The End of my Strength is Only Your Beginning
Though I am oceans away from my old university and beloved campus church, I can still hear Fr. Mark’s praying words ringing in my ears: where our strength ends, Yours truly begins.”
Acknowledging my limits in Tenele’s situation is more difficult than I thought, but it is EXTREMELY important. For only when I acknowledge what I CANNOT do is when God can SHOW me what HE can do. I am at the end of the road in what I can do to help Tenele, and here’s why…
After seeing Tenele extremely drunk on Friday and hoping she would follow through with her words, I tried to be hopeful all Saturday morning that she would show up. I even passed up other opportunities to go place to be there “just in case” she happened to show up. She never did. On Monday Titi and I went to Mangwaneni again to be with the children. I asked about Tenele but she wasn’t there. Ayanda told me that Tenele was scared but that she would bring her to the kitchen/play area where all of the kids hang out if I came back tomorrow. I came back on Tuesday, but neither Ayanda nor Tenele were there. I stopped by on Wednesday because I promised Johannes I would be back to spend more time with him. While Johannes and I were talking, I asked Pununu to fetch Ayanda. When they came back we were talking about different things when Pununu said he had seen Tenele a little bit ago on his way to fetch Ayanda. “Why didn’t you bring her?!” Ayanda exclaimed. “Because she asked me to fetch you not Tenele,” Pununu responded. I couldn’t help but laugh. Aw, how sweet these kids are!
I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to have these three young people trying to help Tenele as well. With their company, we traveled through Mangwaneni and came to a smoky-looking shack with some men and women outside of it. They stopped at a place where Nomphilo was sitting and smoking. But she didn’t recognize it was me at first. My gang asked for Tenele, and Nomphilo was about to respond when she saw me. She half-yelled out of surprise, then tore the cigarette out of her mouth and ducked out of view. But it was too late, I had already seen her. Still, she ignored my coaxing and my “buya sisi!” and bolted into the hut and out of view. After lingering and calling for her a little longer, a few guys came out and did not look very friendly, so Johannes quickly said, “Okay, let’s go.”
The others we passed were friendly and kept pointing us in the direction to find Tenele. Finally, Pununu said, “She’s right there!” But when I looked up, she was already gone.
“She’s running,” Ayanda declared. As we rounded the corner Tenele was already gone and out of sight. They asked other girls she had been with where she went and they didn’t respond. Ayanda asked some other kids; they pointed in another direction. Ayanda said to me, “Come, Mary-Kate, she went this way.” My heart sank. I was crushed that she actually ran away from me this time.
“No, no,” I replied to Ayanda. “It’s okay…if Tenele doesn’t want to come, then she doesn’t want to come.” And we slowly walked back up to the kitchen.
I didn’t make to Mangwaneni on Thursday, but I told Ayanda to tell Tenele that I would love for her to join us for lunch on Friday. So on Friday I came back to take Johannes, Pununu, and Ayanda to lunch at KFC. Ayanda said Tenele wasn’t there and told Ayanda she was scared. Of me? I think she’s scared to face me. On the one hand, that’s good because as Treasure (the woman in charge of the carepoint kitchen at Mangwaneni) says, that means she respects me. Treasure ventured that Tenele ran away because she was more than likely drunk again. But this wasn’t the last time she’d run from me…
Anyway, I gathered the trio for lunch, and we started walking down the path and Johannes and Ayanda stopped me and said, “Up there,” and pointed across the field. “That’s Tenele.”
I looked up and waved to two girls who had stopped in their tracks and were looking at us. Upon my wave, Tenele took off down the path where she was hidden by the brush and I couldn’t see her anymore. Eish. That’s twice now she ran from me. That girl… she breaks my heart. As painful as it is… I just cannot give up. I gave Ayanda a little note to give Tenele that says I love her. That’s about all I can do at this point. She doesn’t want my help, she doesn’t want to change, and she doens’t want to see me. All I can do is keep loving her.
It’s hard to acknowledge that my strength is limited and I can do no more, but this is where God can truly take over. Maybe he just needs me to move out of the way so He can work. The more I talk to people about Tenele’s situation the more I feel like it is so hopeless. In fact, Treasure told me the other day that there’s really no helping Tenele at this point. “She is too far in. Her body is used to all the alcohol. And she’s used to being drunk and then sleeping with men. That’s her life now.” And she’s a bit dangerous, too, according to Treasure. Treasure told me to never live with Tenele at any point. “Why?” I asked.
“Because it will go really well at first but then one day she will get drunk. And she will call her friends. And they will come to you and do this,” she held her finger up to her neck, mimicking someone holding a knife. “And they will demand all your money or anything you have…and then what will you do?”
“Umh…give them the money…” I answered.
“Exactly. And you’ll have nothing.” She paused.
“Would Tenele really do that?” I couldn’t imagine 14 year old Tenele actually doing that.
“Mary-Kate, under the influence of alcohol, Tenele is a VERY different person…” Ayanda confirmed it as well. Though she loves Tenele and is actually good friends with her, she is far too afraid to approach Tenele any time she is drunk.
Treasure told me the only way to really help Tenele is to get her out of Manzini. But that’s impossible because she won’t go. She doesn’t want to leave. Other friends I talk to say the same thing…that
there’s no use trying to help her; it’s too late.
As much as it sucks hearing this, it actually gets me more excited because I know that
what is IMPOSSIBLE for man is POSSIBLE for God!
I am embracing the fact that this is impossible to help her, because that means the power of God can truly take over. There is NO WAY Tenele will change unless by the LORD’S hand. Not mine. Not her’s. The LORD’S. So I excitedly pray and wait for this day… for this miracle that I believe with all my heart will happen.