Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Today's Pics

The following two pictures were taken from the inside of my car when we pulled up to Lomngeletjane.  The kids just swarmed my car.  I actually had to tell some of the kids to "hamba" (go) in an attempt to get them to back away just a bit from my car so I wouldn't drive over their toes!  And then there were so many hands for me to touch as I said hello to each child.  And of course there was the other Nothando.  She always comes up and stands quietly by me with a big smile waiting for me to say "Hi Nothando" to her.  She thinks it is so great that we have the same name.  Oh to be loved and wanted.  I am going to miss all these kids while I am in the States but I can't allow myself to think of that yet.

Nomile has hit her goal weight of 8.6 kg (almost 19 lbs)!  Normally she would be released tomorrow, but we have to find a place for her to go.  Please keep praying that they don't make her go back to her grandparent's house or surrounding area, and that the social worker can get her into ABC House in Bulembu.

Thoko gave me a pair of sandals to take to Nomile.  They were a little big on her but she loved them.  Most of the time she was trying to take them off and then put them back on again.  She was making sounds even more today than yesterday.  I swear she said "down" one time after I said it to her.

And Nomile is no longer afraid of the camera.  When she saw the flash when I took the first picture she laughed out loud and then wanted to come closer while I did it again.  She also liked looking at herself on the camera.

Oh, but she cried so when I put her back in her crib and said bye-bye.  It breaks my mother's heart, just as it did every day when my kids were little and I would have to say good bye to them when I went off to work.

Monday, November 23, 2009

More on Nomile!

What a day.  I got a few things done this morning that I had planned, but not as much as I had hoped considering I only have a l little more than a week before I leave to come home.  However, the big thing that happened today is that Thoko gave Nomile's grandfather transport money so he could come meet us at the hospital and talk to Nomile's social worker.  She thought he would probably feel more free to tell the real story if the grandmother wasn't around.  (Thoko is sure that his wife, Nomile's grandmother abuses him as well.)  We were supposed to meet him at the hospital at noon, but Thoko was in a meeting that went longer than she thought it would.  So by the time Thoko and I went to the hospital it was close to 2:00.  We didn't see him outside where she had told him to meet her so we went to see Nomile.  We walked in the door and the grandfather was sitting on a chair.  Nomile was sitting in her crib.  My heart stopped. I really didn't want the grandfather to see Nomile, especially without Thoko and I because I was worried how Nomile would react or what was going through her little mind.   Nomile was not her normal self.  I've noticed that when there is more than one person giving her attention, she doesn't seem to be able to handle it.  She just kind of withdraws into her original behavior.  I've also noticed if something is uncomfortable, such as when she wets her nappie, that she briefly withdraws.  I wasn't surprised to find her unresponsive again.

To my surprise, she did hold her hands out to me and let me hold her and rock her.  She leaned her head against my lips, the signal for more kisses.  She gave a couple of small smiles, but not even close to what I saw yesterday.  Thoko said the grandfather could not believe she was the same child.  Thoko took him to speak with the social worker and I stayed with Nomile. (Aw, too bad...NOT!)  Nomile and I had such fun.  She is now saying "bababa" and I said "mamamama" to her and she repeated me.  She was reaching out for me to play with her even more than yesterday.  All of the nurses and workers that came into the room said they couldn't believe what a different child she is.  I stood her on the floor today.  She had a ball exploring, playing with the balloon, a telephone rattle I bought her last week and a toy truck.  But what she really liked was trying to sneak by me while I tried to tickle her tummy.  She also liked walking into the main ward.  The first time she did it she waved bye-bye to me!  I would run after her, throwing her into the air and blowing on her tummy and she would just squeal.  It was such a joy.  Thoko and the Grandfather were with the social worker for about two hours.

When Thoko came back, she told me that the grandfather told the social worker everything.  The story is unbelievable.  The grandfather was actually praying that the grandmother would kill the child so that she would be out of her pain and misery.  I can understand his desperation, but a grandparent praying that prayer is beyond my comprehension.  He told the social worker about the shack she had to sleep in alone whether it was cold, hot or raining.  He told her he thought she would die by the end of the day the morning he had another child carry her to Thoko's house.  He told the social worker that the child couldn't come home and couldn't even go home with someone in the area because his wife would make life miserable for Nomile and whoever took her in.  Thoko talked to her about the ABC House at Bulembu and the social worker said they could probably make that happen but that they wouldn't be able to put her up for adoption.  I assume the main reason is because there is not documented proof that the father and mother of the child are alive or dead.  Thoko told the social worker that we didn't care about that, but that she and I wanted the child to be in a place where we knew she would be loved and cared for.  She also told her that I would really like to know the child will be safe before I leave for home.  The social worker said the grandfather would have to sign an affidavit and he said he would sign it.  He does not want her to come home.  I had chills as Thoko was telling me about the visit.  On one hand the behavior of the grandparents is unfathomable to me; on the other hand I am thanking God for wrapping his arms around this child and saving her.  I want to cry and shout for joy at the same time.  Nothing is a done deal yet, so we have to be cautious and diligent to make this happen, but I know in my heart that the Lord is answering all of our prayers.  And the grandfather is now saying a prayer of thanks and praying that the child gets moved to ABC House or someplace that will love and care for Nomile.

