Monday, 24 February 2014

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Ok, so we had a couple of days of cloud cover that were almost officially ‘cool’ and even a couple of splatters of rain …. But the last three days have been a scorching 34 degrees again! Today is the first day of half term, we’ve all got lots of things we need to be catching up on but even the children have been knocked out by the heat. The air doesn’t move at all in our little house …. it’s now 4:30pm and I’ve got nothing done all day so I’ve come over to the visitors centre where at least the existence of a front door and a back door means there is some flow of air.

During this last week we had a visitor who was visiting our visitor . He was here for just a week and when he was introduced to our church members he asked them what the English were famous for  …. the thought in my head immediately jumped to the word ‘complaining’ … but maybe that’s just me….  because the thought in his head was ‘cricket!’ It’s always good to have new friends come to Kosele and although it was an unexpected time for us and for them we have, as always, been very blessed. Our church pastors Dorine and Kennedy have enjoyed Bible studies of a Bible College standard from our visitors John and Robin (who was also happy to come and bring the message to the church for two weeks in a row.) Our children have had the treat of Robin’s wife Janet who helped them practise their guitar skills and, together with their daughter Kyla, introduced them to the fun and joy of mixing and using icing sugar to decorate some very sweet and tasty biscuits that were enjoyed and appreciated by all of us.

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we’ve also had our team members from Paisley, Ian and Hilda McMillan back with us in Kosele. They bless us and the children in so many ways and yesterday was one of those days when we were particularly thankful to have them here. Although she has worked in a number of different health care environments, Hilda is a trained nurse and has experience of midwifery.  Amongst the children in our home is a special girl called Dorothy. We met Dorothy six years ago when she was just eight years old. She had never been to school and clearly had some serious learning difficulties. We later discovered that Dorothy has an older sister called Mary who has even more severe learning and communication disabilities. Over the years Ian and Hilda have built a good relationship with Mary, they are probably two of a very small number of people that Mary responds to and trusts.

So it was so good that Mary, who always arrives for church before anyone else, duly arrived here yesterday when she was clearly in full labour. It’s a good 30-40 minute walk from her home to ours and about the same to a small clinic/dispensary that has recently been equipped with a room for women in labour and an actual delivery room. However, the clinic is only staffed and functional during daylight hours as there is no accommodation for staff on site and no electric power for light at night and it’s also only staffed from Monday to Friday. Mary’s baby did well to make her entrance during daylight hours but unfortunately chose a Sunday!  Fortunately, Hilda was able to examine her and quickly established that there were signs that the baby was in some distress but that the head wasn’t actually showing so they would have time to get her to the District Hospital (about a 20 minute drive away.) Thankfully, our less than reliable 30yr old Landrover, for once, did not let us down and a beautiful 3kg baby girl was delivered just ten minutes after Mary entered the Delivery room.  The hospital birth was important to make sure that Mary received the appropriate treatment to avoid any internal bleeding or infections but mother and baby were back with us by five, just in time for supper! Today, Hilda and Ian took mother and baby up to the local clinic to be checked again before taking her home to the baby’s grandmother.

 Although in some ways a ‘good news’ story this event also creates a challenge. Mary is a very vulnerable young woman (her own mother has the same issues.) Mary gave birth to her first baby, Lavendar, when she was only 14 yrs old. Less than eighteen months later she gave birth to another baby, little Michael. Sadly she struggled to keep both babies adequately nourished and, at barely three years of age, Lavendar died from a strong malaria. Now, whenever Michael gets sick Mary brings him straight to us and, in her way, she tries very hard to take good care of him. But Mary and her children remain extremely vulnerable. She wants and needs to live independently but is so easily exploited by even her close family members. It’s now eight pm and we have had a storm and some rain…. Tonight, Mary, Michael and new baby Helen (named after one of our dorm mothers who was also with her at the birth) are sleeping in a house with no light, no sanitation and no proper bed. She does have a mosquito net over her mattress on the floor, some food and several large bottles of good water from our bore hole. When you see the way Mary and her family live, without possessions and without any kind of regular income,  it is nothing short of miraculous that she could not only deliver a strong, healthy baby but also be apparently so strong and well herself.

But what now … how do we help Mary and her children to stay well? The clinic nurse today suggested that Mary could receive an implant that would provide her with five years of birth control. Some people might find that offensive or even morally wrong but it seems like the kindest protection to offer Mary and the best chance for her children to escape the possibility of becoming one of the  six and a half million children who will die this year from preventable and treatable causes….. every single one of whom, just like Lavendar, was, if we truly believe  God’s word …  “fearfully and wonderfully made.”

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