South Africa is a beautiful land of stark contrasts. I had the privilege of spending a month of summer in a little town in KwaZulu-Natal. But that was barely enough time to soak it up. A blend of races coloured the streets, rich and poor lived next door to each other, alcohol, drugs and immorality lurked behind the hope of a nation on the page of a fresh start.

Among the many new faces I met, one remains firmly stuck in my mind. Jabu, a young mother of three and the bread-winner of her family was a patient in Melusi AIDS Care Centre where I volunteered. When I met Jabu, she was in the late stages of AIDS. She also had tuberculosis and meningitis, which at times impaired her ability to think clearly and act rationally.

One thing Jabu knew how to do, and do quite loudly, I may add, was to pray. Sometimes she screamed out prayers begging for mercy; other times she whimpered for the Lord to be close to her. It was hard. All I could do was hold her hand, pray for her and read her Scripture.

Jabu passed away two mornings after we took her home. It was comforting to know that she spent her last moments with her children and with clarity and peace of mind. Her children are now orphans with her elderly mother their guardian.

Though this is the story of just one woman, many South Africans endure the same plight as Jabu. Their lives echo suffering yet in the midst of it is the Lord’s peace and joy. A significant lesson for me was learning to trust God as limitless, and prayer as truly powerful. I encourage everyone to go to a different culture with open hands, heart and mind.  Ultimately it is about relationships, with God and others.