Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The nitty gritty and HELP!

I thought I might share some of the details of how sponsorship and support of the orphanage is going to work when I leave.  Honestly, I seriously considered not doing anything and just moving back to the states.  Not because I didn't feel any less of a burden to help the kids, I just didn't know how to do it without anyone on the ground to provide accounting, transparency, and accountability.  This was extremely important to me.  I trust the orphanage director, and he has grown to trust me (as does the overall leadership of the orphanage).  Yet, giving anyone a thousand plus dollars every month puts that person in a very vulnerable position anywhere, and especially here (where corruption, jealousy,  and theft is extremely common).

So, I was determined that I wasn't going to do anything unless I found a trustworthy person on the ground here to do what I have been doing, do it well, and then send the accounting back to us in the states.  And I found that person!  About six months ago I found out that someone I have known for over four years now was going to be moved from full time to half time at his job.  He works as a supplier/purchaser/secretary/assistant to missionaries who live down country and run a large mission hospital (they are retiring this summer).  He has handled a lot of money over the years and has shown himself to be a man of integrity, honesty and very good at keeping good accounting.  So, he will be visiting the orphanage once a month.  He will be checking on all the kids.  He will help with monitoring their weights to ensure they are healthy and being given full strength milk.  He will monitor the quantities of milk.  He will be buying the milk and the formula.  He will be sending me reports every month as well as all the receipts and accounting.  He has been working with me the last two months now and things are going well.  I feel extremely fortunate that he accepted the Tumaini manager position and I know Tumaini wouldn't be happening otherwise.  I'm excited because we can provide accountability, transparency, and good accounting.

Each child needs two sponsors at $25/month or one sponsor at $50/month.  100% of this money (except what gets taken out for bank transaction fees) comes to Bukavu.  It pays for powdered milk, formula, extra staff at the orphanage, and the manager's part time salary.  This may not seem like a lot but it is huge.  Read some of the past posts to learn about what the orphanage was like when they didn't have staff, enough formula or milk.  It was a heartbreaking and hopeless place.

Right now, we have enough sponsors for half of the children.  Thankfully, folks have donated to general funds so we are able to make this month's budget in full.  This is where I need help.  Anyone that has been reading along and feels like they would like to help, will you pass the message on?  You can link to my blog if you would like (that is why it is public now instead of private) or you can link to the website.  Or both.  This is a big step of faith for us at Tumaini and we cannot do it alone.

As I just posted there is another new baby right now.  A premie weighing 3.5 lbs up at the orphanage.   I don't know if the baby will survive, but the baby has a fighting chance.  Why?  Because there is milk, the mamas know how to mix it correctly and there are women to feed her and hold her frequently (and keep her warm).  One year ago, this was not the case.  She would have been one of 45 kids, with at the most 4 mamas!  She would have been given watered down formula a few times a day, more if they had time.  She wouldn't have had a chance.  This has changed because people have donated to the orphanage over the past year and she has come to a much better place.  A huge and heartfelt thank you again.

If you are interested in sponsoring a child at Kaziba please see this post or check out our website.

Thank you on behalf of the beautiful children of Kaziba and their wonderful caregivers.

Sweet Ziruka needs two sponsors.  She is a happy little girl and loved the training that recently was done at the orphanage where the mamas learned games to play with the children and new ways of interacting with them to increase attachment and build sensory processing.  

This little cutie is Noella.  On this last visit, every time I looked her way, she would smile at me.  So very sweet.  She is five months old.  She is fully sponsored.  

another new baby and what I do know

I was just told there is another new baby at the orphanage.  I don't know the name or the sex of the baby.  What I do know makes me afraid.  The baby was born premature and weighs 3.5 lbs and the mother died during the birth.

Bouquets of flowers

Every week JP brings us two bouquets of flowers.  He is a second generation flower farmer.  His business used to be better, when Bukavu wasn't populated by transient ngo workers and other business people who aren't here to live with their families.  The flowers are amazing and every week they are different.  Roses, daises, lilies, and on and on.  Sometimes even a simple bouquet of daisies on my table will bring a bit of beauty to wild meal times and remind us of the country and summer days at home.

Monday, May 30, 2011

every day miracles (smiles)

Cito Wambili, age 2

Moise, age 1 3/4 yr

**Check out this little boy's incredible story here!**

The day my heart broke (part two)

Sometimes I wish I was a better writer.  Then I could share what is on my heart with much better clarity and ease.  Instead, I stumble along, fearfully putting myself forward, falling on my face often.  Making my blog public was a hard decision for me.  Who am I kidding, making a blog in the first place was a terrifying decision for me!  I pretty much would rather do anything else than public writing.  Anything.  But, over a year ago I started to truly see and I could not be silent.  How could anyone be silent when understanding floods your heart.  I knew I had an obligation to speak, to speak for children who could not be heard.  So I did.  And now I am continuing into even more uncomfortable water.  I'm trying to raise a group of people who will come along beside myself and others who care about the children of eastern DRC and want to help make a difference.  What I have seen, the children who have touched my life forever-I can never be silent and I will fight for them.  They will not be forgotten again.  This is what I whisper in their ears when I visit-- "You are not forgotten, you are not alone, you are loved, stay strong, you are not forgotten, you are not alone, you are loved, stay strong"...again and again.

The first time I walked in the baby room at the orphanage I was so overwhelmed.  I just didn't know how to take in what I was seeing.  I was told there was 3 children under the age of six months.  But I simply couldn't believe it.  Weren't all of these children under 6 months old?  I had heard horror stories of babies left in cribs all day long in places like eastern europe, but Africa?  Where babies are on their mamas backs all day, where every family has "orphans" they have taken in and sheltered?  In Congo, where there are humanitarian aid organizations everywhere, even in remote locations?  Even here?

There was a little boy in one of those cribs that day.  His name was Moise.  He was found next to his dead mother's body when he was about 2 months old.  No one knows how long he was there, or how long ago she had died, but he was barely alive himself.   I am a pediatric nurse, I have seen sick children and I volunteered with a feeding center locally, so I have seen malnourished children, so I suppose I should have been prepared for this little boy, but I wasn't.  Maybe it was the setting.  The bright blue cribs, the animals painted colorfully on the walls, the solid concrete of the building, the brilliant orange bed sheets.  I felt set up.  I should have paid more attention, I should have looked more closely.  I should have looked closer for even the walls, the words cried for me to listen.  The words painted on the walls said, "who will deliver me from this miserable death?"  These heartbreaking words on the bright blue background with animals and children painted playing together.  I looked at the joy and missed the death.

Moise was seven months old that day.  He probably weighed no more than 5 lbs.  He was only skin covered over bones with big eyes.  And the smallest hands.  Hands that I are not easily forgotten, for his hands, they reached out.  He never cried, he never was held.  He just laid in his crib, looking and reaching.  I looked at him, held him, and knew that this little boy would not be long in this world.  He was 7 months old.  That meant he wasn't even getting the watered down formula that the younger babies were getting.  He was getting porridge in a bottle with some powdered milk thrown in when they had it a couple times a day.  And not held.  I said goodbye to him that day, thinking he would not be there the next time I came, I told him that he was going to a much better place.  I was too overwhelmed, I had no idea what to do that day.  I had brought one can of formula with me.   One can.

                                                               (Moise, 7 months old)

The next time I went, Moise was still there.  He was still alive.  His little hands kept reaching out.  I didn't need anymore motivation.  How could I possibly ignore his pleas?  It was impossible.  I knew something had to be done.  So, I brought more formula.  We brought him flagyl.  And we prayed.  I said goodbye to him again.  And his hands still reached out and he still never cried.

