This is a picture from my first shilingi encounter, which is better than most other cases I've seen.
Friday, March 11, 2011
I first encountered a shilingi (pronounced shee-leen-gee) at Gilgal Secondary School. A young girl, probably around 6 years old, walked into the schoolyard just as we were preparing to leave. I gasped as I saw her head because it was completely covered in nickel-sized scabs, with one of the scabs was protruding upwards and beginning to split down the center. My stomach turned in knots and my heart hurt at the sight of this precious girl—I had never seen anything like this before. I have since learned that shilingi translates into ringworm, and a typically fungal infestation for people (and especially the children) living in the slums. I think the combination of poor hygiene and living situations that are intense breeding grounds for bacteria and fungus allows children to easily succumb to severe cases of ringworm. Once the fungus penetrates the body (which usually occurs on the scalp) these people have no ability to treat it and therefore the infection expands and cracks, creating open sores—certainly not a good thing for someone who sleeps in the dirt and has no access to medical care or even clean water. There is such a harsh difference between the quality of life in American and that which exists in Africa. So much pain, so much sickness and so little anyone here can do about it. God’s teaching me what it means to minister in his name. It’s so hard to witness something as preventable and treatable as ringworm take over large communities. I’m learning that God isn’t calling me to do the impossible; instead, he’s calling me to do what I can, when I can. So sometimes this just means meeting small needs whenever I see them. In this case, it means carry around an antifungal cream and a pair of gloves so that I can apply this cream on children I meet. Sometimes it means applying it on the heads of children I pass on the street or run across in small villages. It takes multiple applications of this cream to fight the ringworm so we’ve found ourselves frequenting Shimo (the slum down the street) in order to mingle with families and apply the cream. I’m praying that this small gesture might make a difference in someone’s life, showing the compassion of God’s love in that very moment.