The social worker that is in charge of Nomile's case is on holiday this week, so we will have to follow up with her next Monday, but Thoko said both social workers had been to visit Nomile and said that it was so clearly evident that the child had been abused.  I think just about everyone knows Nomile's story.  I was actually almost as afraid for the grandfather when he entered the malnutrition unit as I was for Nomile's reaction.  Lucky for him, all of the mothers and babies who were there when she was admitted have now gone.

By the way, the grandfather and Nomile look a lot a like.  You can certainly tell they are related.  And in case you haven't gathered, Nomile has discovered the camera isn't a bad thing!  This last picture is her making her great little motor boat sound. 

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Rain, rain went away so I could go out and play (with Nomile)

Thursday Thoko and I went to measure some of the Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu kids at Lutfotja for uniforms, shoes, etc. and to see how they are doing.  It was another cold, rainy day.  The roads were really bad.  We went to the High School to ask when school reports were coming out and I just slipped and slid down the road.  When we got back to Manzini Thoko and I stopped in to see Nomile.  Nomile was in a bad mood.  I think she wasn't feeling well.  We couldn't get a smile out of her no matter how hard we tried and she didn't want to be held or touched.  We stayed for a little while and then left.  It was still raining.  It rained all night long and all day Friday and Friday night without letting up.  By Friday, I was so tired of looking at the torrent of water and the mud and being cold that I stayed home all day with a blanket wrapped around me.  I didn't even go visit Nomile, which I did feel bad about.

Saturday morning the rain stopped.  Briefly.  I did some things on the computer and then decided I better eat some breakfast.  Breakfast didn't go in my stomach well but I kept going.  I went to visit one of the members of St. Paul's that had some clothes to give Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu.  We visited for a couple of hours and by then it had stopped raining for good.  My plan was to go from her house to the hospital.  By the time I left her house I was achy, really sick to my stomach and my head hurt so i went home.  Tylenol helped.  This morning I awoke to the sun shining, birds singing and the sounds of soccer players glad to be playing after so many days of rain.  I was feeling better, but still not great.  So I took more Tylenol and took a nap instead of going to church.  By afternoon I was feeling a bit better and went to see Nomile.  I was feeling real bad that no one had gone to see her since Thursday and that was not a good visit.

I walked into the Malnutrition Unit and she was lying in her bed, but she smiled as soon as she saw me.  I laid my head down on the bed with her and talked to her and then started tickling her.  I just love that sweet girl's laugh.  It is so precious.  I spent about three hours playing with her, giving her the special milk to drink a couple of times, rocking and singing to her.  I brought some bubbles but she didn't really know what to think about them.  The greatest thing is that she is now making some noise and she initiated touching me (hitting my hand and patting me as I rocked her).  She is the best little motor boat there is and she was making all the little sounds I've been making to her.  Once she even said "ba" when I blew the bubbles.  I held her for a long time singing "Jesus Loves You" to her and she was humming with me.  (I have this thing that I always change the words to Jesus Love You when I'm singing to a baby or little one.  I know He loves me, I want them to know He loves them.)  The ladies and nurse's aide kept laughing at how happy she was.  I understood as a new mom said to one of the moms that has been there for awhile that I loved Nomile.  Towards the end while I was rocking her she cuddled her head up next to my neck and fell asleep.  I tried to put her in her crib so I could leave, but of course she woke up and cried.  I held my hands out and she got up and came to me.  I could tell the mothers thought I was spoiling her.  But as I rocked her, I whispered in her ear that Grandma Shirley (my mom) would say I'm not spoiling her.  She would say Nomile just needs to be held and rocked a little more.  Soon it was time for her to have another drink of her milk, and after that I kissed her goodbye and left.  She didn't cry, but those big sad eyes of hers make me feel so bad when I leave her.

it is amazing what a couple of hours holding a precious little one, singing and laughing will do for a person's emotional, physical and spiritual health.  By the way, she weighs 8.1 kg.

