78-year old Miriam Machovec will lead a team of grandmothers to Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Rustenburg, South Africa this spring, taking their grandmotherly love and care with them to spend it on children and babies in refugee camps infected with the HIV virus.
It is an example of what we have called “moral imagination,” the inspiration and sense of moral purpose that can rise up in the hearts of Christian believers.
Working with a ministry called Book of Hope , this group of eleven women–whose average age is 60–will visit an orphanage called the Lighthouse Shelter for Children; “Freedom Park,” a refugee camp of about 25,000 residents from all over Africa; and a squatters village where children live and take care of each other. The parents of the children in these c amps have died of AIDS, and many of the children themselves are infected with the HIV virus. In one case, an HIV-positive child of 12 is taking care of her nine younger siblings by herself.
“These children have no parents and certainly no grandparents to bring them the love a grandmother can,” said Mrs. Machovec. “We can’t cure AIDS, but we can hold and rock and love the children of the world that have AIDS, as only a grandmother can do. And we will!”
Mrs. Machovec traveled to South Africa last year as part of a team with Book of Hope, the Ft. Lauderdale-based organization that brings Scripture books to children in schools and villages around the world. During her visit, she saw AIDS babies who had no parents or grandparents to care for them, children who were suffering alone with this dreadful disease.
“How easy it is for me to hold my own healthy grandchildren – and so many other children in my life – and give them the love they need,” said Mrs. Machovec. “But how much more do these dying children need the human touch and genuine love in their lives, which will be cut short by AIDS?”
Mrs. Machovec immediately saw the need for grandmothers to care for and love these children, and exclaimed to a colleague, “What these children need is a Granny Brigade!” Sharing this vision with Rob Hoskins, Executive Director of Book of Hope, the two saw an opportunity, and determined to meet the challenge.
Upon her return to America, Mrs. Machovec began looking for volunteer grandmothers to make a trip with her to Africa. Upon hearing of this need, Arlene Allen, the National Director of Women’s Ministries for the Assemblies of God church rallied behind her, and together they created the first-ever Granny Brigade.
Mrs. Machovec added: “Our plan is to have this be just the first of many Granny Brigades that travel the world, bringing a grandmother’s love to children in need.”
When Edmund Burke described the “little platoons” that would inspire and provide the backbone of civil society, he very well could have been describing this small brigade of grandmothers who, not content to sit idly by, are traveling to Africa to hug dying children.