*be warned: I always re-read things before I post them. I didn't re-read this one, it is liable to be messy...
I am processing so many emotions right now; I'm just going to go ahead and let you know that this post will not be eloquent or well written. It will not be a beautifully worded story, but just the ramblings of a mom who is tired today. It will just be, and it will be good enough.
On Thursday of last week,I went to check on Michael, a sweet little boy from the Karamajong village that we took care of a few weeks ago. I found him with open sores all over his body. As a result of severe malnutrition, Michael weighs just ten kilos at 6 years old. He is no taller than Jane (my two and a half year old). His skin is breaking and unable to repair itself because his immune system is so weak. His hair is white as snow and his skin is yellow and splotchy and his smile and little bug out eyes can melt your heart and light up the room. Michael is fearfully and wonderfully made, created in the image of my Savior.
I have warned myself over and over that I must NOT start bring home children from the Karamajong village. We feed them lunch and supper every day and twice a week I drive my van, the trunk loaded with a mini pharmacy, into the middle of their village and treat anything I can. And I told myself and told myself that I would not bring them home for treatment, that twice a week visits were all I could handle right now. I wanted so badly to guard my heart because here's the thing: once you take one, you may end up with 13. I knew that once I had taken one sick child from this village home for rehab, there would be not stopping point because these children are ALL ALWAYS sick.
But as I looked at Michael, I saw no alternative. He needed to be bathed in warm water every day. He needed milk and eggs and ORS and multivitamins and fresh fruits and vegetables and there was no way I could get him all those things regularly where he was. Even if I did, there was no guarantee that his parents would not sell these things and continue only feeding him posho (corn flour). So he came home. He tested negative for HIV, TB and typhoid and we began a pretty rigid deworming routine as well as a highly caloric, protein packed diet. In the last 5 days he has gained 2.5 pounds (that's a lot if you only weigh 20!) but he has gained more than that. I have watched him transform from a lifeless, expressionless little boy who slept all day and was unresponsive to a over-the-top cheerful, sometimes down right ornery little boy who hardly ever stops smiling and loves playing games with other children. The transformation has been remarkable.
I will keep him for about another week as I begin counseling his father and step mother (this is the biggest issue, often second wives do not want to care for their husband's other children and sometimes even write them off as cursed or not worthy of food and provision...) about the most nutritious foods for him, frequent meals, bathing, ect. My heart will break to take him back and yet I will know that it is what is best for him and his family.
Wednesday as I met with the Karamjong children for Bible study a woman walked up to me and handed me a baby that I presumed to be dead. And then she breathed.
The mother told me that she was quite positive that she (the mother) had HIV and therefore was not breastfeeding her 10 pound, 9 month old little girl. I asked, quite obviously, what she had been feeding her then? And this was the response that awaited me, "Nothing. We have no food." Um. NO wonder the baby looked dead. She almost was. I pleaded the mother to let me take her with me, to be tested for HIV and be fed. The mother instanly agreed but fist wanted to show me her house.
I think I have seen it all. And then this happens. Thier house was made of cardboard and was smaller than the bed I sleep in at night. On the floor lay filthy old rags on which they slept and a pile of charcoal which they cooked on (when they did have food, I guess). I almost dropped on my knees right there. It was one of those I-just-don't-have-a-clue-what-to-do-next moments. So I did the only thing that comes naturally to me. I scooped her up. I prayed for her mother and the 6 other children living in the house/box and promised to return. I drove as fast as I safely could to the nearest semi-good hospital and then to get some high energy formula.
For the first 24 hours, I could hardly stand to look at sweet baby Patricia (her parents had not named her for fear she would die, and I could think of no one better to name her after than my precious Mommy). The hurt and the hunger in her lifeless little eyes was simply unbearable. Every time I changed her diaper, more big fat worms (we are talking really large, earth worm sized) had come out. I cried for the things this child has had to endue for so long. And I cried to know that though I deworm her now, the minute I take her back to her mother, the worms will return. Her HIV test came back negative and I am praising Jesus for that. She was diagnosed with severe pnemonia and malnutrition. She can hardly sleep at night for coughing so much.
Friends, I ask for prayer. For these children and for my heart. I have fallen in love with Michael and Patricia. Their sweet faces that arer Jesus. The tear stream down as I write this and have to think about taking them back to their parents, who I will try to help as much as possible, but still have such fear in my heart about. I look at their surroundings and simply wonder how children survive in this harsh world.
I am sad and I am angry. Between no sleep and a million doctors appointments (imagine that in Uganda you wait even LONGER in the hospital than you do in the US...) and Bible club on Thursday and Saturday program tomorrow and trying to raise 13 children and spend enough time with each of them, maybe you will right my saddess and anger of as the rantings of an exhausted mother and maybe they are, but this is my blog and I am going to say what I feel like. I am MAD. I have been sad and broken for these children for so long and it has finally turned into a hardened anger. I am angry that this culture so lies to women that Michael's stepmother believes that she does not have to care for this child who is not biologically hers, though she has ample means to. I am angry that in the "Pearl of Africa" and the most fertile region of it at that, a mother has litteraly NO food to feed her baby, not to mention herself or 6 other kids. I am angry that the result of this is that these sweet ones suffer in their innocence. I have said it before and it still holds true: I DO NOT BELIEVE that the God of the universe created too many children in His image and not enough love or food or care to go around. In fact I believe that He created the Body of Christ for just that, to help these little ones, the least of these. And I believe that except for a handful, the Body of Christ is failing. And its not just me who thinks this. When I'm angry, I like to research so that I can at least feel a bit justified in my rage ;) According to several differnt resources, there are an average of 147 million orphaned children in the world today (this statistic includes children who have lost only one parent as well), 11 million children starve to death each year or die from preventable, treatable illness. 8.5 million children work as child slaves, prostitutes, or in other horrific conditions (making things like that cute baby Gap dress Jane wore today...) 2.3 million children world wide are living with HIV.
That is 168.8 million needy children like Michael and Patricia. Seems like a big number, huh? It shouldn't, because there are 2.1 BILLION people on this earth who profess to be Christians. Jesus followers. Servants. Gospel live-ers. And id only 8 percent of those Christians would care for just ONE of these needy children, they would all be taken care of.
And now I'm just sad again. And I want to take care of all 169 million. But as I look into Patricia's eyes, that since just 48 hours ago have turned bright and smiley, as I smell her hair freshly washed with baby shampoo and snuggle her into her new footie pajamas (side note: is their ANYTHING cuter than a baby in soft cotton footie pajamas?!) God tells me that this one is enough. That He will hold the others while they wait for someone to come along and hold them tight and give them their milk and their medicine. That He doesn't ask me to take them all but to stop for the ONE because that one is Jesus, His son. Stop for the little boy with white haid and scabs covering his body, stop for the baby with feces covering her dress, so weak she can't hold up her hear. Stop and take the ones right in front of me any trust Him with the rest. He whispers that it will be ok and that I can smile because tonight 2 less children are hungry and that is good for today.
My anger is gone and I am just a mom who is tired and going to make another bottle and tuck her children into bed and love them the best that I can, as we as a family love the ones God has entrusted us with. Tomorrow I will brainstorm and pray and come up with the best way to take Michael and Patricia back to their homes, possibly find their parents jobs, or supply them with food and medicine. Tomorrow I will remember that they were never mine to begin with, that they are HIS and He will go with them where I cannot. But tonight I will just be. I will just sit with my Father in my sadness and brokeness and anger and ask Him why His innocent children must suffer and beg Him to move people to action and let Him hold me as I hold the baby He has blessed me with for today.