Monthly Archives: September 2013

Full Circle: I AM Children’s Family Orphanage

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DSC00908At the end, we come back to the beginning.

Before I left California for Uganda, I met with a Ugandan children’s choir touring in SoCal to raise funds for I AM Children’s Family orphanage in Kampala. My brother Andrew hosted the choir in his home, I later met the directors, and they kindly connected me to their dear people in Uganda, where I was able to enjoy the hospitality of my friend Ruth – and the smooth driving skills of another friend, Simon, who took me from place to place as needed. This sister and brother in Christ took good care of me during my final days in Uganda, and I am so grateful to them, as I was ill and needed the help.

I was able to visit the I AM Children’s Family Orphanage, and I can tell you, it’s doing a lot of good work for a lot for children. The needs of the place are on going. When I visited, I personally began to pray for a missionary or NGO feeding program to get connected with the place as well as some folks who could revamp the home and grounds through a sustained program of remodeling. Please keep the children of I AM Children’s Family Orphanage in your prayers, too.

Dreaming of a remodel … 

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Westgate Massacre, Kenya

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As I headed south from the birth center to G-Town and Murchison Falls to Kampala, the capitol city of Uganda, a terrible tragedy was unfolding in neighboring Kenya: the massacre of dozens of innocent people in the Westgate shopping center in Nairobi. I caught glimpses of footage on television screens and heard reports on the radio. An Islamic militant group, Al-Shabaab of Somalia, targeted the shopping center.

The longer I work with families in childbirth, the less patience I have for brutality and murder. Murder distresses me more than it did before, and I cannot ignore my feelings about it. It wastes the nine months of a woman’s pregnancy, her hard labor to bring forth new life (not to mention the work of the midwife helping her!), and all the years of nurturing the life of a human being to maturity. It takes years for a human being to grow, but only seconds to destroy all of that beauty and wonder. It’s wrong, and I can’t stand it.

Among the dead in Kenya were two pregnant women, one nine months along and the other seven months along. Kofi Awoonor, the Ghanaian poet, was also killed.

ACROSS A NEW DAWN

Sometimes, we read the
lines in the green leaf,
run our fingers over the
smooth of the precious wood
from our ancient trees; 

sometimes, even the sunset
puzzles, as we look
for the lines that propel the clouds,
the colour scheme
with the multiple designs
that the first artist put together. 

There is dancing in the streets again;
the laughter of children rings
through the house.
On the seaside, the ruins recent
from the latest storms
remind of ancestral wealth
pillaged purloined pawned
by an unthinking grandfather
who lived the life of a lord
and drove coming generations to
despair and ruin. 

*

But who says our time is up,
that the box maker and the digger
are in conference
or that the preachers have aired their robes
and the choir and the drummers
are in rehearsal? 

No; where the worm eats,
a grain grows.
The consultant deities
have measured the time
with long winded
arguments of eternity. 

And death, when he comes
to the door with his own
inimitable calling card
shall find a homestead
resurrected with laughter and dance
and the festival of the meat
of the young lamb and the red porridge
of the new corn. 

*

We are the celebrants
whose fields were
overrun by rogues
and other bad men who
interrupted our dance
with obscene songs and bad gestures. 

Someone said an ailing fish
swam up our lagoon
seeking a place to lay its load
in consonance with the Original Plan. 

Master, if you can be the oarsman
for our boat
please do it, do it.
I asked you before
once upon a shore
at home, where the
seafront has narrowed
to the brief space of childhood. 

We welcome the travelers
come home on the new boat
fresh from the upright tree.

Kofi Awoonor

Saving a Life

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DSC00681On the night before I was supposed to leave the birth center in Atiak, a woman came in, laboring actively. I’d had a sense she was coming, and now she was here! Sumia is fifteen years old.

Sumia’s labor was difficult for her, but she endured. Eventually, I was able to check her and let her know that she was completely dilated and effaced, with only a slight anterior lip, and she would soon be able to push her baby out. After SROM on the birth stool, I expected her pushes to effectively bring the baby down, but pushing took three and a half hours.

As it turned out, the the baby’s head was asynclitic. And the baby had her cord around her neck. As the baby’s head emerged, I tried to slip the cord over her head. When this did not work easily, I summersaulted the baby out, turning her face to her mother’s thigh as the head restituted and ducking her head down while bringing her body up so that the cord would not hold her back. As I did so, I said to midwife Stephanie, who was with me, “This baby has no tone.” She didn’t. And she was blue.

“Stimulate her,” Stephanie said, and I did, as Stephanie got the resuscitation equipment. Baby was skin-to-skin with her mom, her belly on her mother’s belly and her head turned over her mother’s side to allow for positional drainage of her nose and throat. I was rubbing her down with a cloth to try to get her to warm up and cry, breathe or move in some way. Nothing.