                                                              (Moise, 8 months old)

Again, the next time I came, he was alive.  Still so skinny, still with hands reaching out.  What a spirt!  What in indomitable little soul.  He didn't seem to be gaining any weight, and I felt hopeless.  I was bringing formula.  Why did he still look like a brisk wind would lift him off to heaven in a moment.  I asked.  No one knew how to mix the formula.  No one trusted that more formula would come.  They were still watering it down and only giving it to those children under six months old.  I cried that day.  That was a really hard day.  There were 2 mamas that day.  Only two.  My husband and I, we carried 2 or 3 babies around, we fed who we could, we rocked, we sang...it was completely heart wrenching and I felt hopeless.  I gave the director any money we had on us.  I told him, "hire more women today, please."  And he did, that day.  He hired four more mamas.

                                                         (Moise, 9 months old)

The next week, I went up again.  All the mamas came and I sat down and told them, "You will not be forgotten anymore.  These children will not be forgotten.  Give them this milk I bring.  I will bring more milk every month.  I see how hard you are working.  How you are doing the best you can.  How much you love these babies.  These babies need you.  You are their mamas.  You are not alone.  You are not forgotten.  You are loved.  Be strong."  I showed them how to mix the formula correctly.  We went over it again and again and again.  I brought Moise out (he was 9 months old at this point) and I said, "Give this little boy milk, give it to him every 3 hours, hold him, he wants to live, he needs you to live. "  I talked about how milk was just as important as them touching these children.  That they would die without their touch.

                                                             (Moise, one year old)

And, you know what?  They held those babies and they fed those babies.  People gave money, gave formula and we brought it up there.  And this year, Moise walked.  Not only did he live, but he is chubby!  He smiles often (check out the next post).  And those same mamas, now they will bring me Moise, and they smile with so much joy and pride.  They know that they were a part of saving that little boy.  Their hearts had been breaking too and their pain was healing as well.  They love those children, and to see them suffer, broke them more that it did even me.  They had brought joy and love into his life again.  And now, he doesn't reach out anymore, because he is already being held.

All of those of you who are helping us, you are helping us give these kids a fighting chance.  Thank you.
If anyone is interested in joining us as we work to help the children of Kaziba, please check out this post about Tumaini and what sponsorship is about or check out our website.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

little girl, one year later

Loss, incredible hurt and pain, it all doesn't go away in one year.  Even with full strength formula, with milk and more food, with more hands to hold you when you feel lost and lonely, even then, healing takes time.  And healing is hard when you live in an orphanage, when there are so many other little ones need time and attention, and there are chores to be done.  Healing is very hard.  A year ago, when I first met little Chito Wambili, I didn't think she would live long.  She was little, and so very vulnerable.  But most of all, I thought she would die from a heart that was broken, that she would just give up.

But she didn't.  She lived.  And she grew.  She learned to sit.  And last week, I even saw her walk for the first time.  I have seen her smile, two times; a small, protected smile.  I wish I could say that I see her laughing, smiling all the time, being held often, playing.  I don't.  Honestly, she still breaks my heart.  She IS doing better, she is.  But such a deep hurt doesn't heal in one year.  Or two.  It takes a long time and a lot of love and commitment.  What I do know is, that if so many of you hadn't reached out and helped the orphanage over the past year, her life today would be much different than it is now.  A sincere and heartfelt thank you to those that have helped us buy formula, milk and hire more women to work with the children, and by praying.  She is on the path of healing, because of so many who have reached out from so far away. She is not forgotten.

She is one of the many reasons why I wanted to do something to help the kids up at the orphanage.   Not only were the kids up there lacking basic needs like formula and milk, but they desperately needed more women to care for them.  Thankfully, there is a donor that regularly supports the orphanage each month for most of its needs, but funds have been hard to come by and so they couldn't hire any more women or provide enough formula and milk for the children.  This is where Tumaini comes in, we are raising funds for formula, milk, and for more staff for the orphanage (and school fees for the older children).  And some other projects as funds allow.

One distinctive factor about this orphanage is that once the children are 5 years old they either go back to live with their families (if they will accept them) or with foster families (if they can be found).  What this means for the little ones in the orphanage is that there aren't older kids to hold them and carry them around.  To play with them and to touch them.  That is why this orphanage has a desperate need for extra staff.  It is just as essential as food.  Touch is that important.  It is life giving and brings with it, hope.  Please feel free to email me or check out our website if you are interested in joining us in our work.  Or, you can check out this blog entry to read more about sponsorship of children like Cito Wambili.

**follow up note, please read this post, amazing little girl***

our backyard (the trash pit)

This is part of our backyard.  All our trash gets thrown into this hole (behind the wood "fence").  Then it gets burned periodically.  It makes me very aware of my "trash".  For instance, if we had chosen to use disposable diapers, I would have been throwing about 400 diapers into this hole to get burned each month!  One of many good reasons to cloth diaper (even if you do have three in diapers).  

Saturday, May 28, 2011

the day my heart broke (part one)

Over a year ago, I traveled to the Save the Children orphanage for the first time.  What I saw left me awake at night for weeks, and it is what led me to start Tumaini with friends and family.  My heart was so burdened.  I will never forget what I saw at the orphanage the first few times I visited.  It is just so far away, and there are so many true and legitimate needs here; the children there were forgotten expect by those who struggled to care for them every day.

I saw babies left in their cribs all day long, only held when they were fed watered down milk.  I saw toddlers laying in their cribs all day because they were so malnourished and held so infrequently they couldn't even hold their heads up, roll over, or sit.  I saw 2 and 3 years olds who couldn't walk yet, who sat and played in their own urine.  I saw courageous beautiful mamas trying to care for babies and toddlers who couldn't even sit on the own, 2-3 year olds that scooted around on their bottoms all day and a few older  children (3-5 years old) who could walk.  I saw them, sometimes only 2 at a time, frantically running around trying to care for the 35 + children under their care.  And these amazing women LOVED these children, there was no denying it.  They did the best they could with what they had, but it was not enough.  There are so many children I could tell you about...

One little girl I couldn't get my mind off of.  She looked like she was 5 months old, but she was 14 months old.  She couldn't sit, roll, or hold her head up.  Her eyes haunted me.  She was never held.  She only laid in her crib and rocked her body back and forth, no expression on her little face.  All I could see was a little girl who had seen so much pain in her life that she had hidden herself far away from us all, far behind a big protective wall.  Hidden, so no pain could touch her anymore.

Her mother had died giving birth to her and her twin sister.  They were taken to the orphanage immediately, in order to save their lives; their family could not take care of them (remember formula costs $70/month per infant; average income for a family is $30-40/month, if that).  They were put in a little blue crib together.  They were fed watered down formula about three times a day until they were 6 months old and then watered down porridge with powdered milk if they had some.  They came to the orphanage when it was full of babies and children, about 50.  There were 2-4 mamas to care for them all.  They were held only to be fed and the nipples on their bottles were cut open so that the feeding would even go faster.  They were changed three times a day.  They were not held for the rest of the time.

Then after about 7 months, one of the little baby girls got sick, and died.  Chito Wambili was the one left behind, the younger twin.  First she lost her mother, who had carried her for 9 months, then she lost her twin sister, who she had first shared the womb with, and then her crib with--what indescribable loss and pain.  And you could see it, in her eyes.  I remember reaching out and touching her arm, her hand.  She shuddered, pulled away, and continued to rock.  Back and forth, back and forth.  Even now, I cannot help but cry thinking of her that first day.  The day my heart broke.

*for the follow up on this story, please read this post

Friday, May 27, 2011

the view from my window

random medical notes (how much does your diaper cream cost?!)

