Saturday, February 26, 2011

"Away in . . .the Bush. . . No Crib for a Bed. . . ."

 Imagine a noisy, bustling hospital room, many people sticking you with needles in precarious places, all dignity lost, and all the modern equipment and medicine to bring life into this world. 

Next, imagine a young, simple couple in a manger with the only witnesses to new life emerging, the animals it housed and Father God . . . no modern medicine, equipment, or fancy birthing techniques. 

This was the picture I held as I approached the “delivery room” of a simple bush woman, a servant, a friend.   In the stillness and simplicity of the moonlit night was a woman participating in the dance her body was created to do, give birth.  There she was perched against her outdoor bamboo kitchen with her body held strong and dignified, squatting on a cement block as she prepared to give birth in the sand.  A few sisters gathered around and simplicity was our companion and the grace and mercy of the Lord at our right hand.

The day of her delivery, the mother had been to our home (tent).  I had taken her to her home with a load of fire wood.  She left the vehicle at her path and hoisted the heavy load onto her head. Little did she or I know she would deliver that night.  Women here have no way of knowing the sex of the baby or when the baby is due.  They often wait for weeks expecting the baby to come any time.  I was surprised to hear she did not have a “plan” for whom she would contact when she went into labor nor anyone to help her.  I exchanged numbers with a pastor neighbor, since the mother has no phone, and went on my way.  I got a call from that pastor at around 11:00 that night telling me to come and bring her husband, brother to indigenous director Romano, who was working and sleeping on our compound.  We quickly and calmly gathered a few supplies, surgical gloves, sterile scissors, and blankets and loaded into the land cruiser bound for the laboring mother.  I did not know if there was anyone to help her, but I had a peace that she and the baby would be ok and I would know what to do if and when I needed to do anything. 

I was thankful when we arrived to find 3 women gathered around.  The scene was calm unlike many other births I have heard about in Sudan.  In my effort to try to “sterilize” the delivery, I gave the birthing companion the sterile gloves.  Surprisingly she took them and struggled to figure out how to put them on.  She managed to get one on when the baby came. 

As Jesus was birthed in the stillness of the night and laid simply in a manger, this bush baby boy emerged into the night and entered into the beauty of life and the pain of a land ravished by war.  The courage and strength of the mother were amazing as she eased her baby from her body.  Her birthing companion sat beneath her with strong and graceful hands ready to cradle the baby as it emerged. 

Holding the baby, one of the women took 3 pieces of plastic from a plastic bag and tied the umbilical chord.  I brought out the scissors and motioned for someone to cut the chord.  Well, that someone was me.  I was nervous not really knowing where to cut.  I asked and pointed, “Here?”  The ladies nodded.  The night air was cool so I quickly wrapped blankets around the baby while the mother waited to deliver the placenta. 

I sat swaddling the little boy like, I am sure Mary, mother of Jesus, did on that still, peaceful night.  The women and I joined in a quiet chuckle in celebration and joy of this new life we beheld.  Father God was smiling as His hand had guided this life out of his mother’s body. 

When the mother was ready, she stood gracefully and walked into her tuckle (house).  I laid her baby boy beside her in swaddling clothes on the dirt floor.

Sadly, not all births happen this way in the bush.  Often there are many, too many, women gathered around shouting, pushing, pulling and causing chaos.  This rumble of activity, in an effort to be the one in charge, causes stress for the mother and causes her body to tense and work counter productively.  Many unnecessary behaviors and preventable problems occur during child birth.  With malnutrition and the lack of medical attention, in the event of an emergency, many women and babies die.  I was thankful there were no complications in the birth I witnessed and no medical intervention was needed.  The simplicity and grace of this birth were a beautiful miracle.

When I visited the mother and baby the next day, she informed me she and her husband named the baby boy Kevin.  

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Referendum and a time for rest

Recently we were in Nyamlel, Sudan at New Life Ministries with our mission team.  Early in the week, in the middle of the night, we were awakened by gunfire in the distance.  Startled, we slept with one eye opened and our souls aware.  This is not an unusual sound, but it usually brings concern.  It was not until I returned to Torit that I realized the likely reason for the gunfire.  It was in celebration of the referendum results.

Phillip and Linda Byler are the Sudan team leaders for mission agency, African Inland Mission.   Here is a clip of their post on the referendum.

The last six weeks for South Sudan have been nothing short of AMAZING! Worldwide media predicted dire impossibility of a credible or peaceful referendum. Yet, while thousands around the world were praying, it happened in a quiet and beautiful way. Unanimously the international observers have declared the voting free, fair, and credible. Resoundingly the South Sudan people have pressed their thumbprint on the open hand and registered a vote for separation. Predictions are that over 95% have voted for separation from North Sudan.  Meanwhile the international crisis against oppressive governments triggered by the Tunisia uprising has also
affected Khartoum by weakening their political clout against the south. One month ago, my best- case-scenario was not this good.

South Sudan will not officially become a new nation until July 9, 2011. Meanwhile they need continued massive amounts of prayer to achieve the challenges of creating a new African Nation out of the war
rubble of past decades. By God’s grace it can happen.

 Kevin, Abigail, and I went to Kenya during the referendum process to stock up on supplies, visit the doctor, and take our first vacation living in Africa. We visited the port town of Mombasa, Kenya.   We stayed in the African Inland Mission guest house on the Indian Ocean.  It was beautiful and quiet.   We recognized, though, we are in Africa and not FULLY able to relax.  The guest house had tight security and, to get to the ocean, we had to unlock 3 heavy pad locks.  We couldn't leave anything on the beach, even to go in the ocean, AND we were always stared at being the few white people in bathing suits on the beach.   These are a few conditions we have to become accustomed to living in a different country.

We enjoyed family time and time for reflection of the milestone of the past year living in Sudan.  A few of the highlights were a lunch boat cruise aboard the Tamarind Dhow, swimming in the ocean, walking out onto the coral reef, and Abigail and I watching Daddy fishing with a Kenyan guide in a dugout canoe.

We ended our Kenya visit by welcoming our mission team from the US and Australia.  We flew back to our home in Torit with them to hold a Bible school with our kids at Hope for Sudan and New Life Ministries, in Nyamlel.  The two weeks with them were beautiful.

Kevin, with class mates, in his bee suit
We flew out of Nymlel and the team dropped Abigail
and I off in Torit.  Kevin flew on to Nairobi for a week-long bee keeping 
course.  He learned much and is eager to bring bees to "bee" the newest members of Hope for Sudan!

I will share more about the VBS and some pics on another blog post.

We have recently heard of pockets of tribal violence and fighting throughout Southern, Sudan.  Please continue to pray for the peace of Sudan, the youngest nation in the world!


Kevin, Shalene, and Abigail