Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Value of Tears

I have been thinking a lot about the value of our tears....

Sara, my eldest daughter came home on Monday from running one of the girls groups. On Mondays, she spends time with about 10 teenage girls aged 13-19years old, from a poor village we have been working with. Sometimes they sit and talk, make paper beads, watch a video or learn to cook. After this last group Sara came in and started sharing about her time. As she did, tears started to stream down her face. She said “Mummy, these girls are just like me, but they are too poor to go to school.  Some haven’t even done grade 3. They want to, but can’t even afford the 60birr a year to enrol ($4). Mummy can we please help them go to school?!”

You know those stories, those situations that make the inner most inner part of your soul cry. I used to think that crying will make no change, that it would just add to the cries of those who are the victims. Or that it was much easier to live life, without the emotional attachment of caring too much.

But as I write this blog today, I am challenged by my own words. I believe God sees our tears as silent heartfelt prayers. I believe that our tears move Him, that He is not silent in these concerns. He does not decide to ‘sit this one out’ when it’s too hard. These are His precious children hurting and He grieves it more than we realise, certainly more than we do. I was sitting with Kate the other night and she read a verse out to me. Luke wrote in Acts 20 v 19 that Paul served in tears and humility. I don’t ever remember reading this before. Even in his tears, he was serving. It brought back to mind the times when it felt like I had no words left, when only tears would flow, I knew in those times that God heard my silent prayers, and always will.

So, we know that he sees the tears, the pain, the hurt, but will only do as much as we allow him to do through us.

This thought inspires me, if even our tears can accomplish something and be of service, how much more can our hands accomplish!! I don’t think we realise the potential that has been placed inside us, to make a difference to the world around us.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

When all you can do is still not enough, but it's all you can do

I have wanted to scream, every day since after Mothers Day I have felt like screaming on and off. Something has got to give, yet at the same time I find the strength to keep going, because steps forward are being taken, progress is being made. This blog is a really sad one. As much as I want to share my tears with you and encourage you to read on, please if you have a weak stomach, this blog entry is not for you. All week I thought I would not share this, but a close friend encouraged me to rethink it.
You may have heard about Fantanesh from Marcie’s website or Leith’s Grace Calendar.

Fantanesh had a baby last week, the day after Mothers Day. This would normally be wonderful news, except he was not alive. She and her new husband could think of nothing better than to parent a baby together, except that Fantanesh has a rare A- blood and a condition that meant that her babies have a little chance to live through to birth.  We did not know about this condition until it was too late. Fantanesh has one healthy 6 yr old son in Grace ASC. She was married recently and her and her husband were expecting a baby. She had already lost one child in a miscarriage. Had we known about Fantanesh’s blood condition we could have monitored her more closely. This pregnancy, her baby lived for almost 8 months in her womb, then died. We do not know for sure if it was due to the fall she had the month before, the medicine she has been taking for depression, or the rare blood condition. While I and Sister Ababu waited with her in the OR for her c-section, she lay next to a mother who had just given birth to a healthy baby boy. I worried about the emotional and mental effect that this could have on a mother waiting for her dead baby to be removed, the medical profession here do not think of things like that. But she had no choice anyway. All 3 of the doctors that were at the hospital who could perform c-sections had left to open private practices, this meant the hospital was turning away mother after mother who needed a c-section, sending them to private clinics. If the mother can not afford to have a c-section at a private clinic then there is no choice for her and her baby, and at least one or both will die. This is happening right now. So SAD, so WRONG. While we were waiting at the clinic, having also been turned away from the hospital, we saw 4 more mothers being told there was no room at the clinic, not because they couldn’t pay, but because there were no beds for them to lay and no time for them to have the operations. My prayer was that they would find a clinic willing to operate in time, and that they had the finances needed.
As Fantanesh picked her catheter up and walked herself into the operating room, she was crying, ‘please Dee if I die... Solomon (her son)’. Her cry was also to the doctor to do the c-section well as her future hope was to have another baby. She longed to have another baby. This may have been her mother instinct and desire, but it was also my feeling, living in this country and seeing these ladies, that when they are married, giving her husband a baby gave more of a guarantee to her that he would stay around and not go looking elsewhere for a lady to bear him children. She wanted to be able to give her husband a child. He, by the way, stayed by her side the entire time, and did not leave her.
The operation took just over half an hour and half an hour after the operation had finished, she was awake. Sister Ababu was very pleased with her progress and recovery. While she was in recovery, I asked where the baby was and what would happen to him/her, so Sister went to find out. She came back and asked if I wanted to see the baby. I knew I did... but wasn’t sure if I did. I had seen babies die, I had seen some really horrifying things, but this was new. Part of me really needed to see this baby, I couldn’t say no. I took a deep breath and breathed out a confidant but quiet sounding ‘yes’, then followed the lady down the stairs and around the back of the clinic to the wash area. She led Sister Ababu and I to a orange wash bucket with a pile of dirty bloody laundry, which I presumed were sheets from Fantanesh’s operation. She lifted off the pile of dirty laundry to reveal at the bottom, a bloody piece of material...and a baby boy. It took me aback. I could not believe how very beautiful he was. I did not know what I was expecting, but not someone so complete, so perfect. He was 7months and 3 weeks formed, his body was still soft.  I had felt deeply disturbed that it seemed that he was discarded out with the laundry, then found myself standing there in awe of this beautiful baby, I felt so privileged to be meeting him. He was not trash, he was not a patient’s unwanted waste, he was a beautiful baby who was wanted and had been loved so deeply. I felt privileged to be the one who met him. The young wash lady told me they had a man coming to put him in the ground where they put the other things. I said that he needed to be buried properly; otherwise we would take him and bury him ourselves. Sister Ababu is getting really good at understanding our hearts towards her people, even the when it is not always the normal thing, she will often push to see that the right thing is done.