Today I went out to buy Nystatin cream.  One of the kiddos has a diaper rash.  So, went to a few pharmacies.  You don't need a prescription to buy what you want, you just ask.  One of the bigger pharmacies I went to asked $5 for the cream.  Now, if I had just gotten here, I might have paid it.  But now I know better.  $5 is a lot of money for a small thing of cream!  (Keep in mind, big aid organization pay their temp day laborer about $5.83/day!).  Would you pay your entire salary of one day to treat your daughter's diaper rash?  No way.

Personally, I know this pharmacy has a bit of a racket going.  There isn't health insurance here, so many NGOS (big aid organizations) contract with clinics/hospitals to see their employees and their family members.  Everything is covered by the NGO.  Well, this causes the clinics/hospitals to take gross advantage of the NGO and the patients suffer (and in my opinion are put into harms way).  They are frequently misdiagnosed, way over prescribed medications (most of the time that they don't need), and subjected to exams they don't need so that the facility can charge the NGO more money.  For example, if you go in for a simple cold with a cough (no fever), you might get antibiotics, two kinds of cold medicines, reflux medicine, and an xray.  Back to today, I went to another pharmacy and they sold the medicine for half the price.

Overall however, having no access to health insurance, good quality health care, or affordable medications means that many people die from preventable illnesses or they treat themselves with traditional medicines (which may or may not be safe and effective) or they don't get treated at all.  An example, an albuterol inhaler to treat asthma can cost $8-12/per inhaler.  If you make $40-50/month affording an inhaler is an impossible cost.

What if your baby has hydrocephalus?  Or your child has diabetes?  Or a heart condition?  Or asthma?  Or malaria?  Or meningitis?  Or an abscess?

How do you possibly run a hospital without outside support if most of your patients can't even afford medication let alone the cost of their stay?  You can't.  That is why, hospitals like Panzi or Kaziba can't run their hospitals without support from the outside.

Interesting note--here in Bukavu, you are not discharged from a hospital until you pay your bill.  (You actually CANNOT leave, even if you wanted to).  And the longer you stay the bigger your bill.  On the one hand, sounds pretty horrible.  On the other, how is a hospital supposed to even run if it cannot collect their fees?

Okay, now I have a question.  I hear a lot about a surgery done to babies in their throats.  They get sick and have difficulty breathing and then they get something removed from the back of their throats (and not in hospitals).  And it sounds common.  Epiglottis?  Diphtheria?  Any guesses?

Kaziba Hospital (photo is taken standing at the orphanage, so this is the backside)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

how long

I wonder about some things.  After we get home.  

How long will it take me to be able to drink water from the tap?  (Right now it gets boiled for 30 minutes, then put through ceramic filters, and then through a brita for taste.)  It's hard to imagine putting my toothbrush under the faucet to rinse it off.  Do people really do that?

How long will I save all ziploc bags, all pieces of aluminum foil, all grocery bags, all jars, all pieces of plastic containers until they are full of holes?

How long will I examine every dollar bill to verify if it is "good" before using it?  U.S. dollars are the currency here and only usable if they are 2004 or newer and in mint condition (meaning not even the tiniest rip or tear anywhere on the bill).

How long will it take me to remember how to drive a car?  I haven't driven a car since Nov. 2009.

How long will it take me to remember how to cook, mop, iron, wash the dishes?  Yeah.  Pretty much haven't done that for 4 1/2 years.

How long will I remember my fear in the night?  How long will I remember what it is like to not have access to good health care and the vulnerability of having no control?

How long will I remember that I am rich, and will always be rich?

How long will I miss congo?  How long will the pieces of my heart that I have left here, remain?

How long will I remember the aching in my heart when constantly faced with poverty on a daily basis?  How quickly will I forget how most of the world lives?  How most of the world struggles for the basic things I will soon take for granted everyday?

How long will I remember the quiet dignity and strength of so many?

How long will it take me to feel comfortable in my own skin again?  How long will it take me to blend in, to fit in?  Will I always feel a bit lost and wondering which way is up in this crazy, beautiful, heart breaking world?

How long will it take me to feel gratitude for what I have without feeling guilty for what others don't at the same time?

How long will my girls remember their first home?

How long will I remember the many graces that were shown to me here, that changed my life, that have taught me to love generously, to forgive, to walk humbly, to give grace back, to have courage, to step out in blind faith?

How long?


secondary benefits

Last year we were able to raise money to build a wall around the orphanage.  This was important because the Kaziba orphanage is in a remote area and is surrounded on three sides by open land (the other side by a hospital).  The children could wander away and adults could wander in; there was no control of those who left or those who came.  It's expensive to build a wall!  It took last year and this year to complete it (complete with a gate and a door).  Well, as soon as we put up 2/3 of the wall last year, they immediately started cultivating the land within the wall.  I really had no idea that that was part of the plan so I was really excited to see it happen.  And it happened so fast!  They planted beans, corn, eggplant, cauliflower and other vegetables.  They grew well and then they harvested them and the kids ate the fresh vegetables and beans.  It was amazing!  They also are now raising chickens because they have an enclosed area so they can't get taken or wander off.  And it felt good to not only build a wall which was sorely needed for overall safety, but the orphanage is now growing some of its own food.  It feels great to work towards sustainability and rely less on outside direct food aid.   The below photo is of the beans that were harvested and Amos, the cook (who has worked there 35 years!), is getting ready to cook them for the kids.

on my way out of the city, on the road to the orphanage

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

to keep me humble

Some people have a gift when it comes to learning new languages.  Others, like most people in this country, learn multiple languages from infancy and by the time they are adults they know 5 languages fluently and learn new ones easily.

Well, I am in neither group.  Sadly, I seem to have a big hole in my brain when it comes to language acquisition.  I just can't get it.

I took three weeks of french immersion language training before I moved here (yeah, way too little).  I took lessons the first year I live here.  I still just couldn't get it.

I finally gave up on the lessons and stopped trying.   And of course, I didn't get it.

Then, I started visiting orphanages and orphan care groups.  All of a sudden I became extremely annoyed at myself that I still couldn't carry a simple conversation in french.  So, I started talking and talking.  And really messing up.  But I was very determined because I was so frustrated to not be able to communicate AT ALL.

Well, honestly, I still can't get it.  I understand a lot of what people are saying now, and I can say a lot of things in present tense, but really, I just lack in this area.  And, you know what?  It's okay.  I've sort of decided I can live with it.  It's annoying, but I'm doing the best I can.

So, I wanted to share one weekend of my life in Congo, about 2 1/2 years ago now, that illustrates my lack of "getting it".  And why, sometimes in life, it's okay to be humbled and just be clueless.

I was pregnant with little Isla.  I went to Panzi for an OB visit and an ultrasound.   During the ultrasound visit the technician asked me (well, what I thought she asked me), "what is the sex of your baby?".  I say, "I don't know yet, can you tell me?".  She then asks confusedly, "um, what is the sex of your baby?"  I say, "really, I don't know, can't you tell me?"   And we do this like four times.  WELL--the problem was this...

She (really) had asked, "so, what is the sex of your older child you have?"

I said, "I don't know yet, can you tell me?"

She said, "um, you don't know if you already have a girl or boy at home?"

I say, "I really don't know, can't you tell me?"

and so on


Then I go use the bathroom.  I walk out of the bathroom and a bunch of mamas start talking to me in french loudly.  I get flustered and smile and keep walking.  They talk even louder in french and gesturing at me.  Now I'm really just trying to get out of there.  Finally, one of the mamas comes up to me and gestures behind me.  I had a long trail of toilet paper hanging out of my skirt trailing behind me.


Then I head home.  Our neighbor's cook says hello and asks how my weekend went.  I was happy because I had found out that we were having a girl and I wanted to tell him our good news (I wanted to say, "I am having a girl").

