Monday, June 21, 2010

last picture of the day

Mia (l) and Ellie (r) are 7 months old and getting so big!  Mia still cries whenever she sees me, which is totally okay with me.  I am still a stranger and she is right at the age when stranger anxiety hits.  I just which Kaziba wasn't so far away so I could visit more often.  Of course, what I really wish is that we would get our judgement and they could come home.  Please pray that the judgement would be given soon!  Thanks!  

growth and family

What I like about the orphanage is how small it is, really four small rooms with 30 or so kids.  The kids are known and they are loved.  I love that it is run by a church, and that the church cares for the children and even dedicates them at a church service when they are babies.  Even though they haven't had enough food or staff they do try to watch over them as well as they can.  I do feel like I coming alongside these mamas and the director and we are working together to solve some of the problems they raise.  It is a good feeling. I wanted to post some pictures of Saturday I think and let them tell the story.  But, I did want to talk a moment about chronic malnutrition.  (This is part of my education, so excuse this side note if it is not interesting).  One of the effects of chronic malnutrition is stunting (short for age).  Most of the kids there are not severely malnourished.   A lot of them look okay, and if I put them on a chart comparing their weight against their heights (not accounting for age), most are only a little below normal.  If I put them on charts based off of their age and what their appropriate weights or heights should be, then they are all severely below the graphs.  They are all very small (short) because if you are chronically malnourished over many years you don't grow in height.  So, there are four year olds that are 32 inches tall and 20 lbs.  This more than anything there (well, aside from the state of some of the babies) tells a story that no one needs to explain.  That over many years they have not had enough food and there has been malnourishment on the long term.  This is a story of most orphanages.  Especially ones with dwindling support like this one.  So, on to the pictures.

Big smiles from little Moise!  What a sweetheart!  He is 11 months old now and doing his best to make up for some lost time, getting bigger every time I see him.  

Little Chito Wambili is 16 months old now, and she is sitting one her own.  Not a full smile, but she did interact more than usual.  Again, I wish I could just spend all day there, it is hard because the drive is so long that I have so little time there and there are so many children that need attention and love.  Especially this little angel who has some severe sensory issues from chronic neglect and under-stimulation.   Some of their eyes stay with me, and hers are some that I can't easily forget. 

This is Ziruka, a strong and tall 21 month old girl.  Sometimes I can't get over how some of the kids are doing SO well, and others are struggling so much.  I know it is a mixture of reasons to explain this,  having to do with resiliency, vulnerability, genetics, and physical resources, but it still shocks me.  Ziruka is a happy little girl who is playful and walking all over the place.  

This is Sandrine, a little girl who is almost 3.  As you can see, she is very sweet and playful.  

Sifa is almost 4 years old (in two days!).  She loved getting hugs and kisses from a friend that went with us this time.  

Little Chikurru was running all over the place on this visit.  She is a two year old.

This sweet boy is Gloire, he is about 15 months old I think.  He loves loves loves being held and just melts into my arms when I pick him up.  He is sitting by himself now, when he wasn't before.  We've been able to bring enough formula so that the bigger kids (the ones that are over one, but malnourished and delayed) can receive some.  I've really noticed a difference, even in one month.  Now the challenge will be to raise some regular funding so that the formula can continue into the future.  

Well, it's late.  Enough for tonight.  Oh, maybe one more picture....

where oh death....?

I went to visit the orphanage this Saturday, but I have had a hard time wanting to write an update about the visit.  That is because between this visit and the last one, a precious little baby girl died who was much loved and hoped for, by all who knew her and called her their own.  Most of all she was precious in the eyes of the Lord.  There is so much here that breaks my heart.  I hear so many tragic stories that take my breath away, that leave me spinning, wondering how to keep believing in a God who is sovereign.  It is harder still when I know who it is who has died or who is suffering.  It brings the pain that much closer, that much harder to deal with, that much harder to accept, and that much harder to cling to my faith.  On the one hand, I rejoice because I confidently believe that this little girl is with our Lord and is fully healed.  On the other hand, I struggle with how powerless I feel here to do something.  Even writing that makes me shake my head.  I am not naive enough to believe that I (alone) can really do so much here.  Or, that I am in control (God is in control).  But it is so much more than even that, it is bigger...the big WHY?  Why do so many have to suffer when there is a God in heaven, why do babies have to die, why are children orphaned, why such corruption, why do mothers die in birth, why do little ones not have enough food, why is there terror at night, and fear during the day, why are women and children treated so poorly here, why is there such violence against women and children, why, why, why....?  I know there are "answers" relating to sin and peoples free will and choice, etc.  But in the end, the deeper answers to these questions I firmly believe will be answered in Heaven, when we are face to face with the God and father of all.  Meantime....I still cling to my faith (despite my doubts and questions), I still believe in emmanuel, "God with us", even if in some moments, in the darkness, it is only Jesus through me that is the only light (and I am such a poor vessel most of the time).  And the truth is, I do believe in the resurrection, I believe this little precious girl is alive, that she lives, as Christ lives.  That indeed, "where, O death, is your victory? where, O death, is your sting?...Therefore, my dear sisters and brothers, stand firm.  Let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." (I Cor. 15:55..58)