Most of the kids that were in the malnutrition unit have been released.  Only three other kids that have been there for a while still remain and one of them is an orphaned child born to parents from Mozambique.  They don't know what they are going to do with her, so in the meantime they keep her in the malnutrition unit where she receives a bit more care and it's not as noisy as it is on the regular ward.  They've moved Nomile into the crib next to hers.  Most people play and talk to both children as they walk by.  There was a new small child.  I don't know the child's age and the mother must not speak English.  The child is quite a bit taller than Nomile.  But the child was either seizing most of the time I was there, or has very, very severe cerebral palsy.  My guess is she was having slight seizures and has severe cerebral palsy.  That was real sad to see.  I know there isn't going to be much that can be done for the child.  The mother was taking such care in feeding it spoonfuls of milk; wiping the child's mouth after every spoonful.  The child reminded me of a few of the kids I worked with at the State home in Southern Indiana.  I can't believe the pain and hardship the mothers and the children who are handicapped endure in this country.  I am even more amazed that so many handicapped children and adults are alive because not that long ago they would have been killed.  I know that many of these children are alive because their mothers or gogos refused to follow cultural tradition and kept them alive many times risking abuse to themselves and certainly not receiving any help to care for the child.  That is true love.

Thoko and Samkelisiwe,  Samkelisiwe was so sick when we first met her in August of 2008.  Doesn't she have a beautiful smile?

The Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu kids from Lutfotja.  Our little family has grown.  We are now seeing that 14 children get to the clinic to get their monthly ARVs and medical care for other illnesses as needed.  We have about 6 or 7 families that we help in other ways as appropriate.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What a GREAT Day!

Today was a great day in spite of the fact that once again today I didn't have enough water to do anything.  But I decided I wasn't going to let that get to me.  I keep a couple of 5 litre bottles of water in my house for days when I don't have water.  So I heated some up on the stove so I could take a makeshift shower and wash my breakfast dishes.  Then I was off to the paint store to buy more paint for the teacher's house.  I took it up to Lomngeletjane and then headed to Cashbuild in Matsapha to buy more cement (Yes, AGAIN.  I swear I don't know where it all goes.) I also got bricks for the stove I am having built this weekend for Lomngeletjane.  The guy, who always takes my order, asked me how much he charges me for transport.  We discuss this every time I come.  I told him that he had been charging me 150 rand the last couple of trips, but I would really like it if he would charge me 75 rand.  And he said why? And as always I said because I am buying the materials for the church to build a school and I’ve spent a fortune at this store over the last two years.  He shook his head as normal, but when I got in the car I saw that today he gave me the transport for 75 rand!  By the grace of God I managed to get all of this done and get to Bible Study just a few minutes late.  Amazing.

After Bible study I went back to Matsapha to pick up the steel frames for the stove.  It took me about 45 minutes of driving up and down just about every street in Matsapha until I finally found the place.  I called the place I was trying to find 3 times for directions.  I kept asking for a street name and the woman would say "Precious, you will never find us if I give you the name of the street." Granted half the time the street signs aren't pointing in the correct direction, but they do help this American figure out if I am at least in the ball park.  I finally found it and actually felt like I had conquered one more thing in Swaziland.  I should have been writing down all these little successes over the last 2+ years.  Two years ago I would have been close to tears.  Today I just kept going on street after street going partly on instinct knowing that eventually I would find the place.

After getting the frames I drove back up to Lomngeletjane to drop them off.  Then I went to St. Paul's to see if the groundskeeper could wash my car since I wouldn't be going up to Lomngeletjane again until Friday.  I started a pot of chicken soup (yes, I pretty much live on this stuff) and then went to the hospital to see Nomile.

When I approached the door and looked in the window, she saw me and gave me the cutest, greatest smile I think I've ever seen.  My new routine seems to be picking her up, hugging and kissing her and then changing her nappie (diaper).  She knows that I am changing her, and not laying her down to leave.  Then we play.  She is starting to make some sounds - pre-babbling. She loves it when I tickle her and get her toes.  Then after a while all of a sudden she stopped laughing and playing.  I wondered if she was tired so I started rocking her and singing Jesus Loves Me to her.  She kind of hummed along with me.  After a bit, when I could tell she was close to falling asleep I laid her in her bed and covered her up.  She let me cover her and kiss her and didn't cry this time.  The nurse had asked me to stop by her office when I left, so I did.  She said the Dr. had ordered an ointment for her and the hospital didn't have it.  The Dr. had told them to tell me so I could buy it from a chemist in town.  They also thanked me profusely and shared how excited they are that Nomile is doing so well.  I thanked them for all that they are doing for her.

As I was walking to my car, I couldn't help but think how God has changed my path.  In 2006 I had a vision of returning to Africa to rock babies.  Over 4 years later, it has finally happened.  I feel like this is why I was called here: to rock this one child.  It is a feeling I can't explain.  But as I walk through the hospital and clinic, so many people from the Doctors to the security guards smile and say hello.  I was thinking back to when I would walk through the hospital where my mom and sometimes my dad was and how that became almost like a second home and realized it was the same feeling as I now have walking through this hospital/clinic.

Yes, today was a very good day.  I thank the Lord for making it so great.

Monday, November 16, 2009

You know you are a Methodist Volunteer in Mission when....

