Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hiasha Lord!

Something interesting about African women...when they are pregnant, you should never ask them when the baby is due or what they are planning to name the fact they do not really like to talk about it all. You see they focus much more on getting through each day at a time and do not want to "count their chickens" too soon. We have several pregnant nannies, and I never even know until they are like 7 or 8 months along because no one talks about it.

But when we got here on August 1st, there was one nanny you could tell was pregnant because she was obviously showing in her little scrubs. Her name is Juliet, and we have gotten particularly close. (see 'Nanny Time' post) One day a few weeks ago, Juliet tripped down this small flight of stairs straight on to her stomach. She was immediately helped up by other
 nannies, as she wiped away tears from her face. Helen, the grandmother of the home, was telling her she must go to the hospital and make sure the baby was ok, but she refused. I wondered if it was a financial issue and I was worried about the baby's health, so I went to talk to Nanny Neema and I told her what happened. So at that point we both approached Juliet and we tried to convince her to go to the hospital. I told her I would go with her or pay or whatever. But she just shook it off and said she felt fine. She was not budging. So I just asked her if I could pray for her and the baby...She accepted so I put my hand on her tummy and she and Neema and I all held hands. 

The weeks went by and it was time for us to head to Zanzibar for a week. I told Juliet she could not have the baby until I got back. She promised she would "wait for me." :) But sure enough when we got home, I heard she had given birth to a healthy baby girl! Thank you Jesus!!  

So today Neema took Christy, Hallie, Stephanie and I to see her and the baby. She is doing really well. In her tribe, it is customary for a woman to live with her husband's family for the first month after the baby's born. So we visited her at her sister-in-laws house.  The baby's name is Beyonce Hiasha. Hiasha means 'Thank you' in her tribal language. She is a beautiful baby and I am so thankful she arrived here in good health and that her amazing mama is doing so well.  

The girls with Neema and Gertrude (two other nannies from COL) as we cheers for Juliet and the baby! 

Juliet and me holding precious Beyonce! 


Sunday, September 14, 2008

God in the huts

Hallie and me at dinner in Stonetown

We just got home from a lovely little vacay on the island of Zanzibar!! It was amazing! We spent a day snorkeling, enjoyed hour long massages right there on the beach, and in Stonetown went on a guided spice tour. It was a wonderful 6 days, but I wanted to share with you what the Lord taught me during our trip. 

As we drove from our beachfront bungalow where we marveled at crystal blue waters and relaxed in hammocks to get to our quaint bed and breakfast with balconies off the rooms and a roof-top terrace that looks straight out to the Indian ocean; I noticed how different life was for the people who live in between. We passed street shops selling fruits and vegetables, little shacks with kangas hanging on clothes lines, men gathered at woodshops talking in the shade, children resting on giant banana leaves...etc. Seeing these people living out their daily lives, made me miss the Africa that I love. Don't get me wrong, it was great sleeping in a big comfy bed, standing under hot water with pressure, and not having to brush my teeth out of a water bottle, but I realized that while I was "living" it up, I didn't see God as much. At least I didn't think about Him as much. I see God with those bibi wawili (grandmothers) trying to sell fruit to support the children of their children who have been stolen by AIDS. I see Him with widows and orphans. He is with those who must walk for miles to get water. 

Everyone wants to know how to get to know God better and how to have a stronger relationship with Him...I think the way to get closer to God is to get farther from yourself. We must strip ourselves of the comfortable robes we wrap ourselves in. It's a tricky culture where everything is catered to us but those "conveniences" are blinding, deafening, and worst of all numbing. We can do a good deed here and there and I believe that is pleasing to Him, but to truly know the heart of our Savior, we must go where He is. And He is with the poor and suffering. When Jesus lived as man on the earth he was never comfortable. He was born in a manger, humbly rode into Jeruselum on a donkey, and died on a cross! I am so thankful that we have a Lord who is not only drawn to the poor materialistically but also to those with poor attitudes, poor behavior, and poor intentions. 

Zanzibar was awesome and I am grateful that I was able to experience it. And as the saying goes "all good things must come to an end" But we must find a new good. For me, I am excited to be back to the babies, to the women on our street who are selling the bananas, to the Violets, to the people who will live in my heart to no end.....

Sweet Violet

One night a couple of weeks ago after the children had all gone to bed, I was hanging out in the downstairs kitchen with some of the nannies. Nanny-Neema seemed not her usual spunky self so I asked her if she felt ok. She said she was sad because her sister was very sick.
"What's wrong with her?" I asked. She described her symptoms as strong stomach pains and headaches. I told her I was sorry and that I would pray for Violet.

Throughout the following days, I asked Neema how Violet was feeling. Unfortunately she came to me with a grim report...Violet had gone to the clinic and been diagnosed with malaria, tuburculosis, and HIV.  Turns out her husband had passed away recently from the disease as well. 

A few nights later, Neema and I were giving the toddlers their snack before bed and she invited me to come to her house and meet Violet. I felt so incredibly humbled and honored that she would welcome me into that part of her life. I told the other three girls and they wanted to join as well. So sweet Neema rode the dala dala (public transportation aka broken down van that carries a minimum of 30 people) to COL to pick us up and take us to her house. Going to someone's home here creates such a bond and they are so grateful...In America, it is often the other way around, you feel so honored when you are the guest. Here they are the honored to have you in their home. But I know we felt just as blessed to be there as they did to host us. 

When we arrived they were of course so welcoming. "Karibu! You are so welcome..feel at home!" First, we meet her mother who hugs us and gives us the double cheek kisses. :) Then we meet her brother, sister-in-law, and finally her two little nieces who could not have been more precious. Lightnus and Joyce were their names and they were nine and seven. They came up to us and curtsey and say "it is so nice to meet you." in their gentle but perfect english. They have one little hut, but they are pretty "well off" with two cows and several chickens running around. They set out little stools outside for us and after getting a little more acquainted, Violet comes out to meet us. She appears to be doing pretty well, despite looking weak and tired...she is lovely. 

Then they serve us cokes in bottles and Neema asked Lightnus to pray.

"Dear God thank you for these drinks. Amen."

It was so simple but beautiful. Why do we make it complicated? Prayers do not have to be elaborate or super spiritual, just be thankful, like Lightnus. After a little while, I asked Neema if we could circle around Violet and pray for her. I held her hand and asked God to heal her and bless their family...I don't really remember what all I prayed but I tried to keep it simple and and just believe. 

At the end of the visit, I gave Lightnus and Joyce each a miniature candy bar and I was amazed as I saw them both pinch off about half of it and give it to their aunt Violet. Sharing, giving...never-ending theme. 

There were some moments that were a little awkward when no one was talking (the language barrier kicks in at times) but I have learned to embrace those moments all the same because it means so much to them for us to be there. Surely I can handle a few uncomfortable moments of silence, if Neema's mother who speaks no english can sit there with us for hours not understanding a word we say but be so incredibly grateful that we are there. Neema translated for her several times that they were so blessed to have us. 

Gratitude is not something they lack, Lightnus and Joyce profusely thanked us for the candy with hugs and kisses and holding our hands. They kept saying, "Asante for the yum-yum." We took lots of pictures and there was lots of embracing. They all walked us back down the long dirt road to the dala dala stop and Neema's brother was thanking me for coming and thanking me for my heart for the orphans of Africa. But I told him that Africa blesses me maybe even more and he said,  "We depend on each other." Amen!!!!!