So, with a big smile on my face and my arms wide, I say loudly in french, "I AM A WOMAN!!"  He smiles at me quizzically.  I then figured out I said something wrong, so I try again, I say loudly in french again, "I AM A LITTLE GIRL!"  When he smiled at me again, I just give up.


I'm pretty convinced that the people that work here in our house think I'm a delicate dimwit most of the time :).

And you know, that's okay.

on the way to the orphanage

in case you are curious

Here is what the formula looks like that we buy with the money sent to us.  We buy about $640 worth a month (depending on the number of babies).  The formula is good quality from Europe.  The cans are smaller than in the states and it is mixed differently than the formula from the states.  One can lasts one baby about 3 days.  It costs about $70/month to feed a newborn.  A farmer in Kaziba maybe makes $40/month in total (hence why so many babies are brought to Kaziba after their mother's die).

If you look closely you will see the corner of a bag of powdered milk below the boxes of formula.  There isn't fresh milk here (yup, our girls have been drinking full fat powdered milk, "nido", for 4 years..).  Years of insecurity has greatly diminished the amount of cows in this area of Congo.  There are cows in Kaziba, but not enough.  So we buy three big bags of powdered milk (that is fortified) a month.  Each bag is about $120-150 per 25 kg sack.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

death and life

Two days before I held this baby, her mother died.  She died giving birth to her and she was brought to the orphanage so she might live.  Her name is Conseille.  Sometimes, my heart breaks and it is hard to pick up the pieces.  Preventable death.  Unjust.  One left behind, tiny and precious.  Like the others before her, I pray she lives.  Things are better now at her new home than they were a year ago, she has a fighting chance.  She will get full strength formula and she will be held more than three times a day.  But, still.  Hardly feels like a drop compared to the ocean of the loss she has just experienced and the mountain of challenges ahead of her.  Ah, little one, may God hold you tight in the palm of His hand, protect you in the days ahead and grow your heart strong.  May you be of resilient spirit, for what you have to face, is more than what most of us will ever face in our lives, and you will need a strength far beyond what you were meant to have as a new life.  You are not forgotten.  You are loved.


Would you be interested in sponsoring this little one?  Or do you have a friend that might be interested in sponsoring her?  We are looking for a sponsor for her (and the other sweet Kaziba kids).  Each child needs two sponsors at $25/month (or one at $50/month).  A sponsor will receive updates on their child 4 times a year and all of the money raised (aside from what is taken out for bank transfer fees) will be used to purchase milk and formula and salaries for additional staff.  Please check out our websitewww.tumainidrc.org or check out my post a few days ago to learn more about sponsorship.  

six days of life

I've had a very busy six days.  On Thursday, I flew to Kigali alone and went to the U.S. embassy to take care of some adoption related business.  I sat in a nice coffee shop.  I tried not to cry multiple times when I felt so overwhelmed by the luxury of my 24 hours there (first hot shower in over a year, good food in an nice cafe, ease of travel, lovely conversations with other American families).  I think I came across as a bit "starved".  Perhaps I am a bit starved.  It's not a bad thing, to live without luxury, but sometimes it can feel like a burden instead of a blessing.  And it has truly been a blessing, living here.  Don't get me wrong, living in Congo, I live a life of luxury (but I strangely also live a life without).  I have so much more than most of the people that live here.  I am rich.  I will always be rich, no matter the dollar amount on my w-2 at the end of the year (post for another day).   I am different than before I came, yet the same.  I look at myself and sometimes I see strength and courage and other times I see laziness and compromise.  I am ready for a furlough, but I wonder if I am truly ready for a final farewell.

On Friday, I flew back to Bukavu with Jennifer and Dano Jukanovich.  Jennifer graciously accepted my request to do a training at the orphanage before I left Congo.  Something had struck me a while ago when I read some of her writings and during one of our conversations.  I was struck by her commitment to the caregivers of orphans.  She mentioned the idea of a orphanage caregiver retreat, saying that when the caregivers know they are loved and appreciated, when they know the love of the Good Shepherd, they will in turn show this love to the children in their care.  When the pain in their lives is acknowledged and grieved, when our eyes look into theirs and share in their suffering, healing happens and love flows more freely.   I also knew that as adoptive parents, they both deeply understood the importance of building attachment from birth and the effects of not having done so on the long term health and well being of children from hard places.  So, she did a training on Jesus' love and care for us as the Good Shepherd, especially as He leads us through hard places, their love and care for the children as their shepherds (leading them with love through hard places), and how to build attachment and treat sensory processing disorders.  It was excellent and I really couldn't have imagined a better way to say a final farewell to the kids at Kaziba.  I have a lot more to say, which I will in the days ahead, so keep checking back.

On Saturday we drove home from Kaziba (we had stayed overnight).  I was exhausted.  The road just seems to get more and more washed out and difficult to drive on every time I go.  It is incredibly gorgeous up in Kaziba though, and I love every drive I take up there.

On Sunday, I hung out with my family.  They missed me and I missed them.  I was reassured often by Natalie that she was VERY glad I was home.

On Monday, I headed up to the Katana orphanage.  Katana is about 1 1/2 hours outside of Bukavu.  It is also incredibly beautiful.  You drive along the lake for a lot of the trip and you pass farmland and small villages the entire way.  The road is absolutely incredible.  Paved almost the whole way (the nicest road in all of south Kivu).  Visiting Katana was full of emotion for me.  The sisters (it is a catholic orphanage) greeted me with huge hugs and warm greetings, "it's been so long, Holly".  The kids have all grown and look good.  The orphanage houses 52 kids.  Most are over two years old.  They don't accept babies, except in the rare case.  The oldest children are 16 years old.  More to come about this trip as well, but let's just say much was done in my heart and miracles are happening.

Today, I had a very special visitor in my house.  A sweet little boy who is now 7 1/2 and completely charming. (I really think he thought my house was disney world!)   He and my two older girls watched some Winnie the Pooh together.  He started giggling the minute it started, and pretty much didn't stop the whole time.  Watching him laugh, full of child-like innocence, filled me with joy and did my heart good.   He is doing well, but is clearly struggling.

Now, it's time for bed and rest.

Monday, May 23, 2011

sunflowers in hiding

On the drive to Katana today. Sunflowers everywhere, nestled beneath mountains in small villages.

At the Katana orphanage.  Sweet faces, like sunflowers, that I have missed.  

Hidden, but today shown to me.
Every day miracles.

more to come

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A moment of joy

Well, as it was a little hard to post in Kaziba (no internet, though wonderful water and electricity), I haven't kept up on my "post a day" goal.  And right now, I'm really tired.  So, I'm going to point you somewhere else.  Head on over to Jennifer's post to read about the wonderful training she did up there yesterday and Friday.  It was amazing and I don't know if I could have ended on a better note up at Kaziba (check out the pictures too she linked on her page and notice all the smiling faces!).  I continually feel very humbled to be a part of what God is doing up at Kaziba.  Thank you to all the folks who have been helping and contributing this past year.  And thank you to all those who are committing to sponsoring a child on a monthly basis (and have given in other ways).  Every prayer, every visit, and every donation has impacted the lives of the children in Kaziba.

This is sweet Muholeza.  I don't catch her smiling very often.  But, playing on that see saw, she was all smiles and laughter.   A moment of joy, possible because of simple effort by those who care.  

Interested in sponsoring a child or participating in other ways up at Kaziba?  Check out this post to read more about how you can be a part of impacting the lives of the children at Kaziba.  Check out our website at www.tumainidrc.org.  Thank you for caring about the children and their caregivers.  

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hiking in the hills beyond...

Kaziba is high in the mountains and some people make their homes in the plateaus.  I didn't personally take this hike, the orphanage director took these photos for me.   But they show the beauty and mystery of the place.