When you aren't afraid to drive up, up, up the very squishy, muddy road in the rain to Lomngeletjane to deliver the paint for the teacher's house so it can hopefully be finished before you come home.  John and the head teacher couldn't believe I actually made it up there.  (You'd think they would have figured out by now I don't give up easily!)

The sign of a working volunteer in mission in Swaziland:

Or when you walk into a hospital and then a circuit stewards meeting with a skirt very muddy from walking in the rain, mud and just getting in and out of the muddy car - and you don't feel the slightest bit embarrassed.

Or when you almost cry when you see the smile of a small child as you walk into her room in the hospital.

Or when you change her poopy diaper with all of the Swazi mothers gathered around you talking and giggling amongst themselves.  Thank God I still remembered how to change a diaper!

Or when you play tickle monster to the sweet little girl that didn't move or utter a sound less than a week ago and she laughs out loud and you hug and kiss her.  (Once again the Swazi mothers keep talking and staring at you.)

And most definitely when you can't give enough praises to God for answering your prayers to heal this innocent child.  Nomile now weighs 7.45 kg. Her goal weight is 8.6 kg.  I can no longer feel every bony bump in her spine.  She kept openly looking at me with the sweetest smile and just a hint of a dimple.

She is camera shy, but I managed to get a couple of pictures of her drinking her formula.  When she finished I put her down and motioned for her to take her cup to the kitchen so the nurse's aid could wash it.  The nurse's aid was so thrilled.


And then I had to leave.  She cried when I put her back in her crib and it broke my heart but I know the other mothers and the nurse's aid will look after her and she will settle down.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A busy, productive Friday

Friday was a very hot, busy day.  I didn’t get everything done I had hoped to, but a lot was accomplished.

First the good news:  Lomngeletjane is coming along.  The plumber ran into an issue of mounting the geyser (hot water heater) but between he and John they think they worked out what needed to be done.  Of course it meant another trip to the hardware store to buy more items.  John has the Septic tank finished and the French drain is almost finished.  He has started patching the plaster in spots where the plumber had to knock some out or the small spots that he missed when he did the plastering.

The greatest news was that some of the parents, mainly mothers and gogos, where there to put up the fencing the government gave them for a school garden.  They gave Lomngeletjane enough for a garden 70m by 100m.  John decided to use the existing perimeter fence on two sides and then use the new fence for the other two sides, Thus allowing the fencing to go far enough to surround not only the school garden, but the orchard they are planting.  I am very excited and encouraged by John’s thinking and that so many people came out to help put up the fence.

The bad news is that sometime last week during a power outage due to one of the many storms we have been having, someone stole the electrical wires from the pole to the church and ripped out the wire that goes into the meter box.  The church/school has to replace the wires to the meter box and then the electric company will come out and replace the main electrical wires that were stolen.  I just can’t believe that mentality, but it happens all the time.  The thugs take it to recycling places and sell it for the copper.  I told John he needs to tell the police that they need to go hang out at the recycling places and arrest everyone that doesn’t have some sort of a license to have this stuff.  The lack of electricity means we can’t pump water which means we can’t test the plumbing and it is harder to get water to mix the cement, though this part is doable. 

I ended my day by going by the hospital to visit with Nomile.  Thini was walking in directly ahead of her.  Nomile cried at Thini at first, but when I came closer she put her arms out for me to hold her.  Of course after a while she started kind of grunting/whining, so Thini took her and she settle in just fine.  Then she started it again so I I took her back and she actually fell asleep while I was rocking her.  I kept rocking her for a while, but then decided we should leave so I could get home before dark.  Of course she woke up crying when we put her in bed.  One of the nurses came in while we were there and wondered who Thini was.  She thought she was the gogo.  (If I was the gogo I wouldn’t be brave enough to show my face around that place.)  I explained who she was.  She explained to the nurse that was with her that I am the baby’s mother who brought her in.  The nurse told me that she cries whenever I leave.  I’m not sure if she was trying to tell me not to leave, to stop coming or just making a statement.  At any rate, I won’t stop coming, I can’t stay there and really don’t want to sleep on the floor knowing there are huge cockroaches and probably mice running around.  So, hopefully Nomile will at least learn that I will be back..at least until Dec 3rd when I leave to go to the States. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Nomile, day two

I went to the hospital a little after 5:00 PM to see Nomile.  Unfortunately my day was full and I couldn't get there before then.  As I was walking into the hospital two of the mom's of other children on the malnutrition unit stopped me and told me that Nomile was doing good.  When I got to the ward, she was laying in bed with the teddy bear I bought her on her chest.  One of her hands was on it, but she wasn't holding it.  I picked her up and gave her a hug.  She didn't respond, but she didn't pull away either.  Then a few minutes later the nurses' aide came in to give her the special formula to drink.  I sat her back on her bed.  The aide tried to give it to her but she turned away.  I waited a minute or two and then picked her up and sat in a chair.  The aide saw that she came to me and gave me the cup.  I held it up to Nomile and she drank it right down.  She even helped hold the cup! 

