One young lady in Eswatini shares about her journey to restore relationships with her family who has survived the HIV epidemic.
More than one in every four people is carrying a persistent and deadly disease in Eswatini. “Despite its small population size,” Avert reported, “Eswatini has the highest HIV prevalence in the world and has been greatly affected by the epidemic.”
Almost everyone lives beneath the specter of the disease, even if they have not contracted HIV themselves. Poverty both aggravates and feeds off of this widespread medical issue.
As Avert also pointed out, “Although classified as a lower-middle income country, 59% of people in Eswatini were living below the poverty line in 2017. In addition, the 2015/2016 regional drought severely affected the country, with some areas still experiencing drought conditions and poor harvests. This has long-term ramifications for the rural poor, especially people living with HIV.”
For children affected, even tangentially, the struggle can be difficult indeed.
A Poisonous Seed of Bitterness
Tiyandza Dlamini was and is technically one of the lucky ones. Both of her parents had HIV which developed into AIDS. When she was only five years old, the disease claimed her father and mother.
Again, she was fortunate enough to have a grandmother who lived nearby and was willing to take her in, but the poor woman was already taking care of nine of Tiyandza’s cousins. As often as not, there wasn’t enough food to go around, and the children went to bed with their stomachs aching and growling.
“As I grew up,” Tiyandza shared, “I had a lot of unanswered questions like ‘Why did God take my parents away from me? Why is my grandmother not able to provide for us?’”
Wrestling with grief, loss and deprivation, Tiyandza’s heart began to brew with bitter emotions. Perhaps it’s no surprise that when her new friends at school introduced her to alcohol and its numbing effects, she leapt right into a budding addiction. “I started stealing money from my grandmother. She was selling vegetables, so she always had coins in her bag,” Tiyandza explained. “Later, I was introduced to marijuana. That was very easy because this plant was grown in one of my friends’ homestead. Her older brother was making a business out of it. I started rebelling and flunking classes. Inside, I was very angry.
“I was angry at God for taking my parents, angry at my grandmother for not able to provide according to how I wanted. I started spending nights away from home because the thought of seeing my grandmother just made me sick. That’s how much I hated her.”
The rage and addictions quickly began to grow out of control.
The Grand Power of Forgiveness
Tiyandza was 18 when she was brought to the recovery center that World Challenge’s partners in Eswatini run. She was so young, and her family still had hope that she could be pulled back from the brink into a healthy and vibrant life.
The transition was not easy at first. “I first struggled with obeying authority,” Tiyandza admitted. The team talked a lot about each person owning the sinful inclinations of their own hearts and then surrendering that brokenness to Christ. As Tiyandza went to Bible studies and recovery sessions, she slowly began to acknowledge that the anger toward her grandmother stemmed out of anger at herself, her own helplessness and need, and most of all toward God.
“Eventually, I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. That opened a new journey in my life of forgiveness. I had to ask God for forgiveness for all the anger I had towards him, towards my grandmother and towards myself. Through God’s grace, I overcame.”
With the help of the team and counselors at the center, she is working to grow spiritually and restore her connections with family, especially her grandmother.
“Today I am walking free in the power of forgiveness and enjoying my new self.” Tiyandza’s face lights up with a sweet and gentle smile. “And my relationship with my grandma is just the best.”