Wednesday, January 26, 2011

some favorite pictures of the year

I have a lot of favorites from the year, and since it takes ssoooooo long to upload a photo on our snail like internet this might have to be a reoccurring post over the next month.  Here is one photo I love, with maybe two more that fully bring it to life.

Natalie, Isla, Lauren, Noah, Mia and Ellie!

I haven't blogged much at all about the two lovely little kiddos that lived with us for six months.  Their adoption was still in process and I wanted to protect their privacy.  But now, they are home in the states with their mom, dad, and sister.  Lauren and Noah are clear examples to me of God's love and faithfulness.  We love them so much and though it was hard having so many little ones 3 and under at home, we don't regret being their foster parents for a minute.  Little Isla was a triplet for six months and she has really missed them.  I don't think she really understood where they went and really went through a mourning process.  They are miracles.  They came out of the orphanage at 14 months old, they were malnourished and so small at about 10 lbs each.  They couldn't sit, nor could they hold their heads up for long.  They didn't smile.  Add some good nutrition and a lot of love, and did they ever bloom!!!  Wow!  There isn't a sound in the world better than Noah's laugh, and Lauren's talking and giggles.  Their smiles light up the room.  They are blossoming now with their mom, dad and big sister.  Noah and Lauren, you added so much joy to our lives the six months you lived with us, we wish you a lifetime of love and happiness! 

 (When the internet is working better their sweet mama sent me their homecoming photo and told me I can post it!)


more happy faces from my last visit

I have tried to catch this sweet little girl's smile for so long.  For a long time, I never saw her smile.  Now, more and more I see her face lit up by a big smile.  Something special for me, is that she knows me, and runs up to me and wants me to hold her.  She and her sister are three and a half.  When I first met them they couldn't walk.  Like many of the 2-3 year olds, they probably had rickets along with effects of protein deficient malnutrition.  So many of the kids walk and run now.  Every time I visit, more and more of the toddlers are walking.  But for me, the bigger accomplishment, are the smiles.  Somethings just are to wonderful to even know how to express.  
This is her twin sister!  What a smile!

Here is lovely Sandrine.  
And of course, I couldn't skip an opportunity to put a new picture of Moise in the mix!  




gratitude

Today I've been feeling so thankful for the many people who have given so generously to help the kids this month.  Not only did we make the budget for January, but we have about half of February right now too!  Today I went and bought some more powdered milk and formula.  A friend is coming soon with some formula from the states.  We are making progress on starting up Tumaini (more on that later).  It is very good.  I'll admit this takes a lot of baby steps of faith for me.  I'm not big on leaping out in faith.  I am much better at being comfortable in my "safe" little world where I don't take risks (not really that safe in the end, I know).  I don't like to live large.  I am quiet, introverted.  I don't put myself out there.  I can be insecure, and get "my feelings hurt" (as my 4 year old says often these days).  Mike said the other day, "Holly, can you believe you are working on a contract for 3 years of funding for the orphanage with the head of the CELPA churches and negotiating your points?".  I can't really.  To be honest, God is giving me strength every day to keep walking forward.  It's not me and only ever has been God.  And YOU!  I suppose in some ways we are all His hands and feet, as we are obedient and serve and help others.  As Natalie has been praying, "Dear God, help me to have more love in my heart."  As the Congolese folks call out to me as I push my stroller with three kids and one on my back in the mornings, "courage"!

scabies

I am going up to the orphanage again on Feb. 3 with a group of friends.  The director came by the other day and asked if I had any medicine for scabies.  When I was up there last time, I really thought that a lot of the babies had rashes that sure looked like scabies.  Sure enough, all the kids have a bad case of scabies.  Guess what I spent time looking for at the pharmacies today?  Yeah, scabies cream!

Otherwise, he says the kids are all doing well.  The babies are out of the hospital and everyone is healthy.

guns and uniforms, jump starts, babies, and a boy named Chance

So, I'm going to divert from my normal subject and tell a few cultural stories.