I held her for about 2 hours.  She never made a sound and she would sneak peaks at people or me but wouldn't look directly at us.  For the most part, she stayed in what ever position I put her in.  I rocked her and hummed or sang softly to her, talked to her.  Sometimes I would be talking to a couple of other babies in cribs next to her but I kept holding her and rubbing her bony little back.   A few times she relaxed into my chest or leaned her head over to rest on me.  I'm taking that as a sign that she felt safe.  I could just feel her soaking up my being.  It was like we were one, even though she wasn't holding on to me.

The moms of the babies all talk and interact with the different babies in the room.  If one is crying and the mom is gone, the others try to help out.  I could tell that they were laughing and talking about me, but of course I don't understand enough SiSwati to understand.  Finally a mom asked me if I spoke SiSwati and I said no.  They were surprised.  Pretty soon the two moms that speak some English started asking me questions like where I live where I am from, if I have a husband, if I have kids, etc.  When they found out I am from the US, then the questions changed to things such as will you take me to America; will you get me a job?; etc."  They seemed surprised that I was making faces and baby sounds to a couple of the little ones so one finally asked me if I like kids.  I told them yes and that seemed to amaze them for some reason.

About 7:00 the aide came in again and handed me another cup of formula.  Nomile drank it right down.  I praised God and Nomile.  Then I sat her in her bed, put the teddy bear back in her arms, pulled up the side of the crib, said bye-bye and left.  She didn't react or make a sound.  She will one day.  I just know she will.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Meet another precious child

Meet Nomile (no-meal lee).  She is probably 2+ years old.  No one really knows because she was abandoned by her mother and her father.  Her mother dumped her at the father's parents homestead when the child was about a year old which was around a year or so ago.  The father's mother (Nomile's grandmother) has 12 children.  Yes, twelve.  Both the grandmother and grandfather are living.  Six of the children live at home, with the youngest being about Nomile's age.  Nomile was basically abused and neglected by the grandmother and the grandfather did very little to nothing to protect or care for the child or to stop the grandmother from abusing this child.  This child's grandparents live on a homestead across the river from Thoko's house.  A couple of weeks ago Thoko asked me what she should do about this child and I suggested we bring the child to the hospital clinic to have a Doctor look at her and decide where we go from there.  Thoko finally decided she would bring the child to the hospital clinic today.  Matter-of-fact, yesterday evening I actually bought 2 nappies (diapers) for the child to wear when she came to the Doctor.  As it turned out, one of the baby's aunts brought Nomile to Thoko's house at 6:00 am and said the grandmother said she was giving the child to Thoko.  She didn't want to deal with her anymore.  Thoko cleaned up the child and found some clothes to put on her so she could bring her to the Doctor today.

I met them at the hospital clinic around 10:00 this morning.  I had planned on running a few errands (delivering formula to Tiphelele and Nonjabulo) and then meeting them at the clinic.  However, I was still exhausted from yesterday's events and so I was moving very slow this morning.  Thoko and the Rural Health Motivator in her community said that as soon as the intake nurse looked at the child and started taking her vital statistics she said she would be admitted for severe malnutrition.  I arrived as they were waiting to see the Doctor.

The Doctor is the same one that looked at two boys we brought in last week.  We walked into the examining room and he is sitting at a table reading the newspaper.  He acted bored and like we were disturbing him.  I immediately had to take a real deep breath to keep my feelings towards the Doctor in check.  Thoko is very subservient to a person, especially a male of any authority, so it was hard for her to really open up to the Doctor and tell him about the child.  I filled in some of the blanks answering in more detail.  He asked what we were prepared to do for the child.  We didn't know what he was asking.  I asked if he was talking about financial responsibility, because I would take care of what ever it cost to treat the child.  He said no, he was talking about what we would do if he hospitalized her because that is what needed to happen.  They expect a family member to accompany a child of her age in the hospital.  I told the Doctor we would make a plan to do what needed to be done.  I guess he finally realized we were sincere because he called a social worker.  We went to her office and the bottom line is the child was admitted as a child without relatives.  Nomile will be fed, cleaned and changed by nursing aides and the social worker will go investigate the homestead to see if Nomile will be able to return there when she is able to leave the hospital.

Malnutrition is what I will call a silent, deceiving illness or state of health.  To look at this child, she appears to be healthy - her cheeks and tummy are fat.  But when they took her clothes off, you could see that her arms, legs, rib cage, shoulders and the shoulder blade area were nothing but bones with a little skin stretched on them.  She weighed 6.5 kgs which is about 14 pounds.  The hardest thing to see in this child is that just by looking at her you can tell she has been neglected and abused.  She is afraid to move and afraid to look at anyone.  Thoko told me the child was put in a hut by herself to sleep.  This child doesn't make a sound.  You can tell that she is just trying to be invisible.  When you hold her, it's like holding a straight board.  She doesn't move.  I held her and rocked her for a long time.  She finally closed her eyes and was trying to sleep as I rocked her.  Thoko touched her and she flinched back away from her. 

