Monday, February 11, 2013
A Billow of Hope
While the brightest joys of our short-term mission trips are always with the children, so are the darkest pains.
There's nothing more glorious than hearing the carefree laughter of a child that you have played a role in literally snatching them from the flames of hell; and now that child giggles a story of hope to the whole world.
There's also nothing more taunting of that very hope than a child who seems to be beyond our reach.
A young pregnant mother, Mary, had spent three weeks in the Sudanese government hospital with her severely malnourished three-year-old baby, Dominic. Although it was Dominic who was hospitalized, Mary also had her two-year-old daughter, Ituare, with her for there was no one else to care for the little girl.
Dominic is three years old and weighs 16 pounds. His knitting-needle-size legs cannot adequately support his swollen belly, pin-size arms, or sunken head. So, Dominic can barely stand, walking is impossible. His lids open only to the slightest slits before the weight of them seals his eyes like coffins once again.
After three weeks of hospitalization, the government hospital told Mary, "There's nothing else we can do. He’s too far gone. Carry your son home so he can die there instead of here." Mary knew Ituare would not be far behind Dominic in his journey toward death. And, then, of course, what of the baby in her womb now?
The despair was unending, the agony beyond bearing. Mary could barely walk home herself, much less find the will to carry her three-year-old home to die with her two-year-old in tow.
Still, in Sudan, you do what you cannot do. You will yourself to not feel, to not care so much that you cannot bear to do what you must do. You put one foot in front of the other. You have one more baby after your seventh one has died...but you don't let yourself get too close, care too deeply, or love without doubting because all of life seems to hang on the door of death.
As Mary made her determined death-march home, carrying one baby in her womb, another resting a top her swollen belly that growled with hunger, and a weak two-year-old clinging to her skirt, a stranger along the road asked her where she was going. When Mary told them her sad story, the stranger said, "You should take your children to the Christian clinic at Hope for Sudan. They will not turn you away."
How a woman—left all alone in this world to face such unimaginable suffering and loss—found a billow of hope strong enough to bluster her into risking one more disappointment, I may never know, but hope enough Mary did find. Mary immediately turned from the death march and walked to Hope for Sudan, asking for help, one more time.
For those of us who live our lives with far more "yeses" than "nos", this kind of despair is only a fear that lurks in the recesses of our wildest imagination. Our lives are full of "yeses". Yes! You will have three meals today! Yes! Your children can go to school. Yes! There is a doctor who can see you now. Yes! There is plenty of water to drink! Yes! You can sleep inside tonight without fear of wild animals or a two-legged creature dragging you off into the wilderness.
So, it is quite impossible for us to grasp the ambivalent force that had to be raging within Mary even as she stoically chose to turn away from her death-march, humbling herself, softening herself enough to risk one more “no” in hope of a first-time “yes.” I think this sort of risk is the most courageous thing I've ever seen or heard.
Our medical team and Romano are doing all they possibly can, not only for Dominic, but also for Mary and Ituare. One of our staff members at Hope for Sudan is allowing this struggling family to live with them for a time. Our team is trying to not only save Dominic's life, but also to equip and encourage Mary to care for him for the rest of his [hopefully] long life.
We've given Dominic IV fluids. Slowly by slowly, we’re giving him and Ituare milk. This process must be slow and patient; their weak bodies can only receive tiny bits of nourishment at a time. Making matters worse, Dominic has severe thrush in his throat and experiences intense pain at swallowing.
We're looking for a way to medivac this family to Tenwek, where the can receive excellent medical and spiritual care. In the meantime, please pray for hope to take deep root in all their hearts and blossom into a powerful faith in the One who has fought for them through the many throngs of "nos" in their lives, even when they couldn't see Him.
Love, your sister along the journey,
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