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Excerpt 3: Knocking on doors. Knocking on hearts.

continued... She peers at me with little rat's eyes, markedly too close to each other.

I introduce myself and ask her if she'd like to hear some Good News today.

"Are you a Jehovah's Witness?"
"No Ma'am, I'm just someone who loves Jesus and I'd like to tell you about him."

"O thank you sonny, I've heard all the good news I'll ever need to know. I don't believe in God. I don't like people bothering me and I don't want you to come knocking on my door again."

"Yes ma'am, but..."

She slams the door shut.

My droopy sandals carry me across to number 35. I knock hesitantly. No one answers. I knock more boldly. From deep inside the flat I hear a voice, some shuffling, keys rattling on a chain, shuffling, shuffling, shuffling. By the time, in which I could have mixed, fried and eaten a three egg omelet, the door opens slowly.

"Is that you Mabel?"

"No, I'm afraid it's not. My name is Frans, one of your neighbours and I'm here to share some Good News with you."

Standing before me is the living dead. Her thick-lidded eyes remind me of a chameleon I once had. Her teeth are more crooked than a picket fence that survived a hurricane. What I think is a wig, has moved to the side, revealing a very crumpled ear on the right. Her fingers are so crooked and arthritic, they look as though a long passenger train has ridden over them. Her purple and brown stripey jersey doesn't look very clean. The polyester slacks are clinging to her deformed legs, in a seemingly desperate effort to help hold her upright.

"What kind of news did you say?"

"Good News!"

This time I say it a little louder, smiling my friendliest Jesus smile. She instinctively trusts me and invites me into her crowded flat.

"My name is Dolly, come inside."

I follow her slow shuffles and find a seat on a bottle green sofa, draped with crocheted cloths on the head and arm rests.

"I thought you were Mabel. She comes to see me twice a week, an angel she is. My only link to the outside world. She brings me a few groceries, two packets of sweets and fresh milk. My arthritis is so bad, it takes me more than an hour to get dressed. Some days I don't even get out of bed, I just lie there the entire day. Mabel usually baths me. Apart from her, I never get any visitors. Would you like some tea and chocolates?"

"Only if I can make it."
"Thank you dear, that will be nice."

In between the kettle boiling and bites of chocolate enrobed turkish delight, she tells me her whole life story. A husband who adored her. A husband who died ten years ago. A husband who left no last will or testament. Unscrupulous lawyers and an estranged son who cheated her out of all the inheritance money. A heart that is overflowing with bitterness and lonely pain.

I listen intently and suddenly I feel too small and insignificant to help. I pass her some Kleenex. I wash and dry her dishes. I look at her photo album, I look at her vast collection of shoes, clothes and perfumes. Most of these have never been worn or opened, still trapped in the original packaging. I guess they're awaiting the arrival of the prince who will kiss the chameleon lidded princess, breaking the evil spell that has cast her into this living hell.

Reaching out for Dolly's hand, I lead us in a prayer. My words reach up to heaven and pull down the love of a saviour, the prince of heaven who can come and kiss her on the wrinkled cheek and break the evil spell. Calling down his peace to dwell with her. Dolly needs more Kleenex. I need more faith.

With promises to visit her again, I let myself out. Her crooked smile etched on my heart.

My Jesus sandals automatically carry me down a flight of stairs to the second floor. My determined fingers knock on number 23.
Two dogs bark hysterically and a stern voice shushes them. The door opens slightly and a varicose veined leg blocks the Doberman pincher and maltese poodle from attacking me.

Yee-ee-eeess.

The musical voice sounds impatient, yet friendly. Her sunken eyes are resting on the puffy hammocks that her skin has formed under them. Wild, grey curls are standing at attention on top of her head. Making it obvious that she has not had the time to brush them today.

"Hello. My name is Frans, I'm from the fourth floor. If you have any time to listen, I'd like to share some good news with you."

"Yes, yes, I've seen you coming and going in the elevator. I'm not interested in the good news right now, but I sure as hell could use an extra pair of hands to help give Wilton his bath."

"Sure, let's see if I can help."

She opens the door wide and pushes back the sleeves of her overstretched cardigan.

"I'm Elsa. Come inside."

Trixie and PomPom eagerly sniff my Jesus sandals and try to lick me with each step I take.

The bedroom curtains are drawn, making it difficult to see if there really is a person under the untidy pile of blankets. As I step closer, a wave of nausea twists and turns down from my nostrils to the pit of my stomach. The place reeks of bodily fluids, vomit and steaming cups of Bovril.
In spite of my head screaming run, run, run, my Jesus sandals keep walking forward.

Elsa lifts the pile of blankets to reveal her husband. A ghost of a man, a holocaust survivor, an anorexic stick, a bag of bones, a skeleton in flannel pyjamas.

"Hello Wilton, I'm Frans."

Dead-bird eyes stare at me. He coughs and begins to choke on phlegm. She lifts his head and commands him to spit into the silver dish that she holds under his chin. Thick strands of gunk come pouring out of his twisted red lips. She wipes his mouth with a piece of single-ply toilet roll and throws the stained tissue into a large yellow bucket next to the bed.

"I'll run the bath water and you can empty the bucket in the toilet."

Obediently I take hold of the wire handles and lift the heavy bucket, careful not to splash urine, vomit and gunk onto my sandals. I stop breathing and try to flush it all away in one go.

She strips him bare and together we lift him onto a large towel. With great care, we use the towel as a hammock to lower him into the warm water, placing his fleshless bottom on a giant sponge. He groans. She soaps. I straighten the bed. She calls. We lift the bag of bones out of the deep tub and seat him on a plastic chair. She dries all his crevices and combs his thin hair, calling him her Mango Pip...
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...We carry him back to bed and she empties half a tub of camphor cream all over his emaciated body. Special prescription ointment gets rubbed into the raw bedsores. Along with the gentle rubbing, she spills out most of their story.

A trio of friends, lived happily, once upon a time. Then her best friend, his wife, died two years ago. He proposed and she married him. His jealous, evil son connived all his money out of him. They were literally thrown out of their home, onto the sidewalk, with only a few suitcases to carry. With her meagre pension they managed to find this apartment. Four months ago, he had a stroke and lost his speech, along with some of his eyesight and the ability to walk. His stomach valves are no longer able to keep any food down.

The doctors at the government hospital sent him home to die. She's been keeping him alive with glasses of water and cups of Bovril. Three times a week the Meals on Wheels organization brings her a plate of cooked food and three apples.

Elsa offers me tea, I politely refuse the offer. The overwhelming smell of Palmolive soap, camphor cream, damp dogs and the ominous yellow bucket, will certainly cause a cup of tea to make a U-turn in my throat.

I risk sitting on the bed and ask to pray with them. Elsa grabs my hand and begins to tell me how she found God in the midst of their nightmare. How He has strengthened her, provided for her and encouraged her. The messenger of good news is humbled into silence. This woman can teach me more about the good news than I can ever dream to share with her.

We pray. She hugs me.

I leave with a promise to return, to help with Wilton's bath time, to do grocery shopping, to walk the dogs, to wash the dishes.
She smiles, tiny tears rolling into the crow's feet wrinkles.

My Jesus Loves sandals carry me back to my own front door, I turn the key and I carry my new acquaintances into the apartment with me. The kaftan wearer with the Vaseline eyes, a future project. The rat eye lady, a prayer project. The chameleon-lidded lady, a bible sharing project. Elsa and Wilton, a hands on project.

My first day of witnessing. My first day of making a difference with the power of the gospel.

I did well.

He did well within me.

We did well together.
ZAR 160-00
A Journey of Recovery from Sexual Brokeness