It was very interesting to see the reaction on the malnutrition unit.  The unit was full.  It had 9 or 10 babies in it.  One baby was just 6 weeks old and weighed only 2 kgs - about 4 1/2 pounds.  There was barely room to stand in the room.  But all of the mothers and the staff gathered around Nomile's crib asking questions.  Then there was a very loud, heated, emotional discussion.  I couldn't understand what they were saying, but I could tell they were outraged by the state of this child, especially the very obvious abuse and neglect this child had gone through at the hands of her grandmother.  One of the mothers went to a corner in the room and cried.  I knew how she felt because I kept fighting back the tears myself.

After Nomile was settled, Thoko and I took care of some other business and then went to buy a few things for Nomile.  I also bought her a teddy bear.  We took the things back to the hospital for her.  While there the nurse's aide came in and gave her the specially fortified formula to drink.  She will be fed every 3 hours.  They told us she will initially loose weight, because some of the weight she currently has is fluid built up in her body.  Once her system starts working again she will loose some of that fluid and then start gaining weight.  Her target weight for release from the hospital is 8 kgs.  Thoko, the Rural Health Motivator and I will make a plan to rotate when we visit the child.  We're going to call Thini in as well.  Our plan is to wrap this child in love because we know that her spirit needs to be nourished as much if not more than her body needs the nourishment.

As I was holding her I thought of how sure I was that Scott was going to be a girl.  We wanted a girl and because my pregnancy was so different I just knew he was a girl.  Christopher wanted a baby sister, but God's plan was for me to have two boys which as always I later realized was the best thing.  But as I held Nomile today I also realized that this is the third very sick baby girl that God has put in my path.  I also thought of the other children, mainly girls who have become so much a part of my life and I realized that God blessed me with boys as my biological children because he knew I would have many daughters here in Swaziland.

Please add this sweet baby girl to your prayers.

Tire prints in the sand

Yesterday as I read my morning devotional, the target verse that stuck in my mind was Philippians 4:4: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone." The song “You can tell we are Christians by our (talk, walk, smile, prayer, etc.)" came into my heart and head.  I prayed others would know I am a Christian by my actions and not (unkind) words.  I thought this really applied to Christians at large, and especially those presently involved in conflicting views about some things pertaining to this circuit.

God’s sense of humour is not funny sometimes.

Yesterday was one of the most frustrating, irritating days I have had since being in Swaziland.  Thoko and went to try and get some information from the Social Welfare Dept about a child who may be being abused or at the least probably has some emotional issues because of past abuse or possible inherited mental illness.  That was an exercise in futility.

Then we went up to Lomngeletjane to talk to the head teacher about the situation with a couple of kids and then take 6 or 8 kids home after school so we could see just how far away their homestead is from school.  First thing at Lomngeletjane I see the plumber has not been back to finish his work.  He was supposed to be finished by Monday.  He is holding up the finishing of the house.  Grrr   Then our talk about the child we are trying to find services for seemed to go now where.  It seemed like every time we were on a path to a conscientious, the path made a u-turn.  Finally it was time for school to end.  So we gathered up the kids, and put them in the back of my Honda CRV to drive them to their homesteads.  (Yes, I had 6 or 8 kids sitting on top of each other in the far back of my car.)

The story we had was that these kids walk two hours one way to get to school each day.  Most are in grade 1.  From what people have said (without ever seeing their homesteads) we thought they lived in an area where I knew there was a primary school and a Children’s Cup care point.  In my mind we were going to the homesteads to convince the guardians to send the kids to that school instead of Lomngeletjane.  The children didn’t live where I thought they lived and though there is a school which is a bit closer, the children would have to cross a river that floods when there is rain.  I realized I was just frustrated, emotionally and physically tired, and angry at “parents” who drop their kids off at their parent’s house and then never help take of them even financially.  In reality, I was just plain cranky.  I sat in my car as Thoko went to visit all of the homesteads.  I used the security of my car as my excuse, but in reality, I was just nursing my ugly feelings.  I knew I wasn’t the face of Christ.  I kept praying for Him to give me patience and change my attitude and thinking.  But I kept sitting there tired, cranky and hungry.

