Melinda is a survivor

Father Mike Bassano’s Christmas reflection from Tanzania

By Father Mike Bassano, MM
Sun contributing writer

The month of December turns my thoughts to those millions of people in our world struggling to live with HIV/AIDS as well as to the celebration of Christmas in the awareness of how much God has touched all of life. No one exists outside of the loving embrace of God which is indeed cause for celebration and perseverance in our lives.

Melinda was born in the village of Mahare, 80 kilometers south of Musoma. She came to our home of compassion in 1991. Melinda got HIV/AIDS from her husband when they lived in Dar ES Salaam. He was a security guard, was arrested for stealing and put in jail. She had no children and  her husband was in jail — what was she to do? In addition to all of this, her health situation worsened and she was diagnosed with tuberculosis of the bones. Being unable to walk, Melinda decided to return to her family in Mahare.

Although her parents and all of her siblings had died, she was able to contact her uncle and asked to live with him and his four children. His children did not want her in their home because she was HIV positive. For five days they refused to give her or their father any food except for a little portion of food on the third day. Finally on the fifth day the father asked Melinda to leave their home.

Since Melinda belonged to the same parish community as the mother of the founder of our home, Father Biseko, she asked him to receive Melinda at our home. She has been with us now for 19 years.

Melinda is more than just a survivor; she has endured with great faith to stay well and happy. This is an example to all of us of how to persevere under trial. She has been in relatively good health and gets around in the wheelchair. Each day she teaches two children at our home, helping them with their homework and preparing them for school. We thank God for the blessing she is to all at our home of compassion.

Like Melinda, may we also have the gift of perseverance (which literally means to cut through) to be able to grasp what is really important in our lives as we share the mystery of life with all living beings.

Happy Holidays. Peace,

Father Mike Bassano

Editor’s note: Father Mike Bassano is a native of the Syracuse Diocese and a Maryknoll priest serving in Musoma, Tanzania.

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