Having lived here for almost 4 years now, I realize that certain things are now "normal" to me.  It is normal to have very low power levels all the time.  It is normal for there to be no power right during dinner when all the kids are screaming.  It is normal to not have water even when it is pouring rain outside.  It is normal to have UN helicopters flying over my house regularly.  It is normal to have white UN convoys driving all over, full of men from Pakistan.  And, it is normal to see guns everywhere.  All kinds and shapes of guns.  Small guns, guns with machetes, machine guns, bazookas, and so on.  Carried by all different uniformed people.  Some uniforms can hardly stay on the person they are so old, some have new uniforms with full flak jackets and riot gear.  I have no idea what most of the uniforms signify.  I know the majority, the police and the military, but then there are the private security forces, the special guard, the secret police and other various "armed groups".  I was particularly struck by how normal this has seemed to me, when I was walking my girls to school the other morning.  We live in one of the richest areas of the city, down the street from a UN base.  It is a peninsula and full of big houses with compound walls and 24/7 guards.  Mostly rich folks, UN folks, and NGO folks (like us).  So, I'm walking and Natalie says, "what's that mom?".  Um, I have on idea what to say.  I had already seen it, but as it was just another gun, I sort of kept walking without a second thought.  What is was, was one of those guns that are usually in airplanes that you wind the handle and let loose hundreds of bullets within seconds.  It was huge and in the back of a beat up pickup truck with about 10 guys in "uniforms".  No big deal.  There was another pick up truck next to that one with about 15 guys, again in "uniforms", with all kinds of guns, big and bad.  I guess it was some kind of private security force for some V.I.P.  The thing was, I wasn't scared or nervous at all.  It was normal. No big deal.  I just kept pushing my girls next to them on my way to school.

The other day the battery on our land cruiser was dead.  So, we need a jump start, or in this case, a push start.  I start pushing and so does my friend.  We made a pitiful picture.  It was every so slightly downhill going backwards so we pushed and pushed.  A truck slowed down full of....yup, lots of men, in uniforms and lots of guns.  They stared.  Surprisingly, didn't laugh or make "mzungu" comments.  Before I know it the guy driving barks orders at them and they all jump out and push that car about 200 yards.  They were running with their guns flapping on their backs.  Then it starts.  They jump back in the truck and off they go.  If it wasn't for the uneasy feeling I got when they slowed down by us, or for the fact that they had all these huge guns, and I had NO idea what uniforms they were wearing or who they were, for a moment I could have been in a place where uniforms mean good things and guns are for the protection of the civilian population.

Congolese love babies and children.  They are never in the way, or a bother.  They are a blessing and a blessing when you have many.  I have no doubt this is true.  Every day I experience this.  From polite questions to the woman that must grab and love on my babies.  My babies bring me a lot attention.  Yes, because I'm white, a "mzungu", and two of the four are "noir", but also because I am also a mom with lots of cute babies.  People are curious, "are they twins" "are they yours" "their father must be really black" "actually do you have two husbands""are they all twins" "are they from Colombia" "can I have your children""can you marry me" etc. etc.  A lot of the comments I don't even understand because they are in swahili.  For the most part though, when I tell folks about Ellie and Mia and that they were orphans, most of the time, I get, "God bless you, what you are doing is a good thing".  Because, even though orphans aren't always treated well, they are always to be pitied.  I know that sort of sounds bad, but what I mean is that orphans are a source of sadness for a lot of people.  It is a recognition that someone has died and now the child is alone.  And that is a very sad position to be in. And there is too much death and sadness here, and the orphaned children, are the greatest tragedy of the fallen place their country is in, and it brings them much sadness.   Most people have orphans in their home.  It is the rare congolese woman or man who does not have an "orphan" living with them.  Most often the "orphans" are actually their own relatives.  In the end, I will miss that about this culture, how much babies and children are loved.