About 4:30 when Thoko was finally finished visiting all of the homesteads we headed back to St. Paul’s for our Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu meeting that should have started at 5:00.  It also started raining about that time.  I stopped by a local store so Thoko could get something to eat and drink.  About 3:00 I ate a Cliff bar hoping it would make me feel better.  It didn’t.  But Thoko hadn’t had anything all day.  We went to our meeting, and dumped everything on the two board members, which I must confess, helped me feel a bit better.  Our meeting ended about 8:00.  I always take Thoko home after evening meetings because she lives out in the rural area and has no way to get home after the last bus leaves to her area around 5:00.  I really didn’t want to drive her home because it was lightening, I was hungry, dog tired and hadn’t had a chance to go to the bathroom since about 10:00 in the morning.  But I really didn’t mind.  As always it was good for us to just talk about some things on the way to her house.   Because of the rain, we couldn’t cross the river where we usually do, but had to go up river about 1 km to cross it.  Even there the river was a bit higher than I like it to be, especially in the black darkness of night in the rural area without even light from the stars or the moon because of the clouds.  The worst part for me about crossing here is that I’m not real familiar with the road from the river to Thoko’s house.  I’ve only used this crossing 2 or 3 times and that was over a year ago.  There are very few homesteads along the way.

I dropped Thoko off and then started back, praying that the Lord would not allow me to get lost at night in the middle of the rural area.  I just kept asking him over and over to guide me and not let me get lost and not let me stall in the river.  All of a sudden on the dirt-sandy road/path I saw a single set of tire tracks on the dirt road/path.  I realized it was my tracks!  I followed those tracks back to the river.  Just before I got to where I knew I was by the river I started seeing several tracks on the road.  I crossed the river with my stomach in my throat but with the confidence that the Lord was going to bring me through it.  He wasn’t going to let anything happen to me.   The tire tracks in the sand made me think of the story and pictures of the footsteps in the sand:  when there was one, it was because Jesus was carrying me.  When there were many, He was by my side.
I am praising Him once again for not leaving me when I needed Him the most.  And I’ve already asked forgiveness many times for not being open to His presence earlier in the day when I was so cranky, irritable and quiet.  I am so humbled for thinking that the verse he put in my heart in the morning was more applicable to others than it was to me.   I can’t solve the problems in Swaziland or even do much to improve the lives or conditions of many of the children that are put before me.  But I can, with His help do what I can kancane, kancane….bit by bit.  And I can strive to have an attitude and voice such that others will know I’m a Christian by my actions and my gentleness.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Two frustrating days at RFM

As stated in my last post, we took the two boys and their gogos from Lomngeletjane to the hospital/clinic in Manzini (RFM).  As predicted, the pediatrician did nothing and was absolutely no help.   I think I knew more than he did.  It was so frustrating.  But, I was trying to keep positive.  The first boy lives with his gogo in Lomngeletjane but his father is alive and lives about 6 or 7 km away.  He seems to have a small welding business.  The boy's mother passed away a few years ago probably from complications of AIDS.  He went to an English medium pre-school and was in grade 2 when he got meningitis.  He survived which is very rare in Swaziland, however, he is now deaf.  It is amazing because even though he seems to not hear anything, his SiSwati and English are very good.  You can tell he is smart and he's very inquisitive.  However, his behavior is totally out of control and no one does anything to try and discipline him.  His behavior reminds me of Helen Keller.  He is now in grade 1 and is totally disruptive it.  He has also started running away to his father's place whenever someone is not with him.

The second boy is a little more complex.  He has a rather mild form of cerebral palsy since birth.  He has some level of mental retardation, but it is really hard to tell how much of it is because of his slight CP and the lack of therapy or individual attention.  I think he might be brighter than he looks and than people think.  The Doctor was even less helpful with this child than he was for the first child.  This boy lives with his mother and gogo.  The father is either deceased or has deserted them.  The mother is "sick" so the gogo really cares for him.  

The Doctor said he wanted to talk to parents of each child.  So, this morning I drove up to Lomngeletjane very early to pick up the children and their parents.  I had to go pick them up because the second boy's gogo said the mother wasn't well enough to walk to the bus stop and take public transport.  She wasn't kidding.  I have no idea what is wrong with the mother.  My guess is she is HIV+ and probably not on medication or has an opportunistic illness.  We got to the RFM about 8:00 this morning.  We were the first two patients slated to see the Doctor.  The Doctor didn't finish with his rounds in the hospital until 11:30.  He took about 5 minutes with each family and basically said the same thing he said yesterday:  "They need to be in a home/school for children with disabilities."

There aren't a lot of options here.  But Thoko and I are going to start investigating to see what is available for each child.  I found out today that the mother of the second child has an appointment at the Catholic school for handicapped children on Dec. 1st.  I also found the phone number for the Swaziland School for the Deaf.  Both of these options will probably involve removing the child from their family.  In addition, I'm guessing there will be room, board and tuition costs that the children's families will not be able to pay.