A hopeful smile

Feb. 28th I headed up to the orphanage for a fun visit with some friends.  I've really been fortunate that pretty much every trip I have taken there has been with friends or family.  The road was more washed away than previous times and it really made for a bumpy trip.  But, the drive is gorgeous and the kids who run out yelling, "hoddy" when we drive up, make it worth every bump and sore muscle.

There are a few kids I have yet to see smile.  I'm sure they do, I just have yet to see it (or catch it on the camera).  Well, little Christian is one of them.  He is a little boy who is turning three in under a month.  He is really good at giving me these awesome scowls.  It's hard for me not to laugh when he gives me this kind of look, he is just too cute!

He came to the orphanage after his mother died and when his father couldn't care for him (as a baby).  Overall, he has been doing well at the orphanage.  He walked before he was two and is a good weight.  He also interacts with the other kidds and plays with his buddies.  Well, this visit, he smiled at me AND I caught it on the camera!  I didn't think anything could be cuter than his scowls, but I was wrong.  His smile is even cuter!

Would you be interested in sponsoring little Christian?  Or do you have a friend that might be interested in sponsoring him?  We are looking for a sponsor for him (and the other sweet Kaziba kids).  Each child needs two sponsors at $25/month (or one at $50/month).  A sponsor will receive updates on their child 4 times a year and all of the money raised (aside from what is taken out for bank transfer fees) will be used to purchase milk and formula and salaries for additional staff.  Please check out our website www.tumainidrc.org or check out my post a few days ago to learn more about sponsorship.  

a different world

For those of you who read this and have been to both Kigali and Bukavu you will understand what I mean, when I say that Kigali is a different world than Bukavu.  You really feel like you are in the U.S. (or some other developed country).  Don't get me wrong, Bukavu is gorgeous.  It's just that there is little to no infrastructure.  You can tell the moment you cross the border.  Everything becomes orderly, the roads are in decent condition, you get the feeling that you won't be asked for bribes.  Then you get to Kigali and and there are great roads, power, stop lights, water, and cafes like the one I am sitting in right now that make you think you are in starbucks in the states.

I'll be honest; I almost cried when my food came!  I think I am very ready to be back in the states.  It just felt so nice to be out of Bukavu.  Thankfully I didn't cry (I'm sure I would have gotten some really weird looks!) and I am catching up on a lot of emails (and ate some great food).  Which has been wonderful.  I also am going to try to catch up on some past due posts about my last orphanage visits.  We'll see how much I can get done in my few remaining hours of Kigali free time.

And just so you know that I really do think Bukavu is a gorgeous place (and I will miss it tremendously), here is one photo of the city and one of the lake.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A bit of heaven

I'm really looking forward to the next 5 days.  For someone who doesn't get out very often (well, ever,) I have a lot going on!

Tomorrow, I am heading to Kigali (by myself!!) for 24 hours.  I have to visit the Kigali embassy for an adoption related matter.  I will also be spending some time catching up on a lot of things I have been neglecting lately.  And I just might eat one meal out and sip some tea somewhere cozy.

On Friday morning, I head back to Bukavu, with Jennifer and Dano Jukanovich.  We will land and head immediately to Kaziba for an overnight trip.  I'm so excited because Jennifer is going to do a two day training with the mothers who watch the babies of Kaziba, and I've seen the notes--it's going to be wonderful.  One of the hardest parts of visiting and knowing the kids up there is how much physical needs are focused on over emotional and spiritual needs.  The hopelessness and despair that I have seen in some of the children's eyes will always haunt me.  I really feel like the message and training she will be doing will really meet this need.  And she is bringing some awesome blankets and toys that help with sensory and attachment disorders.  Check out what she is doing on the link above!

On Sunday and Monday, I head to another orphanage in town (not overnight).  I can't go into a lot of the details of that trip yet, but I will be visiting one very special little boy who we will never forget and another special little boy who we are not giving up on.  

A bit of heaven!

strange things

There are some things that will take some getting used to when we finally move back to America.  Oranges that are orange and not green.  Lemons that are yellow and not green.  Not sleeping under a bug net (vulnerable) every night.  People knocking at your door anytime (here, they have to approach our locked gate and tell the guard who they are and then the guard has to tell me, and then I tell him to allow them in or not).  Being able to see the street and the neighbors from your yard or house (we have a huge yard surrounded by 10 feet brick walls).  Sidewalks.  Paved roads.  Stop lights.  Water.  Water that is hot.  Ambulance sirens that actually signify an emergency (and not some kind of special convoy of important people).  Electricity that doesn't wax and wane.  Flowers that don't bloom year round.  Rain at random times on random days (instead of every day at a certain time).  Cooking my own food.  Washing my own floors.  Shopping for my own groceries.  Driving my own car.  Being alone with my kids in my house (I am never alone in my house).  Weather that deviates more than 10 degrees year round.  Blending in.  Being a majority.  Not struggling with crushing poverty on a daily basis.  Forgetting.  Missing Congo.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

trying to be brave

This morning we found out that our trip home to the states has to be delayed by at least a month, maybe longer.  There are circumstances, related to our adoption of E&M, that are out of our control and just taking a lot longer than we anticipated.

We had some lovely plans.  We were spending a good month on the west coast visiting friends and family. Then, a week in Colorado doing debriefing.  Then a good 3 weeks on the east coast spending time with friends and family before heading to our new home in Ithaca.  It was a lovely plan.  Lots of fun things planned.  Lots of lovely family and friends making plans to fly/drive to where we were going to be, just to spend time with us.

It's been a long time.  We were in the states last in November of 2009.  Living in Congo isn't easy.  It's been really hard.  I have struggled with loneliness and isolation so much.  I really need this time with family and friends and so does Mike.    It's been hard for both of us.  We really miss our family and we really miss our friends.

I'm packed, all our belongings are in trunks, I'm ready to go.

I feel a bit heartbroken right this minute.

I'm going to try hard to end well.  There are good things that will be done by staying one more month.  I'm trying hard to focus on those things.  I'm trying to be brave.

Monday, May 16, 2011

me angry and well done

I had to write one last post about our two days with Laurent.  After he was finished with his bike they put it into the land cruiser.  It is really big and awkward.  It finally fit sideways with the second row seat pushed up against the front seats.  I went back to inspect it before we took off.  The driver (who is a really nice man) was back there with Laurent.  Laurent was in the cargo area sort of under the bike.  I told the driver it was time to go, so he started shutting the doors.  I immediately asked him what he was doing and why was he shutting Laurnet in the back under this bike?!  He asked me, "well where would he sit otherwise"?  I was a bit incredulous and said, next to Natalie and I in the front.  He said, "no, no".  We argued and I put my foot down.  There was no way he was going to sit in the cargo area hunched beneath his bike!  So we go up to the front of the vehicle where he proceeded to tell Laurent to go behind my chair on the floor!  I was so upset!  Even now, it's hard not to cry.  That he should be treated like that, simply because his body is broken.   He sat next to me and Natalie.  And when he arrived back in his neighborhood, he was a hero for a day.  It took about 5 people to get that bike out of the car it was wedged in so well.

As we were driving out, the mamas that were selling their goods yelled out to me "well done" (in swahili).  I felt so humbled, I cried.  The reality is, I get yelled at all the time.  "muzungu (white person) and then usually some kind of demand."  I really think this was the first time that I was yelled at in public when I was not asked for something or commented on about my white skin.  Instead I was just told "well done".  I wish my friend had been with me that day.  Because, the reality is, that she deserves the huge "well done".

