When a patient returns home from Calvary Care Home in Richards Bay, South Africa, it's a bittersweet moment for Kyle and Heather (Fankhauser) Farran.
As directors of the hospice home, the Farrans are delighted to see an HIV-positive person become well enough to leave. But on the other hand, they know they aren't saying goodbye for good.
"We know they'll be back," Kyle said, because the recovery won't last. Still, the former patients are welcome back whenever the need is there.
"When sickness returns," Kyle said, "we want them to come stay with us for a couple weeks."
In 2007, the Farrans moved to Richards Bay to begin work with the Zulu AIDS population for the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism. They left with the financial backing of several churches and individuals in the United States, and more assistance was obtained a few years later when they saw the need for a hospice home.
The four-bed facility opened in November 2011. That's when the hard work began, Kyle said. He picks up and drops off patients, leads Bible study and handles the administration and maintenance of the care home. Heather, a Morenci native, handles the medical side of the facility and provides training for the staff.
When patients began arriving, the Farrans were in for a surprise. They thought their center would serve as the last resort for their guests. Instead it was a more of a stepping stone.
"The vast majority were able to go home," Kyle said.
Heather, who trains the hospice staff members, explained what they learned about HIV-positive patients: They face continual cycles of health and sickness.
"We never really know which time of sickness will be too much for their immune system to handle and bring about death," she said.
When a person is admitted to the center, there's no way to know what lies ahead.
"What has been incredibly exciting is seeing very sick people get stronger and go back to their homes," Heather said. "There are many variables involved in this, but a few are a clean, germ-free environment, compassionate care, quality food and getting them properly back on their medications."
The cultural stress of facing AIDS in the Zulu populations can further weaken a patient. HIV-infected victims are ostracized by their families. The Farrans' first patient had been kicked out of her own home by family members.
The health prognosis for the Richards Bay area doesn't look good.
"Nothing is really improving," Kyle said. "If anything, things are getting worse as tuberculosis numbers rise. Because of a compromised immune system, HIV-positive patients easily succumb to TB and battle to fight it off."
From the start, the Farrans wanted Calvary Care Home to serve as a model for others to replicate, and that desire might become a reality.
"We were able to show the facility and share our training material with a family from another city hoping to start this type of hospice care," Kyle reports.
In addition, Heather was asked to lead some training sessions for other hospice groups when the Farrans return to South Africa.
The couple has no idea how long they'll stay in Richards Bay, but for now their direction is clear.
"We see the need in South Africa and want to keep working to care for those dying from AIDS."
A very challenging year is coming to a close for the Farrans. They say they're continually learning and they still love what they're doing.
Each day in Richard's Bay they work to fulfill the motto of their clinic: Loving people to the last breath.
OPEN HOUSE—Kyle and Heather (Fankhauser) Farran have scheduled an open house from 2 to 7 p.m. Dec. 8 at the Morenci Area High School cafeteria. Guests are invited to stop in for a quick visit or stay for a PowerPoint presentation on their ministry, scheduled at 2 and 6 p.m.
"Because our furlough is very short," Kyle said, "we are unable to visit every church [that has supported us], but we would love to see everyone."
To make contributions for the operation of the care home and for the Farrans’ personal expenses, find details on their website at www.farran.abwe.org.