The World is not Meant for You
“The world is not meant for you.”
Her own mother told her she shouldn’t even be alive.
The seemingly joyful reunion between Tenele and her real mother turned bitter while I was in Swazi over Thanksgiving break. It was Lucia’s first birthday, so we were going to celebrate together at Tenele’s homestead with her mother and sisters. When we (Christina, Ayanda, Johannes, Pununu, and I) got there, Tenele met us on the dirt road to walk us to her homestead. Her eyes were tired and she gave a weak greeting; I immediately knew something was wrong. After greeting her friends, she broke down in tears. Pununu translated for me since Tenele wasn’t speaking in English. “Family problems,” he said to me. The walk to the homestead was confusing, as Tenele continued to cry but wouldn’t tell me what was going on. She finally said her mother told her “the world is not meant for you” and it’d be better if she were gone.
Instead of a joyful birthday celebration, the afternoon was one of chaos as I tried to communicate with Tenele’s mother (who spoke not even a word of English) about what was going on. While we tried desperately to communicate, Tenele’s sobs could be heard from the other room, and I felt so helpless. Finally, I asked the sister who spoke some English (but refused to translate because she told her mom she didn’t want to be in the middle of it and was trying to stick up for Tenele), “Should we leave?” The sister nodded hesitantly and said, “And take Tenele with you.”
Tenele’s mother tried keeping Lucia there and told Tenele since Tenele owed money that she would keep Lucia. When her mother found out I understood that, she changed her mind. She only let Tenele take one bag of stuff (which was all Lucia’s) and kept Tenele’s clothes there. It was a heartbreaking end to my short week in Swazi.
On the bus ride back into Manzini, Ayanda relayed the whole story to me and said, “Her mother has a cold heart for her; I don’t want Tenele to go back.” Apparently, Tenele was having a hard time living there when her mother would care for her sisters and not as much for Tenele. They ended up getting into a fight one day and Tenele asked through tears, “Why don’t you love me like your other children?” Her mother cold-heartedly responded, “You are not my child. You are a whore,” and continued to tell her she was worthless and the world was not meant for her.
After it was all over, I told Tenele she was a strong young woman who has been through so much time and time again. She looked at me still with tears in her eyes but peace in her heart and said, “Some day she’ll remember me… some day.”
After all that was said to her and all the pain (built up from when Tenele was sent away as a small child) Tenele still had the grace to understand that she wasn’t going to harbor bitterness but that she knew someday her mother would understand what she has done to Tenele and the guilt would be there, and she’d “remember” (care).
So back to square one with my T-bell and baby Lucia. Where do they stay now? I tried asking a few Swazi friends to help them out but nobody seems to want to sacrifice for a teenager and her baby. There’s a lot of “talk” about caring for each other and being the hands and feet of Jesus but little action. I was quite heartbroken actually at the lack of care from my own Swazi friends who don’t want to inconvenience themselves by letting Tenele stay with them for awhile.
So she is back in Mangwaneni, and Cedric (Lucia’s father and who Tenele usually stays with) is in prison. Christina has been trying to care for them, but even the food she had given to Tenele was stolen. Tenele said she’s scared sometimes because she doesn’t know where the food will come from. She doesn’t know when she and Lucia will be able to eat. Lucia got sick again, had worms, and a bad skin condition. Tenele, out of desperation told Ayanda she doesn’t want Lucia anymore and wants to send her away–not because she doesn’t love her, but out of her desperate situation.
Through all of this, Tenele has been so steady though; when I talked to her on Christmas, she was hopeful, and that is a beautiful thing. Because she is hopeful so am I; I know she will be okay; I know God will take care of her; I know she will still change the world someday.
Her mother was right, the world is not meant for her, because she is meant for bigger things than the world.