As we walked up towards Fazenda's house, his grandmother, who normally rushed to greet us and get us chairs, sat on the ground crying. Fazenda was not there as he had been sent to fetch other family members from a near-by town. In Shanghan, the local dialect, the grandmother began to tell Luis, my coworker, that her only living son was in the hut dying. He had returned to his parent's home 6 days ago because he was sick. They had taken him to the near-by hospital where he received some medicine and was sent home to die. Luis went inside the hut to check on the son. He reported back that his heart had stopped beating but there was still life in his eyes. We began praying for his healing. Moments after we finished praying, Fazenda's grandfather arrived and went to the hut to check on his son. The son was gone. He called over his wife who began weeping. Now 14 year old Fazenda is the only family they have left.
Seeing death like this reminds me of how harsh life in Africa is. We left the family to mourn with promises to return in 2 weeks.
Next we went to Pedro's house. Pedro is 12 years old and has been living on the streets of Maputo for 3 months. He originally came to the city to live with his grandfather. One day as he was out in the city, he damaged something in someone's garden. The security guard took him to the owner, 45 minutes outside of the city, to confess what he had done. The owner was gracious and decided not to punish Pedro or make him pay for the broken belongings. But they didn't offer him a ride back to the city. Pedro eventually found his way back to the big shopping center in the city. He asked a street boy if he could tell him how to get to a certain area of the city. The boy said he didn't know. So instead of returning to his grandfather, Pedro stayed with this boy who brought him to Masana. And tonight he is back with his family in a little village about 2 hours from Maputo.
Another prodigal son returned to his family after 3 months of living on the street, begging, and stealing.
We left Pedro with his grandmother and siblings and continued on our journey to Castigo's house. As we walked up, chairs were brought out for us to sit in. No one came over to sit with us but carried on with what they were doing. It didn't take us long to figure out they were preparing a meal for us....the honored guests. Family member after family member appeared as word spread that we had arrived. As the women cooked for us, I kept myself entertained by making silly faces at all of the little children who were so captivated by the white people visiting. The women prepared a delicious meal of rice and chicken. After eating, all of the women and children gathered around. The grandmother of the family, said "In our village, first we eat and then we greet you." She then spoke on behalf of her family in expressing how grateful they are for all that we have done to help Castigo return to his family. As we left, they lavished us with gifts - a large bucket full of tomatoes, 3 or 4 large heads of cabbage and a live chicken.
Now back in my Maputo apartment, the tears have flown as I've reflected on the day and allowed my heart to truly process it all. Time after time, our home visits remind me of the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. First there was death to self as the son chose to humble himself and return to his father asking for forgiveness. Then we read of the beautiful reunion between father and son as the prodigal returns. Their reunion is followed by a feast in honor of the son who was lost and now is found.
Today we too experienced all 3 - death, a prodigal returning home, and a feast.