Dear Natalie, never forget (part 2)

Dear Natalie,

I was trying to decide if I should take you or not when we went to give Laurent his bike.  You really wanted to go and see Laurent get his bike, so I took you (and Isla stayed home).  We went the good way, and quickly found him waiting for us.  As soon as he got in the vehicle, you quickly said "jambo" (as he didn't speak french) and gave him a cookie (that you had been saving for him).  He was so excited, as was his neighborhood.  There were so many people that came to see him off that day.

We headed to the center again and he quickly climbed up on his bike.  It fit perfectly.  It's pretty amazing actually.  It had three big wheels that are propelled by the pedals that are controlled by the hands.  It doesn't work on hills, the pedal size (or rather the pedal mechanism) is too small compared to the bike tire size.  So, considering the awful hilly roads around Bukavu it's necessary to have friends help you in a lot of areas.  The staff at Herikwetu took a lot of time walking around with him, making sure he knew how it worked and that he was safe.  You were so happy, Natalie, to see him on his bike, independently maneuvering around the compound.  So was he!

What do I want you to remember, Natalie?  Well, I suppose I could easily say, "I want you to remember the horrific poverty and injustice here that creates a place where a man must crawl around in the mud like an animal and treated with no dignity or respect" or "remember the suffering of so many, of the death, the loss, the tragedy" or "remember the corruption, the mistrust, the suspicions" or "remember what it is like to have a strong, healthy, whole body and be grateful".  I could easily say that those are the things I want you to remember.  But I won't say those things, Natalie.  Why?  Because I don't want you to remember those things.  You are only four.  Compassion and kindness come easily to you.  I don't want to manipulate you, or put the suffering here that even I cannot bear or  begin to understand on your little shoulders.  No, it is too hard to mix up pity and compassion, and gratitude with guilt.  I want you to grow in love and generosity because you have known love and generosity.  The rest will come.

What do I want you to remember Natalie?  I want you to remember the world as you saw it as a small child.  I want to remember the world as you saw it at four years old.  As adults, we often see in pieces, "he is handicapped, he has no legs, he is poor, he is black" or the hundreds of other labels we place on people around us everyday, we judge, we compare, we try to measure up, we fight to be noticed, we step on others to get our way, we put "me" before anyone else.  You will soon be surrounded by a world that judges you based on your external appearance, your wealth, your education, your skin, your... this or that, that pulls people apart piece by piece leaving no room for grace and compassion, for love.  As a small child, you don't look in pieces nor do you see fragments, you see it all.  Somehow, in your child-like innocence, you saw Laurent as a whole person, just like your self; someone to treat with dignity and respect (to share your cookies with).  For sure, you noticed his body and you worried about his hands and knees on the ground all the time.  But that wasn't all you saw.  No, you saw Laurent as simply a man.  Full of goodness, beauty, brokenness, and suffering.  As every one of us is--full of goodness, beauty, brokenness and suffering.  You saw it all, you saw all of him, and you loved.  As Jesus loved, you loved.  No wonder He called the children to himself.  This Natalie, is what I want you to remember, nothing else sweet girl.  I want you to remember how to love.  Hold it tight.  Hold it close, and never let it go.  Remember, and never forget.

I love you.

not quite sure

Well, I'm not very good at figuring out blogger stuff.  But I notice the post that I wrote and posted days ago now looks like I wrote it last night.  Strange.  Anyway, I wanted to put up a quick message that if anyone is interested in linking the tumaini website to their facebook page or info about the kids at the orphanage to help us find sponsors, please feel free to do so.  We have purposefully not named the village (Kaziba) that the kids are from on our website simply for their protection.  The official name of the orphanage is "Save the Children" so that is what we are calling it.  Thank you for all your support and encouragement over the past year.  Every month I have wondered where the funds to buy the milk will come from and it always comes.  Thank you.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

talking me

So, I think I’m ready to talk me.  It’s been building up inside of me, and tonight it’s all ready to come out.  For a lot of my life, I have struggled with insecurity, fears, and doubts on all levels.   Thankfully, I was blessed with a big stubborn streak, which I think God used to protect me from all kinds of trouble that I would have otherwise fallen into as a teenager.  I was holding tight to too much pain to have been  able to resist much of what was offered but for the fact that I was stubborn, extremely stubborn.  So, although I was extremely introverted, carried deep hurt and was without friends as a middle school and early high-schooler, I was very determined to keep my head above the fray, and go the lonely way.  Somehow, I early on sensed peoples motives and true intentions.  I quickly saw that boys looked at my body, not my face and definitely not my heart and that made me angry.  I had tons of crushes, no doubt about that, but they weren’t going anywhere.  I was afraid, afraid of life, afraid of people, afraid of myself, afraid to trust again.  Too much death, suffering, and just plain crap had happened too early in my life and I was walking wounded. 

It took the love of Jesus to carry me through.  In the dark nights, when I thought I was lost and all I could do was sob, heartbroken and crushed, His light came and He held me close.  I knew His presence.  For this I will be ever grateful and ever faithful.  He brought me women (starting in high school) that I will always thank God for; for through them He showed me His face, His love, and His acceptance of me. People looked deeper than my fear and insecurities, took a chance, saw my heart and believed in me.   I walked away from fear and grew in courage.  I started to blossom and then I bloomed.    Flower’s face to the sun; I then met the man who would become my husband.

This was about 8 years ago or so.  I am a different person in so many ways.  I live in eastern DRC with my little girls, and if that doesn’t say something about the changes, I don’t know what would.   But I’ll be honest in saying that I still carried a deep need to please people.  And God knew.  He knew how I needed this rooted out, to let my fear of failure, of what someone might say about me, come to full light so I might fully be used by Him and become truly who I am.  And this is what He did last year.    I didn’t see it at first.  All I saw was how crushed I was, how angry and betrayed I felt.  I didn’t see the glory and the good, for the pain.  I was swallowed by it, and couldn’t see the light.  I couldn’t see God.   I could only see me. 

Now I see it and I see God.  Now I see how He used what happened to me for His glory, for my good and I thank God again for what He has done in my heart as a result.   I think of Jesus often, how He was unjustly accused, yet He said love.  Love your enemies.  Love, forgive, love, forgive.  So, I forgive and I pray for love, because He loved me, because He forgave me.   And more.  I am free.  I am free from being chained to the opinions of others.  Yes, someone I respected wronged me.  They said things about me that were untrue and unjustified, with no remorse.  Yet.  God.  Today, I am no longer afraid.  I find that now I am beginning to care only for what God thinks of me.  He alone knows my heart in its ugliness and beauty, in all its brokenness and redemption.  He knows my motives and my thoughts.  The approval or censure of others, they no longer shackle me.  I find myself less afraid to speak my mind.  To share what I think about things like my faith, ethics in adoption, violence, poverty, dependence, evil, faith, doubt, and God.  Today, I find that I am extremely thankful for what happened to me at the end of last year.  Today I thank God because I am wiser and humbler.  And, I am no longer afraid.  The worst was done and I survived.  In fact, I am stronger and God is bigger and more real than ever before.   And this week, I found myself laughing about it!  How thankful I am! 

Don't forget

Please don't forget to check out my recent post about how you might be able to be a part of the work up at Kaziba.  Help us give a voice to the children of Kaziba!


Dear Natalie, never forget (part 1)

About three weeks ago I had the honor of delivering a special gift to a man here in Bukavu.  The gift was from a friend of mine in the states.  She had met this man when she was here last year and felt compelled to send me money to buy him this gift.  Which I finally did three weeks ago.  It took two very memorable trips, and Natalie (our four year old) came with me on both of them.  This is a letter to her.

Dear Natalie,

There are so many things about living here I don't think you will ever remember, in fact, I think you will forget most of it.  Your home has been Congo and you have lived your whole life here, yet you won't remember this place, the people, and our life.  There are many things I want to tell you about your life here, and I will one day.  But when it comes down to it.  I hope that you never forget two very special days of our lives here.  The two days when we met Laurent and we brought him his bike.