The washing area where in the orange bucket the baby lays.
Beneath that, the babies casket- 2 cardboard boxes.

I know that when someone dies, it is only their body that lay there, that it is no longer the real person anymore, but this was not about that. It was about doing what I could do, about continuing to care about the things that others no longer see as significant or important. It was about not conforming to this society’s way of seeing life, it was about it not being ok that this child died, that he was thrown out. It was about a lot of things that I can’t put into words, I just had to do what I could. We found the only boxes available for his funeral casket; two cardboard boxes- a small one and then a larger, and looked for a spare sheet. They could not afford to give any of the sheets away. I rang Marcie who was close by and she was able to buy new material from the market to wrap his body in.  As Marcie and I stood there watching Sister Ababu place his little arms and legs together and his head straight resting on his shoulders, he looked more adorable, innocent and sweet than the first time I looked upon him. The new wash lady who had just started her shift seemed shocked to find out that there was a baby left there, which was a relief to me because maybe this meant this was not a daily routine. She stood there with tears streaming down her face, she did not think she could bring herself to look, but as soon as she saw him, she also could not take her eyes off his little body. Sister wrapped his body so carefully and perfectly in the Ethiopian scarf and laid him in the box.

Due to a generous donation from Australia, Fantanesh was able to have the expensive anti id (medicine) she needed to greater the chances of her next baby being born healthy, as well as have all her medical costs covered. She has been advised against having another baby as there are other medical issues of great concern, that she is dealing with, but being Africa and the society she lives in and options available to her, we have done all we can to protect her and any future children.
Fantanesh is at home and resting well. She told Amdu and Kidist that she is so thankful to Grace. She said that it is her desire to die in our presence, apparently that is something said in great honour. I am certainly aiming, God willing, that she will have a long and happy life.  I think about the other mothers that are just faces to me, but real as Fantanesh. What happens to them?
At the end of the day we walk away knowing we did all we could... but also knowing it is never enough.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Finding your Purpose- Happy Mothers Day x

I remember hearing a wonderful message about people not understanding the value of the thing they hold, so misuse it. It reminded me of a story, a quite hilarious story that happened in Grace (retold by Kidist so a little creative licence has been used on her behalf), that I hold close to me on the hard days, that never ceases to bring a smile to my lips.
We had a wonderful man who worked for us. One day he was clearing out some space and came across what he thought were firecrackers. He was very excited because not only were they firecrackers, but they were ‘ferenje’ ones (and being foreign ones that meant quality)! Because he had permission to clear it all out, he gathered all he could find, and went to our guards and started handing them out as gifts. The first guard who was his good friend, was just as excited as he was. But as they tested the first firecracker by pulling the cord and lighting it, they were disappointed that the flame quickly dissolved before it even reached the cracker. They tried another and another. They were quite disappointed but resolved that it must have been a dud pack. The next time he saw Kidist who was in charge of our stock control, he showed her the left over firecrackers and told her they were broken, wanting her to inform us not to purchase them again.
At that moment, from Kidist, came an uncontrollable roar of laughter, and onto the floor she fell with giggles of glee. It was hard for her to even tell the embarrassed male that he had been lighting TAMPONS!