Monday, June 14, 2010


This posting relates to the first orphanage I visited and that I have talked about in my first posts in this blog.  You can go here, to read some of the history of this orphanage (my blog is named for this orphanage).  There is a little boy who is living there, who has always held a special place in my heat (aside from Moses, who was almost ours).  His name is Patric, he is 6-7 years old.  He has an undiagnosed medical condition, characterized by macrocephaly (a large head).  He does not have hydrocephalus.  He stood out to me, not because of this however, but because of his spirit and heart.  He is probably the sweetest little kid I've ever met.  He would always come right up to me when I used to visit there and put his hand in mine and just stand by me the whole time or walk next to me.  He tried to participate in the games or songs we taught the kids, but sometimes he was just too tired.  He called me "mama", not "mzungu" ("white person", very common).  I heard there was a neurosurgeon in Bukavu that saw children.  I wanted to know what he thought of Patric and whether he could do something to help him.  Because, you see, he was always sick and weak.  He wasn't in school with the other kids and often in the hospital.  I knew he would not survive in the orphanage.  So, I gave the hospital the money to do a head CT.  It could never be done, because he was terrified of the machine.  So, I let it go.  I haven't been to visit the orphanage again for a long time.  At the end of last week I got a call from the sister that runs the orphanage (who I really like) who told me he is very sick again and would I consider paying for him to have a head CT in Kigali.  I said, yes, because I love this little boy.  So, now I wait, she is supposed to come see me today or tomorrow before they go to Kigali.  I pray they learn what is wrong with him and perhaps they can do something to help him.  Perhaps.

Some stories

First, I have to share about Moise.  He continues to look good and gain weight!  He even smiled at me a few times.  Whenever he sees someone he reaches out his hands and sort of waves them.  He holds a special spot in my heart, and I continue to be so happy that he is gaining weight.  For a long time I have been very worried about him, given he was so so skinny and weak.  What an indomitable spirit he has!  He is about 11 months old now.

Next is little Atosha, with the sparkle in her eye.  I have mentioned her before but just had to put another picture of her up!  Sweet girl!  She turns 4 in August.

Little Chito was sitting on her own, big girl (though in a tripod, for support).  I felt sad that I didn't have a lot of time to spend with her this visit.  She needs a lot of love and attention to bring that smile out.  Her legs are very thin and underdeveloped, until very recently she has only been flat in her crib for most of her life, given watered down porridge since she was 6 months old.  Ah, little heart, hold fast!

This cutie is Janvier (french for January).  He is one surprising kiddo.  He is 16 months old, and looks 2 1/2 years old, he is such a big boy.  This is shocking for an orphanage where most kids are malnourished and underdeveloped.  He pulls to a stand and loves being walked around, but his legs are weak and shake after a few steps.   And he also scowls at me, except when we are walking, and then he has the biggest grin!  He is a heart breaker!
Little Chikuru, very cute and happy little 2 year old.  

This big boy is one of the oldest boys at the orphanage, full of life!

worries and joys

This is an older picture that the director recently gave me and I love it!  All the kids with their arms around each other.  Obviously, despite how much they lack, there is a lot of love at this orphanage.  
We had a good visit to the orphanage a week ago Tuesday.  It had been three weeks since we last went and missed our girls and the other children at the orphanage.  Of course, Mia cried the whole time I held her, and even when someone else held her if she caught a glimpse of me, she would cry!  I had to laugh, they are 7 months old, right when stranger anxiety hits, and boy, am I a stranger with my white skin.  I didn't mind at all, I just hope that soon I won't be a stranger anymore to her, but be her mommy.  We are still waiting for a judgement, and praying everyday that nothing would hinder us bringing them home.

The kids are doing well.  There is one little girl who I would ask that we all pray for, she is recovering from an illness and needs a lot of strength to recover.  And it's hard to recover in an orphanage where there are so many needs to be met.  Pray for wisdom for me as I try to find the best way to help this precious little girl.  Thanks!

One of the older girls was moved out of the orphanage since I last visited.  She was moved back with a family member.  On paper this sounds good, but the reality is that she wasn't wanted by this family member and he is already trying to give her away (again).  It just breaks my heart.  She was one that stuck in my mind as a sweet, energetic girl who was desperate for love and affection.  But the reality is that this orphanage is small, it is only built for 25 kids.  They simply cannot keep the children once they hit age 4 or 5.  The director is wonderful and he tries his hardest to find loving foster homes for the kids, but sometimes that just isn't possible.  He also tries his best to follow up on these kids (80+ or so), but that is also hard as the orphanage has no vehicle and some of the kids live far away.  Some of the kids do go to family members that want them and that makes me so happy, but the majority aren't so lucky.  When I first started thinking about adoption, it was all about the babies for me.  I am a baby person, I worked as a baby nurse, babies are the age I love.  But after visiting the first orphanage and now Kaziba, I have come to love the bigger kids, their joy, their enthusiasm, their spark, their smilies, their personalities, their sweet love they give me, and their trust.  And it's hard to see their thin bodies, and the lost and hurt looks in their eyes.  And somehow what strikes me the most is their resilience.  Most of the older kids there (ages 2-5) have lived there their entire lives, yet they are so fun and still have joy.  One little girl, Atosha, just runs up to me giggling the entire time, hanging on my hands.  Wow...if only I could greet life like these children, finding and accepting joy the moment it comes and hanging on tight.

I will post pictures and stories in the next post.