The first day, I really didn't know what I was getting in to.  I brought you and Isla (2 years old) with me (I probably wouldn't have if I had known what a crazy morning it was going to be!).  The driver picked us up and off we went.  We headed out to Herikwetu.  It is a local center run be the catholics to treat people with handicaps or who need orthopedic surgeries or prosthetics.  You had been there before with me, because the women and children who are deaf make beautiful crafts that we have bought before.  I had ordered the bike about 2 weeks ago and I was supposed to pick it up that day.  My plan was to pick up the bike and deliver it to Laurent.  A bit naive of me, looking back.

It had been raining and raining.  Industrial ( the area where herikwetu was located) had just had a mud slide/flash flood two days before.  It is an area with one main road that runs in front of the prison.  The road slopped up into the neighborhood of Kadutu (known for it's huge outdoor market, overcrowding and poverty).  When heavy rains fall, the water rushes down from the hills above Kadutu, into Kadutu and through Industrial, sweeping cars, objects, trash and sometimes people with it (and sometimes it goes all the way into the lake!).  Well, as we drove up to the center, I realized how very muddy it was.  We saw mud everywhere.  The road was atrocious.  It was like ice skating in mud.  There were two trucks flipped sideways in the ditches.  People were trying to clean up in the rain ditches that were full of rushing muddy water.  Houses and shacks where filled with mud and trash.  But, I wasn't worried, we were only going up the road a little bit in our nice landcruiser, no big deal.

We got to Herikwetu.  They showed us the bike (or tricycle).  I was so excited; it looked awesome!  Then, they said, "Madame, where is Laurent?  Didn't you remember to bring him with you for the fitting of the bike?".   Um, no, I didn't remember that.  Amazingly, someone at the center knew Laurent.  They gave us directions to his place.  No big deal, we would just go get him.

So, off we went, rather, up we went.  I didn't really think about it until it was too late, but we were heading up into Kadutu to head over to Essence where he lived.  At first, Natalie, you were excited.  There was so much to see!  So many people, animals, vehicles and stuff!  We struggled our slippery way by the market (that place astounds me--a different post later).  People out in the mud selling anything and everything you can imagine.  You liked pointing out different things, like "mom, do you see the suitcases, or the toys, or the clothes, or the toilets, or the pieces of cow (mom, gross!), or the soda, or the flour, or the rice, and on and on".   Well, as we went up, the road got much worse and we started slipping all over and had to really squish our way through the people, goats, motos, and cars.  Finally we got to a point where we had to stop.  There were three trucks stuck in the mud up over their tires and one narrow way to get through which didn't look big enough for us, let alone the trucks lined up.  And it was such a traffic jam.  And you and Isla were getting so much attention (everyone probably thinking, what are two little blond white girls doing up in Kadutu?).  You started panicking!  You started crying, and saying "mom, why did you bring me here, why did you think this was a good idea? We are going to slide off the road in the ditch!  We are going to run into someone!".  I was ready to cry too.  There was no turning around, and to me, it sure didn't look like we could go forward (oh, and did I tell you it was raining?).  Isla was having a blast.  Kept looking out the window and waving.  So we sat and waited, with lots of people around our car.  We inched our way through the small narrow passage with  the truck stuck in the mud on one side and the pile of bricks on the other (it was close enough to scrape our car).  Then we slipped and slid our way through the rest of Kadutu.  I was trying my best to distract you, Natalie, but it was really hard when we kept coming so close to sliding into people who were walking all around us, motos, goats, or stuck trucks (often with only a hair breadth of room).  After about an hour (!), we made it to Essence.

(Essence is a place I have talked about before on this blog.  It is a high crime area and very congested with lots of poverty.  I drive that way to get to Kaziba or Panzi.)  Natalie, you were so happy to get out of Kadutu!  You told me to not do that way again, that was a bad way, and again "what were you thinking, Mommy, you should have left me at home!".  We slid our way through essence (also very slippery with the added dimension of a drop off into peoples homes on one side of the road!).  And kept asking people about Laurent on the way, trying to figure out where he lived.  Well, we finally got there.

You were so excited.  I had told you about Laurent already.  That he was a grown up that didn't have very good legs so he had to crawl (or in his case, more like drag his lower body around).  I told you how it was really hard to crawl everywhere because it was so muddy and dangerous to be on the ground in an area like essence that had so much traffic congestion. You had already seen the hand pedaled tricycle that had been made for him, and you were so excited to meet him and give him his bike.

Even though my friend had told me about Laurent's physical body, I don't think I was prepared.  You, on the other hand, where completely prepared and quickly put him at ease, with a quick, "bonjour, do you want to share my cookie".  I was trying not to cry.  He was full of dignity and very excited.  I was definitely the one who needed to pull my act together.

Laurent had polio (most likely) as a toddler.  As you know Natalie, you had a shot so you would never get Polio.  Laurent didn't get a shot and he got Polio.  His legs stopped working and because of that they sort of shriveled up and he had to use his entire upper body to move around.  He didn't have a wheelchair or anything else to help him and over time his upper body had overcompensated for the lack of function in his lower body which led to his torso becoming twisted and mangled, and incredible arm and upper torso strength and muscular development.  Because he lives in essence, where there is only mud and mud and mud, and because he is poor (and because there are no "handicap accessible areas"), he crawled everywhere.  What mattered most to you?  You were really worried about his hands and his knees.  You were worried that crawling around in the city of Bukavu wasn't a good idea because there was a lot of trash, mud, sharp objects, cars and danger to someone that had to crawl.

So, we headed back to Heirkwetu (on the longer route which was a lot less congested and you weren't scared at all).  You kept stealing shy glances at Laurent and asking if you could talk to him.  We made it back and realized that the bike was too big for him (because of his back being so twisted he has a very short upper body and couldn't easily reach the hand pedals)!  I was bummed, he was really bummed.  He didnt' want to get off the bike.  He as actually sitting up at a level where he could make relatively easy eye contact.  He was off the ground.  I think it was really hard for him to get off that bike and back onto the ground that day.  So, we drove him home with a promise to come back the next week.

On the way home, you told me, "Mom, why does Laurent have no legs?  Mom, why did God make Laurent that way?  I'm going to ask God when I see him in Heaven one day, Mom.  I sure have a lot to ask him, don't I?".  (me too, baby, me too)

I love you Natalie, and your big gracious heart,

Part two ("what I hope she never forgets" and me "really angry") to come tomorrow.

P.S.  A tricycle hand bike costs $400.  Laurent probably makes $30/month...

Saturday, May 14, 2011


And now for the really exciting news.  We have our website for Tumaini up and running AND we have a fiscal sponsor while we get our 501c3.  Which means when anyone gives they can get a receipt for tax purposes.

The quick and simple.  The orphanage only accepts babies after their mothers' have died.  These babies would otherwise die because of the high cost of formula (this is when the families couldn't find a wet nurse).  Formula costs $70/month for one baby.  An average farmer's wage in the area of the orphanage is $40/month.  Obviously, formula is an impossible cost.

There is already a main donor for the orphanage.  But because of trouble fully funding the orphanage's needs, the babies were not getting full strength formula, they were not getting any formula after 6 months old, little to no milk was given to any child over age 6 months, and there were about 2 mamas to 30-45 babies and toddlers!  This meant children couldn't sit by age 14 months or walk by age 2 1/2 because of malnourishment and under-stimulation.

This is where we come in!  We are raising money (through monthly sponsorships) for formula, milk, and extra staff.  If you have been following the blog this year, you know the huge difference this has made!

