Saturday, November 14, 2009
I didn't know the extent of the situation. I knew something was wrong with Maria's baby, but I was exhausted from the day's journey and said a quick prayer before going to bed. Then in the middle of the night, I heard a piercing scream. My heart was pounding as I fumbled out of bed groggy with sleep, quickly dragging my hand across the wall to find the light switch. Thoughts of Maria's baby raced through my head. Dear God, what had happened?
I looked through the bedrooms and found no one except Mama Florence with her two little girls Favor and Baby Jamie in the last room I checked. She was crying so hard; it was as though she was choking. Her words were like ice, like rocks, like knives. "Maria's baby is dead" she said through squinted angry eyes. All I knew to say was "are you sure?" She reassured me that it was definite. I didn't want to believe it. I felt so lost. I didn't know what to do. We decided to go.
We walked the dirt road through the darkest of nights with the African stars singing a song of mourning. I carried Baby Jamie while Florence walked with Favor. She had been awake through the whole night. I had never felt the heaviness of Africa quite like this. I had been around the year before when a father died, leaving his wife and children. I even went to the funeral. But these people were my family. These were people I had lived with, served with, laughed with, sang with, and even cried with. These were my friends, my loved ones...and...their newborn baby.
We were all so excited when we heard the news of the birth! It was a boy! They had already had a girl so the first boy of their family was very special and joyful for them. She had asked me what she should name him. I told her the name of my friend who immediately objected and we laughed. I rejoiced with her over this precious gift of life from God.
I heard rumors that Maria had to go back to the hospital after the birth. There were some complications. In America, this doesn't usually mean very much. Thoughts of death certainly never cross your mind. I wanted to know what had happened. I didn't understand.
We walked up to the tiny two room apartment where they were living. The men were all in a room separate from the women as is a tradition from what I understood. I was nervous as I walked into the house where Maria was. What could I do or say? I knew I wanted to pray over the baby. I wanted to pray for the life to be restored, resurrected. I'd heard so many stories of this happening by the power of God all over Africa. Maybe it would happen now! I was anxious but hopeful. The heaviness was like a blanket. Tears filled my eyes as I entered the room. About 5 women were gathered together grieving and consoling Maria. She was beside herself. The cries of a mother losing a child she carried for 9 months, gave birth to, and died in her arms have to be some of the deepest cries of humanity. My baby is dead she said over and over and why why why. A woman who was a bit older with tears also running down her eyes tried to console her. We don't understand why this would happen but you have to be strong.
I went to sit down on the bed. "Becky be careful there is a baby there" There was a tiny little bump under the covers. I could barely see it. I asked if it was alright if I prayed over the baby and they consented. I uncovered the body to see one of the most frightening sights of my life. A two day old infant, cold and pale and without life. I layed my hands on the tiny frame, buried my head in the covers, and cried out to God with all my heart. Nothing. I continued to pray. Nothing...
Africa is a place of raw passion and pain. It is a place where people rely on God for their very lives to be sustained. Maria had complications during her pregnancy and was told to have her baby in a proper hospital. The family couldn't afford it so she just went to a small clinic. Complications during the birth led to a tragedy, the loss of an innocent life.
Stories like this one reveal the curse of poverty and reveal how much we can do out of the kindness of our hearts. It probably would not have been much for this mother to have proper care for her child. A couple of hundred dollars could give her something that is without price.
One thing is for sure...during the two days of life he had, that child was loved and celebrated and prayed over.
This is the story of Name Unknown...I'll call him, Loved.
12even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I've decided to tell their stories. The stories of the people I've met. The stories of the lives I've seen changed or maybe just wanted to see changed... This is the first of a series I'm going to write...TO TELL THEIR STORIES. Hope it will awaken something in the hearts of those who hear...their stories through my eyes.
She slept in a room with a concrete floor no bigger than a closet. She was always awake around 6am running to wash the dishes. Then she would begin washing clothes by hand scrubbing her fingers raw. She built a fire and boiled water for drinking morning tea. She continued her chores throughout the day, scrubbing floors, cooking meals, washing more dishes and clothes. She was a hard worker and she was only… 14. She was shy with a quiet humility but her mouth always smiled when you called her name. I wondered how she’d gotten there…what her story was.
Her Mom had become sick and alone in the village. She couldn’t take care of her. She couldn’t afford to feed her, clothe her, or much less, send her to school, so she was sent out to the city as a worker. The catch was that she wasn’t being paid for her labor. She was a domestic child slave.
I burned at the thought. She should be in school. She had such a sweet spirit and a deep strength about her. She deserved a chance in life just like everyone else.
The only thing I knew to do was to get her into school and out of the house she was working in. The team I was with banded together to make it happen. We agreed and committed to sponsor her monthly, to lay down our lives, to sacrifice, in order that she might have some freedom, hope, and a chance at fulfilling the calling of God on her life. We knew it wouldn’t be easy for us to do, to afford, but we agreed to do it...together. She beamed with delight and wept with joy when we told her.
I later found out that when she was 9 she watched as her father was murdered before her eyes. I would stay up at night with her as her grief was finally released years later through her sobbing. A soaked pillow and jumbled English about how much she missed her Daddy, about how much she loved her Daddy reminded me of my own journey. I let her cry and reminded her of her Heavenly Daddy who is always with her, watching over her, providing for her, healing her heart, and will never leave her. I also learned that when her father died...she had to quit school since her mother was unable to afford it.
Tears filled my eyes when just a while later I was told that her mother finally came to salvation in Christ, overwhelmed at the kindness of God to send Christine to school. I was overwhelmed by the thought. A small gesture led to the salvation of a soul. A destiny was fulfilled, and a soul was saved. The entire village was brought to revival by the mercy of God. I was publically honored with singing and dancing and a joyful parade of African song at her village’s church, which seemed so unbalanced compared to the gift. I realized through that experience the significance of educating an African child.
It was such a small step. It was just the right thing to do. It was justice for what was robbed from her. It was God in His mercy watching over His precious daughter. It was God in His mercy breaking a heavy burden off of a desperate mother. It was five young people feeling God’s heart and trying to make a difference in someone else’s world. It was a wave of gratitude sweeping over a poverty stricken village.
It was love. And this is love. To remember. And to tell her story.