The other day, I was driving with my friend.  She said, what is wrong with that boy?  I didn't even see a boy, but we stopped.  There was a boy, looked to be about 10 years old who was curled up fallen on the side of the dirty street in the dust.  Some people milled around him.  He didn't stir.  We stopped.  He was hungry and had collapsed.  We put him in the car with us.  He would barely talk.  It was clear he was a street boy.  My friend recognized him as a boy that participates in a local outreach to street boys, though he had recently run away.  He said his name was Chance, that he was 12.  He was thin, dirty, quiet.  We got him some food.  He finally told us where to take him.  He asked to go back to a catholic run street children's home that he had run away from.  They recognized him and took him back.  I walk by street kids all the time.  Honestly, they really annoy me.  They get in my face and are too persistent.  I don't know how to handle it.  I don't like the person I see in myself when they come to talk to me and ask me for money.  I annoy myself.  This little boy would have annoyed me and I would have ignored him if he had come up to me on the street, I would have thought, "he's really not that hungry", or "he'll just buy glue to sniff".  That is the ugly reality of my heart.  I'm not so good really, not at all.  When he was in the car, all of a sudden, he was real.  He was my responsibility, I couldn't walk by him or ignore the reality of the consequences of his poor decisions.  He was my boy for that one hour.  He was also a little boy with no hope.  None.  I couldn't put him back on the street.  Thank God he wanted us to take him back to the boy's home.  

Thursday, January 6, 2011

An impromptu christmas party

I had a really good visit when I went up to Kaziba the last time (about 1 1/2 weeks ago now).  They had invited me up for christmas eve to join them for their large christmas party, but it didn't work out.  The staff threw a surprise party for me this time instead.  My brother and cousin came as well, which was really fun! It was so nice to eat with all the mamas and the kids together in a room.

Here is my brother Damon, with some kiddos!
Beautiful cousin Katie




The kids are really loved up there, and they are doing so well overall.  It hit me that in 2009, 5 kids died, some of them had lived in the orphanage for quite some time (one little girl lost her twin sister at age 1 1/2).  In 2010, 2 kids died, one of which died within days of arrival (a sweet newborn that was severely malnourished on arrival, his name was Amiable) and the other was a small 3 month old (Furaha (joy), much loved).  I'm feeling very thankful to God that we were able to bring formula and milk up to the orphanage when we did.  I remember the weeks after I first went up there and the sleepless unending nights I had after I visited.  God was moving in my heart.  And I'm so thankful He did.

The kids looked good, though three were sick in the hospital.  Many kids had colds and scabies.  Little Nyota, Jacob, and Benjamin had IVs and were getting medicines in the hospital.  I should be getting up dates on them tomorrow.  This is little Jacob.
Sweet Nyota ("star" in swahili)



But, I had giggles and smiles from kids that I rarely see smile and laugh.  Here are some of their smiling faces.

The first is Jackson, who I admit, smilies A LOT.  This little boy is hard not to love!
This is Chito Wambili.  This is only the second time I have ever seen her smile.  
This is big boy Janvier!  Couldn't be cuter.
Beautiful Atosha, sweet as ever!





Here are the pictures of the new baby Moise, who is 4 months old and a cutie pie!!


Also, there is ANOTHER new baby!  This is Gloire who is also 4 months old and beautiful!

A huge thank you!

I wanted to give a brief update to say thank you to all the people who gave money to help meet the needs for this month!  We raised the full $1500!  Thank you so much!  I went and bought formula at bulk this week and it will be delivered this weekend I believe.  Thanks be to God.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Patric

Happy New Year!  I wanted to write about a little boy that needs help, and needs help desperately.  Please take a moment and read this post about him, so you know the history of little Patric.  One of the nuns from the orphanage (for those of you who didn't go read the past post, this is NOT Kaziba but the first orphanage I visited.  The orphanage where we left our little Moise who we thought would be ours.) came and visited me last week with an update from the medical exam that was FINALLY done on Patric in Kigali.  He is a sick little boy.  He has a problem with his heart, and he has enlarged liver/spleen.  They think he may have sickle cell disease.  He does not have hydrocephalus.  The nun promised me the medical report so I could read it (it is in english) so that I can get a better idea of what is wrong with him.  What was clear to me, is that this sweet boy needs medical treatment that cannot be found in Congo.  He also needs a home and a family.  My congolese lawyer dropped by today and told me the director of the orphanage (who previously has been very difficult to work with) is open to doing adoptions.  This little boy not only needs a loving family, but he also needs medical treatment.  If anyone has any ideas how this little boy can find a family and medical treatment, please email me and let me know.

He is very sweet and gentle.  He walks, talks, sings, and is affectionate.  I have not seen him in over 8 months, but he will be forever in my heart.