Top Village lies in the African dust on the North Eastern side of a road that goes to more important places. The village itself is unassuming and barely noticeable by the fast moving cars; a few corrugated shacks, some government low cost houses and a remnant of mud brick homes that testify to a bygone era. To the experienced eye it is these mud homes that differentiate Top Village from the countless squatter communities that pain South Africa. You see, Top Village is a village in the true sense of the African word. It has a long history, a tribal authority, a Head Man and villagers who remember the old ways. Granted, it is mostly the senior inhabitants that know how to properly greet one another and who remember the terrible droughts that killed the cattle. Yet, it is these seniors who, with a quiet dignity, keep the community together.
One such senior was Dorothy.
I met Dorothy through her sister, one of our patients who died of AIDS. Dorothy, like the rest of the village at that time, did not truly understand what was happening to her loved ones. The disease that was ravaging her people took her sister and all three her daughters.
This is an unspeakable pain.
Dorothy is of the old ways where you dig deep during adversity and you stand straight and you roll up your sleeves and you get to work.
And so she did.
She found out all she could about this disease, her enemy. She volunteered her services and like a solider on a mission, she faced her foe with bravery beyond measure. Every day Dorothy walked along those dusty village paths, seeking the sick. When she found one, that one was truly found. With a relentless love, Dorothy would care.
One of the weapons in her arsenal was what we dubbed “Dorothy’s Oil”. From a nurse on a mission trip Dorothy learnt how to give therapeutic massages. Nobody was safe after this. Every patient was slathered with oil and persistently rubbed. If you happened to be a friend or a relative visiting that patient, your shoes and socks were promptly removed and your feet too got a dose of Dorothy’s Oil.
Another of her weapons against the enemy that was taking her loved ones was joy. Dorothy had a way of drawing laughter from those in the very company of death. Her eyes would twinkle mischievously as she told an old, forgotten story of some village antic and a smile would come to ward off the pain.
The truth is that the real balm, the true oil of Dorothy was her love. Dorothy loved Jesus and Dorothy let Jesus love through her. This is how Dorothy became one of the best Care Givers I have ever seen and by far one of the best people I have ever known.
This balm, this soothing oil has been poured out to each one of us – freely. God, through his infinite love, poured himself out for our healing. Sometimes He uses people like Dorothy. Sometimes he reaches us through writings like this. Sometimes through our pastor or our friend. Always, He simply loves us in the quiet of our heart – no matter what we have done or where we have been. His love is a soothing, healing oil.
The last time I saw Dorothy was two weeks ago. She was leading a group of us through the village, from patient to patient. She walked strong and true and never faltered.
Dorothy Mogapi died a few days ago – a soldier of Christ to the very last breath.
I believe that Jesus is anointing her feet with oil.
Mama Dorothy, we salute you.
In memory of Dorothy, Orchard: Africa has started a fund called “Dorothy’s Oil“. It is a fund to be used for the continued work, training, equipping and the care of Care Givers. Care Givers work in the homes of the poorest of the poor, the sick and the forgotten. They provide palliative care, support family members, care for the orphaned children and are a beacon of hope to thousands upon thousands of people dying of AIDS. Care Givers are the hands and feet of Jesus. In honor of Dorothy, you can make a contribution to Dorothy’s Oil Fund here.