Stephanie quickly bulb-suctioned the baby and then used to delee to clear her airway. We lay the baby on the cloth-covered board and put her head in the “sniffing position” in order to give her puffs of air from the ambu bag. It was one of the most intense moments of my life:  laying that baby down and still seeing no tone, no movement. We lifted the board onto the mother’s belly to avoid straining the cord. “Talk to your baby,” Stephanie told the mom.

Stephanie gave me the stethoscope, and I put it against the baby girl’s chest. Hope! Her heart was hammering away — very healthy. I checked the cord: it was still pulsing. The baby was still getting oxygen through her cord.

Stephanie affixed the mouthpiece of the ambu bag to the baby’s face. I carefully drew out a piece of cloth that had gotten caught between the baby’s mouth and the mouthpiece; now the seal would be good, and the air would go into the baby’s lungs. Stephanie squeezed the bag, and the breath of life went into the baby.

Within a few minutes, the baby cried, albeit weakly. “Look,” I said, “she’s pinking up.” And she was. She was cyanotic at her extremities, but she was finally transitioning to life outside the womb. It was so good to see the muscles of her face move! To see her feet and hands begin to move! “She’s breathing,” I said, and I gave the stethoscope to Stephanie so she could listen to this baby’s healthy, happy heart.

We cleaned up, placing baby skin to skin with her mother. She began breastfeeding well in the night. Everything turned out well by God’s grace.

We named the baby Stacey. Stacey comes from the Greek name Anastasia. It means “resurrection.”

Another Baby Jane!

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DSC00596With midwife Rosie,
I helped to welcome this baby to the world last night …

19 September 2013 … To me, this baby girl is very special. Her mother has been pregnant nine times, three times with twins. One pair of twins died shortly after birth, and another pair died when they were three years old of illness. Fortunately, the surviving twins are now seven years old and doing very well, as are this mother’s other children.

The mother is now forty-seven years old, and this is her first child with the husband she was able to marry after she was widowed. She did not think she would have more children as she was entering menopause. As you see, this girl is a very special baby!

She is deeply loved already.

p.s. This mom decided to name her baby Janie. When the mother asked me to name her daughter, I suggested Rosalyn, after her mother and her primary midwife, but the mother asked me, “What is your name?” So I told her, and she gave my name to her baby! We proceeded to have a splendid time taking pictures to remember the moment …

 

Chai with Sister Margaret

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19 September 2013

DSC00590After three weeks of holiday, school has resumed at St. Monica’s next door to Ot Nywal Me Kuc. This morning, I walked over to visit Sister Margaret and found her lining up little children (ages 4-5), then leading them in the Lord’s prayer and a lovely song. She turned them over to their teacher, and we went to have morning chai together with Sister Doreen, who has returned from giving a workshop/retreat on stewardship to sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus living in another part of Uganda.

The three of us had a good long conversation, part of it dedicated to the Kuramatango (spelling??) tribe and their ways. In the course of it, Sister Margaret told Sister Doreen how I had been visiting her while she was away: how I would walk around the St. Monica campus, bird-watching with a cup of tea in my hand – and praying. I was so touched that she thought of these details about me!

When Sister Doreen left to attend to some paperwork in the office, I told Sister Margaret about the baby I had named Margaret, thinking of her, and I told her I would bring pictures of the baby to show her. She said that I should also tell the mother to come visit her “so that I can see my baby.” 🙂 Then Sister Margaret and I prayed together, since Sister Margaret knows I am leaving the birth center tomorrow to begin my long journey home.

Sister Margaret said another thing to me about how we became friends during this time of the school holidays when all theDSC00592 children and most of the staff of the school were away from the campus. She said, “You were listening to the cry of the bird, but it was my cry that you heard, because I was alone.” This touched my heart so much.

There are so many people faithfully serving God all over the world, and they may feel very alone at times, but God shows his goodness to us in this: that he brings friendship into our lives.

Naming Margaret

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17 September 2013

Today Nelda came to visit. She is a locholo in Parawaca. On Wednesday, she gave birth at home in the care of Apiyo Grace, a locholo trained by Karamela. She had a daughter, anyaka malang (a very beautiful girl!), her fourth child. It was so nice to see her.

When I asked her the baby’s name, she said I should choose it. “Me?” I said. “You!” So I looked at this sweet baby girl’s face, and I said, “Margaret.” Margaret is a common English name here, and it means pearl. “Pearl” is my favorite poem in the world, and the image of the pearl is precious. It is also the name of my friend, Sister Margaret, who lives close by here at St. Monica’s school.

Always the pearl reminds me of the parable of great price that Jesus told to illustrate that it is worth it to give up everything in this world to seek the salvation of God.