You could see it in their eyes, mainly, a look of endurance. It was the toll that poverty, drought and sheer exhaustion had taken on a nation. I was on a mission trip to Mozambique in 2002, and in that moment I rocked a baby boy named Tivo. Tivo was part of the forming generation of boys and girls, many born to HIV and AIDS-infected parents. Stricken by war, overcome by poverty and grief at their losses, women turned to desperate measures in order to feed their children. At 18 months Tivo bore all the signs of malnutrition and starvation. Abandoned by his mother, he refused to be held close. So angry at the pain and hunger that would not subside, he held himself away from me rigidly for hours until he collapsed, exhausted into a fitful sleep.
In 2002 the country of Mozambique had not yet recovered from the numerous assaults against its infrastructure: civil war, floods, drought, all amid unbelievable poverty. Nearly 15 years of fighting had temporarily displaced nearly five million people, and one million people lost their lives.
Statistically this appears as sterile numbers on a page. As I walked the streets and visited the families, I was completely undone.
Endless mountains of burning tires and garbage created a haze of smoke that made it feel as if the city itself was on fire. So many homeless. So many with HIV and AIDS. The gaunt, aimless look in their eyes tore at my soul. Since the war had claimed an entire generation or two of men, most of the families were comprised of widowed women. With a disease so rampant and destructive as AIDS, many women lost hope and dropped their children off at an orphanage, then returned to their hovel to die. The young boy that I carried on my back and rocked in my arms for hours on end would never know that I cared. At least, not this side of Heaven.