Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Monday, May 23, 2011
After our first night with baby Joel where we monitored him and kept him on oxygen I expected to return him to his mom and come back in a few month to visit a happy healthy baby. The next day however we found Joel with jaundice and when we approached a nurse to ask about the mother the nurse ignored us and instead answered her cell phone and walked away to have a private conversation. After the previous night where they refused to put a barely breathing Joel on oxygen because they didn’t have a cannula and then got mad at us when we said we were leaving we were done with this particular hospital and took Joel to a clinic in town. The clinic told us jaundice was normal and to bring him back the next day. When we took him back the next day they tested his blood levels and told us he needed a blood transfusion but that they weren’t legally allowed to do it. So we took Joel to hospital number three where they tested his blood type (B+) but told us they didn’t have any blood. So we went to hospital number four where they had blood but no one there to test the blood for compatibility. So we went to hospital number five where they only had a small amount of blood and much sicker babies who needed it more. So we went to hospital number six. If this hospital didn’t have his blood we were going to have to leave for Kampala and start going to hospitals there. We had been searching for blood for Joel for six hours now and were so upset. Over and over again we had prayed as we entered each new hospital and over and over again I expected God to show up and he hadn’t. I was so frustrated and angry. How could the God that kept this baby going when he fought for life his first hours on earth not show up for us now? I sat in the car so sleep deprived and with not an ounce of patience left in my body and I screamed out to God, “where are you???” And I felt Jesus in that car looking me in the eye and saying, “I’m right here.” God never promises that everything will turn out how we want. He never promises that all our selfish requests will be granted. But he does promise to always be present with us and in that car I knew that whatever happened God would be there by my side and whether he granted my desperate requests or not Joel’s name (Jehovah is Lord) will never cease to be true.
And so I was struggling to hold on to those promises as we ran into our sixth hospital and desperately asked a nurse whether they had blood. She said she wasn’t sure but she found someone to bring us to the fridge where they stored it. We walked in and he opened the fridge. Sitting at the bottom was ONE bag of blood and as we leaned in we saw written on the bag B+ (Joel’s blood type). We screamed. We laughed. We cried. We praised our God.
It was a miracle and it showed me once again that God is listening and ever present in our lives.
But it didn’t mean Joel was out of the woods. Today we met a British doctor who agreed to come to the hospital with us and examine Joel. She said he was severely jaundice and fighting a pretty bad infection. Thankfully the doctor is doing everything she recommended but hearing more negative news about our precious Joel is wearing me down. God brought him through his first night of breathing- He provided the blood he needed- why can’t he be a healthy baby boy already? I just want so badly to go visit Joel and for once hear good news.
But God is continuing to whisper, “I am right here and I’m not leaving.”
He doesn’t promise me that Joel will be okay. He doesn’t promise that the next few days will be easy. But he does promise to never leave me nor forsake me.
And no matter what happens Jehovah will always be Lord.
Please keep Joel in your prayers.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Meet baby Joel:
He is the son of the guard at Amani.
The guard told us that he needed to leave work because his wife had just given birth and was in critical condition so we drove him to the village clinic where his wife had given birth. We found his wife very weak and still bleeding and his two hour old son barely breathing so we drove them both to the hospital. The drive to the hospital was terrifying as baby Joel’s breathing became more irregular and we sat in the car navigating Jinja’s roads at night and begging God for Joel’s life. When we arrived at the hospital we met the usual Uganda health care frustration which I’ll save for a different post. We ended up leaving in a rage and rushing Joel to Amani where there was an oxygen machine. We called Amani’s nurse and once she established that Joel did not have any other serious needs other than oxygen right now we settled in for the night. When the sun rose Joel was ready to breathe on his own and we were able to bring him back to his mommy.
Today we found him with jaundice and the mother’s milk hasn’t come in yet (but her bleeding stopped and she seems much stronger). Please keep Baby Joel and his mother in your prayers.
We were given the honor of naming Baby Joel and chose Joel because it means Jehovah is Lord. May we never forget that Jehovah was Lord the night Joel fought for his life as he is every day. Nothing we do or accomplish is us… it is all for his glory.
“Rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God. For he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”
Sunday, May 15, 2011
In bible study someone says, “I think God chooses to use those that are not qualified to do his work in order that his glory will shine even brighter.” We all nod in unison. So very very true.
I sit in a hospital in Africa and question a Ugandan nurse about kidney transplants. Next to me is a father who has put all his hope for his son’s life in me and Kelsey’s hands. He sits quietly with his arms around his son, looking at me expectantly, as I struggle to find the right questions to ask and the right words of comfort to give.
I am 19 years old with one year of college under my belt. I have spent a total of five months and two weeks in this country. I am so not qualified to be in this place. To be sitting in this hospital handing over the file for a dying child and trying to find a way to save his life. As the nurse looks over his file I can’t help but wonder- how in the world did I get here?
How did I become a sorta-maybe-kinda- mother to a 15 month old? When did I become the girl a father trusts his son’s life with? Who decided I was smart enough to make judgments about whether a child’s home is healthy and safe? What was God thinking when he brought me here?
I am not particularly adventurous- I was never the girl who jumped at every chance she got to do something new and exciting. And yet somehow I ended up hopping on bodas that weave in and out of crazy traffic and bargaining prices in a foreign market. I was never good at roughing it- I liked air conditioning and a warm shower every day. And yet somehow I live in Africa where it’s hot and there are bugs and I’m always covered in dirt.
