Mamadou has AIDS.
His fingers shred the bread while we sing the hymn.
Mamadou has been with us for more than a year now. He comes from Guinea, former French colony in West Africa. Born in the humid hills of Fouta-Djallon, he has experienced what repression does. The details of his journey, first to France, then to Belgium, are those of thousands like him. His request for asylum has been denied, but his disease granted him permission to remain for treatment.
When the missionaries found him, he was straightforward about his HIV. The therapy came too late. Six to eight months left.
He stands behind the sacrament table. For his shrinking body the jacket is too ample now. Too wide has grown the collar of his shirt.
Mamadou breaks each piece slowly, thoughtfully, as if saying a prayer for each soul to whom it is intended. His face is reverently cheerful, nurturing divine delight for the ordinance. His lungs, ravaged by PCP, take in short breaths to ease the pain as he stands in the lavender fragrance of the white table linen, starched and ironed to perfection, and which he has helped to fold with liturgical care over the water trays.
Father, from me remove this cup.
Yet, if thou wilt, I’ll drink it up.
I’ve done the work thou gavest me,
I’ve done the work thou gavest me.
The deacons move forward.
Mamadou kneels and reads the prayer from his own Book of Mormon in French. A couple of words per expiration.
â€¦ et garder
qu’il leur a donnÃ©s,
afin qu’ils aient
toujours son Esprit
The deacons break up to their zones.
Some in the audience follow which tray goes where.
Some fake taking from the bread which his fingers have shred.