A story of hope from WorldVision
Agnes' Story by James Addis
Agnes explains that she once had a husband, five sisters, and a brother. Sister Loveness died in 1989. Then at regular intervals, so too did Agnes’ husband and sisters Ireen, Grace, Mary, and Queen. Finally, brother Frankie also died. Each death was preceded by a long illness featuring vomiting, diarrhea, and overwhelming weakness that kept the sufferer confined to bed.
As each sibling died, Agnes took care of their children. “They had no one else,” she explains. The partners of her brother and sisters were either already dead or disappeared when the sickness came. So last year, Agnes, a widow, found herself responsible for 13 children—seven orphans, three children of her own, and three grandchildren from her older daughters.
Then, like Job, she got sick herself. The symptoms were familiar—diarrhea, vomiting, weakness. “I thought it was witchcraft,” she says. “I thought my whole family was bewitched.”
Agnes dragged herself out of bed to seek spiritual help from Cosmas Tembo, a local Pentecostal pastor. Unbeknown to her, Pastor Tembo also happened to be a World Vision-trained AIDS caregiver and counselor. He persuaded Agnes to go to a health clinic, a 15-minute bus ride away. Agnes had to lean on Cosmas’ shoulders as he helped her onto the bus. At the clinic, she tested HIV-positive. Cosmas found a quiet place to reassure Agnes that the news was not all bad.
“He started encouraging me. He told me that there were plenty of others who were HIV-positive but were now using ARV [antiretroviral therapy] and were living OK,” she says. “He said I could, too, but I must take the drugs consistently.”
That day was the start of a firm friendship. Cosmas began to visit Agnes’ home every other day. Through World Vision, he secured extra clothes, blankets, food, and mosquito nets for the struggling family. Agnes began a course of antiretroviral treatment. She soon began to feel better and found some work. “There’s encouragement. I have a new lease of life,” she says.
They call it the Lazarus Effect—people suffering from AIDS literally getting up from their deathbeds and living again.
What is difficult here?
What calls to you?
How will you respond?