I am not qualified for this life. I have a feeling that even if I read all the books and found the exact perfect major and spent years listening to more qualified people I would still never feel like I knew what I was doing.
But you know what? That’s just the way I like it. When I feel inadequate each and every day I have no other choice but to lean on Jesus and when once in a while I actually accomplish something I have no one else to praise but my God.
I hope I never feel qualified for this life.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
I’ve sat down to write this post so many times and sat right back up with an empty page still in front of me. I guess it’s just too hard to use mere words to describe the perfection of Esther’s home, the faithfulness of our God, my paradox of emotions, and how unreal meeting her family was.
And then I worry that I will just sound like a broken record when I tell you that God is so good and so faithful and I am so happy. It’s all true but it’s nothing new. And yet I will tell you I am blown away by God’s goodness and faithfulness because a year ago I had no idea what Esther’s future looked like and now I could not ask for it to be more perfect.
When we arrived at her compound her entire family came running to greet us and were so excited to see Esther. One auntie told me, “we have been anticipating her since this morning.” I cried in the Jjaja’s hut as I told them, “I prayed for Esther to be loved and cared for and you are the answer to my prayers.” As I looked around the home and saw the family pass Esther around to welcome her back I knew without a doubt in my mind that there was no better place for Esther to grow up than here.
My favorite moment of the entire visit was when the Jjaja took me to see Esther’s mother’s grave. Esther’s mother, who was called Esther but spelled her name Easter (because she was born on Easter day), is buried right behind where Esther eats, plays, and sleeps. I love the symbolism of how close Esther gets to be to her family, her heritage, and her culture. I love that she grows up hearing stories of her mother’s life and learning her local language and playing in the dirt and being Ugandan.
One of the days when Esther was visiting she called me mama. I wrote it off at the time as her being confused or me hearing her wrong but when I brought her home to her family they called me mommy Esther and asked Esther if she had liked visiting her mom. My first instinct was to say, “don’t call me her mother. A real mom does not live a continent away from her baby.” But I stay quiet and they keep calling me mommy Esther and I start to wonder if maybe I could be a different kind of mom. One who prays for Essy from afar, one who sends the support her family needs, one who seeks to make the best decisions for her- even if those decisions don’t include me, and does her best to give real live hugs when she can.
I look down at her mother’s grave and my heart is overwhelmed. I wish I could talk to her. I wish I could tell her how much I love her daughter and how much I want what is best for Esther. I wish I could tell her how grateful I am for the opportunity to care for her daughter and how I ache for Esther to know her family and her culture and feel rooted in this country that I love. She must have been a beautiful woman to have produced such a gorgeous baby girl. I hope she knows her daughter is loved and that I will make sure she is loved and cared for as long God knits the two of us together.
Esther's mom's grave
Me and all of Esther's family
Monday, May 9, 2011
Saturday, May 7, 2011
God is good- ALL the time. That phrase has been circulating in my mind since I landed in Uganda four days ago. I seem to be incapable of producing any other words or thoughts.
I stared up at the Ugandan night sky with stars peppering the darkness as my precious Esther fell asleep in my arms. I put her in my bed and spent the hours left of the night staring at her- trying to wrap my head around the reality that this beautiful, healthy, wonderfully, happy child was that four month old baby I left a year ago. I watched her suck her thumb and snuggle into the covers and tears streamed down my face as I thought, “God is good- ALL the time.”
We saw his father bringing him down the hill and when he reached us we couldn’t believe he was the same kid. He couldn’t stop smiling and he had grown into a smart little boy. Where was the solemn baby we had known before? He snuggled against his father as the father told us it was a joy to parent him. God is good- All the time.
When the van pulled in she was already running towards us laughing the entire way. When I jumped out of the van she propelled herself towards us as her friends looked on with shy smiles. She smiled and giggled when I hugged and kissed her and when I left she went to her grandmother’s arms with the same joyful spirit. God is good- All the time.
The house is full to bursting of children and I see my friends standing in the midst of the glorious chaos and I can’t help but tear up at their dream- the one we talked and prayed about a year ago- a reality before my eyes. Ten sweet children who could now point to this house and call it home and point to my friends and say ‘mama.’ God is good- All the time.
We sit in a circle talking in circles and finding no real solution. I juggle Esther on my hip as I try to wrap my head around this precious boy’s fate. He has been in three homes this year already and now we are all discussing where to send him next. This beautiful boy who captures the heart of everyone he meets except for the family who is supposed to love and care for him unconditionally. We fight for adoption, someone else wants him in their orphanage, and the auntie claims she should be given another chance. I look at him and ache for him to know love and call someone mommy. But there is only so much we can do. God is good- All the time.
God’s goodness is not dependent on our situation but when our situation is good is when we are reminded of his goodness. I am reminded of God’s goodness when I hold my baby girl and when I see children home and happy. When I look into the eyes of a little boy I cannot help and when I see poverty all around me I force myself to look up into the sky and declare that our God is good- ALL the time.
God was just as good when I sobbed into Esther’s shoulder begging God to keep me from having to say goodbye as he is now as I watch her smile and laugh in my arms.
God was just as good when I sat behind my computer screen in America wishing I could see those kids with my own eyes as he is now when they jump into my arms and throw their heads back in laughter.
God was good yesterday- when it was night, and he is good today-when the morning gleams. God is good. All the time God is good.