet Kabale (pronounced ka-bah-lay), our courageous leader and volunteer at the Tumaini Clinic. Several years ago amidst the cultural stigma and fear surrounding HIV/AIDS, Kabale was the first person to tell her community that she was HIV positive. She normally carries a strength that I envy, a powerful presence that commands your attention and an unconscious smile of a few missing teeth that makes you involuntarily smile back. And yet today, it all seemed to be missing. Kabale held an uncharacteristic stoicism, a heaviness that buried her smile and tempered her charisma.
Her first words to me this morning were, "I am found with cancerous growth in my throat." Cancer is a bad diagnosis for anyone. But for someone who is HIV positive, it is tragic. It's a double whammy of shitty luck.
Kabale has developed a large growth in her neck and she can no longer swallow or speak without severe physical pain. Her viral load used to be at a healthy level due to taking ARVs, but it is plummeting as her immune system struggles to keep up. Kabale needs immediate surgery to have the growth removed, and our clinic cannot perform such operations. She must go to Nairobi (a 20+ hour drive away on dangerous roads) and come up with the 300,000 Kenyan shillings (about $4,000 US) needed for the removal.
"I will be strong with the courage I have," she whispered to me. "What I want most is prayers. With prayer, God comes close to people."
Kabale stopped me from asking more, and changed the subject. "The HIV positive people here are getting the prayers you are sending and we are happily receiving the care through the funds to the clinic. We have 22 support groups now, and even the HIV positive men are joining. We will continue to grow."
Oh, Kabale. What a beautiful and faithful woman.
I found out that this Sunday, Kabale is hosting a harambe, a community fundraiser with her family and friends. They will cook food, and people will come with donations to Kabale. Most of her neighbors are living on less than $2 a day, so this is an unprecedented amount of money for a community such as this. My heart sinks at the enormity of it all. She may very well get the surgery, and find that there is more cancer in her body or that her immune system cannot sustain it.
Kabale has provided life for so many people here, and yet she struggles to save her own. The world so often seems unfair, and it can break your heart. This morning, pledges were already made on behalf of the staff of the Tumaini Clinic, Blood:Water Mission and the HIV/AIDS support group. I am reminded of the call to reciprocate love as often as we are given it.