Have you ever met someone who just radiates the love, light, and peace of God?
Last month, while traveling in Swaziland, I had the privilege of meeting Nomsa, a World Vision volunteer AIDS caregiver. She is one of those people -- so full of the love of God that it can’t help but spill out to those around her.
This Valentine’s Day, I wanted to share her story. Nomsa presented me with a new way of looking at 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV): “Love is patient, love is kind…it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
In a society that often equates the word "love" with romantic love, I had forgotten that this verse is talking about the way we should show love to everyone -- even the unlovely -- without condition, the way God loves us.
* * *
With a kind, gentle perseverance, she cares for 124 chronically ill patients in her community. Sometimes, the people she cares for are too afraid to let her help, but Nomsa Mdluli, 46, slowly wins their trust.
Nomsa walks to visit Phetsile, a short walk up the hill from her house.
“To be a caregiver,” Nomsa explains, “you need to be a Christian person, and a patient person; be long-suffering, and do not tire easily. Being a caregiver, I should mention, you have to be a person who is love.”
It’s that love that has carried her through hard times and has inspired her to help others. Nomsa has given birth to 10 children. Two of them died right after they were born, while three got sick and died when they were quite young.
After two of the children died in 2008, it occurred to Nomsa that others might be going through pain and suffering as well. That’s when she signed up for the AIDS caregiver training through World Vision.
“I am mostly grateful to World Vision for training as a caregiver, because I had already developed that love within myself,” says Nomsa. The training and supplies from World Vision provided her with a way to help others, something that helped bring about healing in her own life.
People in the community know who Nomsa is and sometimes come to her, telling her about someone in their family or in their neighborhood who is sick. Nomsa goes to visit, finds out about them, listens, and gains their trust so that they will tell her what’s wrong. She has encouraged people who were sick with HIV symptoms to get tested so they could get treatment and improve their health.
Nomsa takes notes about how Phetsile is feeling, and how the anti-retroviral medication is working.
“Sometimes the ill person gets upset because of the illness,” says Nomsa. But she has patience and understanding and continues to be there, offering care and support.
“My greatest need and prayer is that God gives me strength,” she says, “because some of the situations I run into, it’s only the sick person alone, and no one else.”
Nomsa walks every day to check in on her patients. Sometimes, she brings food from her own house to feed those who don’t have enough to eat. Sometimes, she helps get them to a hospital or clinic when they need testing or extra care that she is not equipped to give.
And when her patients are discouraged, she sings to them a song that means, “God is faithful, every day He is faithful.”
As I watched Nomsa care for Phetsile, a young woman who was bedridden with HIV, I was struck by her gentleness, her kindness.
Phetsile, like so many of Nomsa’s patients, would not be able to repay Nomsa for her work, but Nomsa doesn’t care. “My greatest hope when I take care of people is that they may get well," she says, "and that if I take care of them, it’s not necessarily so they can pay me or thank me, but that God will give me a greater 'thank you.'”
When asked how she feels about her patients, Nomsa responds, “I have a strong feeling of love.”
Is there someone you’ve met who embodies God’s love like Nomsa? Share your stories in the comments. Today, it’s all about the love!
You can support the work of volunteer caregivers like Nomsa. Make a donation to provide a World Vision Caregiver Kit, which contains basic items like latex gloves, antibacterial soap, petroleum jelly, and other essentials needed to care for those living with HIV and AIDS.