Friday, February 21, 2014

“Friendship marks a life even more deeply than love. Love risks degenerating into obsession, friendship is never anything but sharing.” ― Elie Wiesel (1986 Nobel Peace Prize winner, former professor of mine, and a friend)

The man pictured at the right is Shaban Omari, a man I first met in February of 2003.  Our lives have been intertwined ever since and are still very closely linked.  He has saved my life, literally, on at least two occasions by getting me to a doctor or surgeon who had to operate immediately to keep me alive.  Both surgeries were in Mwanza in the Bugando hospital.  Other times he has helped me get medications that I or Karen or John needed.  He always knows a guy who knows a guy who can help us with government regulations, car purchases, immigration, and travel back and forth from Kenya.  If you look closely at his face, you can see machete scars on both sides of his face from an attack in 1996 that left him in a morgue where the coroner saw that he was still alive and brought him back.  His first wife ran off and moved back in with her family taking his young son with her (he will get him back when the boy is twelve years old).  We helped him pay the bride price for his current wife and pay for his second son’s school fees (a very bright boy who was skipped a grade from preschool to first grade).  When I was in the hospital in Mwanza last year for a week after prostate surgery, he slept on the floor of my room and never left my side.  He drives for us, fixes anything he can fix (which is almost everything), translates for us, and is in charge of all the biosand filter production here at Maisha Na Maji.  He spent a week in Nansio last year when we delivered fifty filters to the schools there.  We rely on him and trust him completely.  He has probably done more to make our mission here a success than any other single individual.  The doctors seem to think he may have an ulcer and want him to have an endoscopy in Mwanza next week.  I will go with him and be with as close to him as I can until he gets out of the hospital.  How could I do otherwise?  Did I mention that he is Muslim?  I once asked him why he did so much to help us Christians.  He pointed to a tree and said, “That tree is God.  You are one branch and I am a different branch but we are both part of the same living tree.”  I had no more questions.  Keep him in your prayers next week.  He is frightened of the procedure, but I will be with him—it’s what friends do.  Keep me in your prayers, too.  That’s the way God works, you know?
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