We need you!  We are looking for all our sponsors this month so that every child will be sponsored and we meet our budget!  Every child needs two sponsors at $25/month (or one at $50/month).  Do you want to sponsor one of the kids I have talked about over the past year?  Do you know someone that might want to sponsor one of the kids?

We need 39 more sponsors (at $25/month).  Please pass on the word, the website, and the stories of the children.  God has opened doors and we are excited to see where He will lead us.

Check out www.tumainidrc.org.

How to sponsor:  

To find out what sweet kiddos still need sponsors, go to the donate page and check out the sponsorship blog.

When you find a child you would like to sponsor, go to the donate page again and click on the donation page link (please click on monthly donation and put the child's name in the notes section).  Please send us an email letting us know what child you want to sponsor so we can keep track of what children are still available for sponsorship.

Sponsors will receive updates from the Tumaini sponsorship liaison four times a year.  There will be a Tumaini manager on the ground who is a well respected man and we are so excited to be working with him after I leave the country.

Friday, May 13, 2011

a post a day

So, I've decided to try to post once a day until we leave.  We'll see if I can do it, but I'm going to try.  There have been so many things brewing in my head and I am so behind on posting about all the sweet kiddos at Kaziba.  Also, I have some really exciting news to share about Tumaini.  Check back later!  (The kids are all waking up right now :).

Fear in the night--emmanuel


For all those that know me well, they will attest to the fact that I am a big fat scaredy cat!  My three younger brothers took full advantage of this when I was young.  They loved to hide behind the huge tree that stood on the path to our house at night.  Then they would jump out from behind it and scream.  I still shudder and want to wring their necks thinking about it.

I can’t watch a movie or show that has any element of fear or terror in it.  Even the music can freak me out. 

When we first moved here I was worried about a lot of things (of course, big on the list was war, rape, and pillaging :).  One of the first nights, in the dead of the night, I awoke to a huge BOOM!  I woke up completely and was scared to death.  I said, “Mike, did you hear that?!”.  He sleepily answered, “yes”.  In my mind, it was one of two things, a bomb or an isolated thunder clap.  So, I ask with trepidation, “was that thunder?”.  He answered in an ominous voice, “NO”, and goes back to sleep (even snores).  I am wide awake convinced that I just heard the first of what would be many bombs landing on us as we sleep.  Of course, it was only thunder (and Mike didn’t remember a thing) and it wasn’t a bomb (and I very thankfully have not heard any since then either!). 

Well, last night, I was full of fear.  The hardest thing (aside from the constant loneliness and isolation I struggle with) for me living here, is the medical care (or extreme lack thereof).   I am literally "it".  I am a pediatric nurse practitioner, and I do not trust anyone here when it comes to medical care and advice.  I have sought out help in the past and been given such bogus opinions that I consider it not even an option any longer.  But, when you are “it”, and your kid is sick, stress and fear are close beside you. 

All our girls have had colds and coughs this week.  Run of the mill stuff.  But then, Isla, our 2 ½ year old got worse last night.  She had been fever free for a day and a half, and then all of a sudden last night she spiked a fever again and looked awful.  Now, when I am “it”, I have to decide, “do I treat her for malaria tonight or wait and get her tested tomorrow?”.  The reality is that even if I got her tested the next day, and it was negative, I would still treat her, because the test is often false negative.  So, I curled next to her on the bed and prayed.  Even in her fever induced sleep delirium she curled her body next to mine and put her hand on my face.  She trusted me in a deep down way.   I did treat her for malaria.  Yet, as I lay beside her in our bed, in the dark quiet night, tears slipped down my cheeks.  I was afraid.  Afraid that malaria would take my baby, that I was missing something.  I felt so alone and afraid.  I lay there in the dark, full of fear, wondering, “what am I doing here?” “what are we doing living in congo” “why are we here” ?? and on and on.  Finally giving into the anxiety and fear, I could no longer hold back and it all rushed in, in heaving heart ache.  So much death here, so much suffering, pain and fear.  Where is God? 

Once, when I worked as a pediatric nurse at a large hospital, I was witness to a special baby boy unexpectedly dying one late afternoon.  I chose to be the one to wash his body and sit in his room with his body, waiting for his mother to come as I had come to know her over the times he had been hospitalized the last year (she hadn’t been there when he died as he wasn’t that sick).   She rarely left his bedside, this was one of those rare moments.  I remember when she walked in, broken and sobbing.  We held each other, weeping, standing beside the bed, next to his body wrapped in blankets.  I remember looking out the window at that moment and a storm raged.  Black clouds, thunder, lightening, and lashing rain.  I couldn’t help but think that God was angry too.  That He hurt and was weeping with this mother.  That He held her in His arms far more tightly than I ever could. 

Last night, He held me too.  And I think that is the meaning of Emmanuel I want to remember.  God with us.  That He is with us, Jesus came, suffered and died.  I may not have the answers to all my questions and fears.  But He is with us and has never left us.

update:  This post was written two days ago as blogger was down and I couldn't post.  Isla is doing a bit better, she also has an ear infection and nasty diarrhea.  But no fever anymore!  

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Laying down dreams in safe places

For a long time I had a card pinned on my wall.  It was a photo of a woman wearing a flowered dress with long wavy dark brown hair, pulled back out of her face.  She was walking at dusk through her garden, lush with vegetables.  In the distance was the countryside and mountains further off.  She held a little blond haired child in her arms.  This was my dream.  I wanted to be that woman.  My family and I would live in the country somewhere, probably in the pacific northwest.  I would stay home, make a family, a sanctuary.  I would garden, knit and sew, like my mother and her mother before her.  Our home would be a center of peace and love, removed from the rest of the world.  God at it's center.  This was my dream.  It is what occupied so much of my girlish (and early woman’s) heart.  It is why I decided not to be a doctor long ago when I left premed behind and pursued nursing.  I didn’t want anything to compete against my dream. 

Lately, I’ve come to realize that my dream has become an idol.   For the last 4 ½ years I have had the privilege of staying home with my kids.  Albeit, it’s not Oregon or Washington and my garden is more like a jungle, but I’ve still had part of the dream.  Our next step in life will take me away from my dream.  I will work to support my family and my husband will go to school.  Awhile back we had decision to make.  We could leave DRC and he could look for a stateside job similar to the ones he has had in the past (in the same field).  Or he could change everything and follow his heart.  I saw the weariness in his eyes, his loss of passion and love for his work.  I saw what it was doing to him.  I had a choice.  I could also pray about this decision and submit my will, my dreams and hopes to God and ask for guidance and direction, or I could say, “NO!  This isn’t a part of my dream!” and resist.  I chose the former.  And I am struggling with how God led us (turns out I still want it MY way).  I am struggling to let go of MY dream and MY hopes.  I don’t want to bury them.  I don’t want to let them go.   I don’t want to trust God with them.  How could God ask me to do this?  Yes, I had submitted and asked, but I didn’t like the answer! 

Today I read this post about burying dreams and hopes.  Releasing the seeds and hoping, longing for resurrection.  Perhaps, in stepping out in blind faith, He will hold me tight and bring me through and grow new fruit that I could never have imagined.  To lay it down, to let it go, to bury it all, and pray for resurrection—I venture forth. 

My dream is not a bad one, it is beautiful and these last four years have been wonderful with my girls.  But I feel like I have held on so tight to my dream that I haven’t considered what God’s beautiful dream for me might be, right now today.  I will always hope that I, one day, can be the woman holding my child at dusk in the middle of my garden in the country.  But if it doesn’t happen, I am okay with that.  I figure I never ever dreamed I would live in Congo even once in all my thoughts and hopes for my future (I never even considered living overseas!).  Yet, I am incredibly thankful God dreamed this experience for me.  I know I can trust him with my dreams, my family and our future.  It is a safe place to be.