I have known Paul and Darlene Heller since my days at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Yikes, that’s more than 40 years ago. Paul and I met and became close friends. I never realized back then that we would still be good friends in 2010.
Darlene found Paul (or was it the other way around) when he was in NYC serving an internship at the East Harlem Protestant Parish - a groundbreaking ministry among the poor. Darlene was studying to be a nurse. They fell in love and Darlene came back to Pittsburgh with Paul. Marriage soon followed.
Over the years our friendship deepened. For more than 20 years, ever since my divorce and its brokenness, I have spent every Thanksgiving and Christmas with the Hellers. The kids, Adam, Caleb and Rebekah adopted me along with their spouses Sara and Andrya. We are family and I am delighted.
One time I was visiting and had a nightmare. I woke up shouting, "WHAT ABOUT GOD'S JUSTICE???" It was loud enough to wake the Hellers. Over coffee the next morning, we laughed about my active imagination and theological musings – even in sleep. It became one of those family stories that gets repeated over turkey.
Fast forward to present time. Paul and Darlene leave Plattsburgh, New York with all its snow and skiing for the tropics of Malawi. Yes, for two and a half years, Paul and Darlene Heller, have been in Malawi Africa.
Darlene has been directing the Mzuzu Crisis Nursery. They take in babies who have been abandoned for a variety of reasons. Often their mothers have died in childbirth or there has been some other difficulty in the village. When the babies come, they are mostly in a wasted state.
Paul has been working on the administrative side strengthening administrative practices and securing a more stable financial base. It’s crucial work.
He also has been preaching at the local church where 1000 people regularly attend. That’s right, one-thousand people – imagine! He tells me that worship services often go on for 3 hours and even more. I tell him he needs shorter sermons (chuckle).
The work at the Mzuzu Crisis Nursery is literarily life-saving. It will probably never reach the headlines of the NY Times or the air waves of NPR – although you might easily argue that it should.
Another baby is brought to the Mzuzu Crisis Nursery
Day-in and day-out, babies are being nursed back to health. They come as frightened skeletons and become chubby cherubs. Of course, sometimes a baby arrives too late. All that can be done is hold the little one until she dies. It’s hard work. And I think it takes a lot of soulfulness to do it. My good friends have soul and faith and love.
The same baby after two months of food and care
Take a moment to review their blog. The context is heart-wrenching, but the work is heart-enlightening. http://www.suffer-the-little-children.blogspot.com/
I keep thinking that among the lives being rescued at the Mzuzu Nursery, there are those who will make a difference in Africa’s poorest country. Thank you, Paul and Darlene, for being an answer to my dream – “What about God’s Justice?”
Monday, November 29
What About God's Justice???
In this religious season when we think about being thankful and try to imagine God's Spirit among us, I thought you might appreciate hearing about some of the good that is being done in the world. It’s a story about Paul and Darlene Heller.