So the point that I want to reiterate, is that if we do not know our purpose, how can we live in it’s fullest??!

Have you found your purpose?
I encourage you to be the tampon God created you to be. 

Hope I made you smile today too

D xx

P.s- as this is Mothers Day I just want to brag about my mum and say how much I love her. Even though she may not realise it, she is my hero, she is the most hard working, determined woman I know. She grew me into a woman who wanted to make a difference in the world, and by the grace of God I am trying. Happy Mothers Day mum xx.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Faith Regardless

I know the last blog was a little heavy, and I am sorry if the read is too hard, I promise they will not always be sad ones, but I don’t feel like I am quite finished sharing my journey through Deanna’s death.
In her last few hours of life, I held her little hand, her tiny fingers wrapped around my finger, as she lay in hospital, trying to catch her last breaths. She lay there, her body starting to shut down, blood running out of her nasal-gastric tube and into a plastic glove in case they decided to do a blood transfer and could recycle her own blood back into her, as there was no other blood available to use, especially on a HIV victim. Even as she lay there in this state, I put my hand gently on her, praying, believing that God would do something special in her life and heal her. His word said and I believed. When she passed, as well as all the grief to overcome, I had many questions for God. I was confused. He was a faithful God. Why did He not make her well? I carried these questions heavily. As Andrew and I sat on our front stairs as the sun went down on the afternoon of the funeral, we knew that no matter how much this hurt, no matter how much we did not understand about God’s judgement in this, we needed to keep on trusting Him, and continue to know that He IS faithful. He did not intend for Deanna to be born with HIV, he did not intend for her to suffer and die. That was not His desire, that all came from the simple fact that sin is in the world. Our Father did not promise that we would not suffer, He promised to always be with us when we did. He promised to never leave us through it.

I think the greatest form of faith is believing Him regardless of what it looks like, regardless of the outcome. He is the only one that can see the big picture. I never would have thought that the day we mourned Deanna that I would have seen such a display of love and faithfulness.

D xx


photo by Marcie Erickson

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Loss and Love

Almost 2 years ago, a beautiful little girl named Deanna died. She was especially precious to me because she was named after me. I love her mother dearly. Deanna was born HIV+ and at about 5 months went downhill very quickly. Within a week of full time care to try to get her healthy again (as we had done with many other babies in her state) she died. It was a very hard time for me. I of course blamed myself for what I could have done differently or better. The most painful thing was watching her mother mourn her loss. To lose a child in death, I could not think of anything more painful. Funerals in Ethiopia are very different to the ones we have in our western cultures, along with the way mourning someone’s death is displayed. There is great wailing from the depths of your soul. You are encouraged to scream, cry, wail, and/or chant to mourn the loss of your loved one. Your friends, family and community come around you and for the first night for many, many hours you display your grief in this way together. And even if you did not know the person well, it is expected that you participate. The first funeral I went to I saw so many ‘crocodile tears’ and felt that a lot of the display was just that, a display. The more time I have spent here, the more I have come to appreciate the way the people mourn their lost ones. Yes, there are some who like to put on a good show, but when a mother or someone is free to express her hurt and pain, and get it all out, and not act ‘socially acceptable’, I think it can be a very healthy thing.
After the first morning of Deanna’s funeral we all went back to her mother’s house where coffee was prepared and chickpeas were roasted. We sat, at first still weeping in silence. My eyes scanned the place looking at all the women from Grace who were supporting this mother so beautifully. All of these mothers, at one stage or another, had come into Grace with no family, no support, nothing. Now they had each other. They considered themselves friends and sisters. They were family. As the hours passed the women started to talk, then little giggles broke out amidst the conversations. Now my eyes filled with tears, watching this amazing group of ladies loving on each other through their grief. To have started the day off so grief stricken in the loss of an innocent babies life, having to help our nurse wrap her tiny still body preparing her for the ground, but then to see the embrace these ladies had for one another, was a gift I found that I was not expecting.
I found out that day, that unlike an adults funeral that is mourned for 40 days and people will come to your house each day for this period, that for a baby you are only allowed or expected to mourn for 3 days. I think this is because the guarantee for this child is access into heaven, but maybe it is because it was ‘only’ a child. The last thought makes me sad, but I am still yet to really understand. I think time will bring the answers.