It has been a very frustrating couple of days.  I woke up this morning with a sore throat and had to sit outside in the cold, damp, drizzly weather for 3 1/2 hours waiting for these kids to see the Doctor which ended up to be a huge waste of time.  He was no help and the options are not good.  I have a real problem taking these kids away from their families; however, these kids have no future if they stay in their families.  (Not that their future will be much better even if they go to the schools for the handicapped.)  I'm holding onto Matthew 6:34: "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."
I came home and made a big pot of chicken vegetable soup.  I think I'll have a bowl and then go to bed early to ward off this cold/sore throat.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A busy Monday

Yesterday didn't start out so well.  I didn't get enough sleep the  night before so I got a little later start than I had planned.  So I must admit, I was a bit cranky.  Every where I went - to the post office, to the hardware store, to the bank, it seemed like I was faced with the difficulties that come with doing business in Swaziland.  This included being almost run off the road a few times by kombies (vans used as mini-buses/taxi's).  I had to pray often to ask the Lord to remind me that my behavior is all that I can control and that I need to react as a Christian not a frustrated American.  I thank God that he never lets me down.

The day also ended up being a day of driving.  First I drove to downtown Manzini to get 5 bags of cement to take up to Lomngeletjane.  But when I got to the hardware store I realized I didn't have enough cash and the charge for the debit card for just a few items is more than if I withdrew the cash from the bank.  So I left the hardware store and went to the bank.  I thought I was so organized and had tallied up what it would cost to finish the teacher's house.  Yes, I said "FINISH the house!"  Our goal is to have it finished by Nov. 13th.  After waiting in a fairly long line to get up to the teller, she told me I couldn't cash a check for the amount I wanted to without going to my home branch which is in Matsapha.  I didn't respond as Jesus would have.  So it was time to take a deep breath, say a prayer and go to plan B:  withdraw some cash from the ATM. But guess what?  The ATM machine must have been running low on cash because it wouldn't let me withdraw the amount I usually do.  This is Swaziland.  Bank ATMs run out of cash, hospitals run out of oxygen.  Oh well.  (Chris, get over it.)  I finally got the cement and headed up to Lomngeletjane.  John and a couple of his guys unload it and then I picked up the kitchen sink and geyser (hot water heater) that I bought last week and headed to the hardware store in Matsapha to exchange them for the correct ones.  (The hardware store had given us a 100L geyser instead of the 150L geyser, which was on special for the same price and the sink was made to be mounted a different way than we had planned to do.)  So down the hill to Matsapha I go.  I was driving right past my bank so I cashed the check and then headed to the hardware store.  It took awhile but I got everything exchanged without a hassle, bought a few more bags of cement and headed back up to Lomngeletjane.  (I'm beginning to think that John eats cement for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it goes so fast!)

The head teacher and I had a good talk about a couple of kids we are taking to get medical care as part of our Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu project and talked about my plans in the last few remaining weeks before I leave for the holidays.  I drove her down the hill to the point she would have changed kombies on her way home.  From there I had to drive out to Luve to the High School where Mthokozisi attends.  I drove out there on Sunday to deliver some food to them and Mthokozisi asked me about hiring a tractor to plow the field so they could plant maize.  I wanted to talk to Thoko first, we agreed on a plan, but I needed to get the money back to him and I wouldn't have time the rest of the week so I made another trip out there.  It takes about 30 to drive there one way.  By the time I got back to St. Paul's, I was tired.

In case you haven't figured it out, banking is extremely difficult and expensive in Swaziland.  I do most of my dealings in cash because it is so expensive to use checks.  In addition, you can't just go into a store and write a check.  Most places won't accept them unless you have done a lot of business with them and they know you.  I give Bethuel checks to use when he purchases materials because he has done so much business with various places that they usually accept a check from him.   You have no idea how lucky we are to have the banking system that we have in the US.  It may have problems, but nothing like here.  And there aren't banks in the rural areas.  It would be so handy if I could just put some money in an account for Mthokozisi in Luve so he could pull it out as needed for transport or food.  But there are not banks in Luve so that isn't an option.

Today I am headed back to the hardware store to buy more cement for John and a couple of small items and then head to the RFM (hospital/clinic) to sit with a couple of kids from Lomngeletjane so I can talk to the Doctor about them.  Both the the kids have a handicap.  I don't think there is anything we are going to be able to do for them, but the place to start is with the pediatrician to see if there is anything medical that can be done or where he suggests we take the kids.  One child has a severe hearing problem and the other appears to have cerebral palsy.  If he was in the states, he would receive some speech therapy and some physical therapy and would probably be able to attend regular classes in school.  Those services aren't available here. I am looking for a course of action to help these kids.

The pictures below are of John finishing the floor in the living room of the teacher's house, and then a picture of a finished floor in one of the bedrooms.  The last picture is of Mthokozisi and his sisters carrying the food I gave them on Sunday to their house.  Just the thought of carrying one of those sacks of maize on my head makes my head, neck and back hurt!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Praises and another prayer request

Saturday was a beautiful spring day - sunny, a blue sky with white billowing clouds and not too hot or cold.  It was a perfect day in God's creation.  I spent the day at a thanksgiving service for a wonderful pastor that is leaving the circuit.  It was good to spend the day with friends and people I have come to consider family. 

That evening Thini and I went by the hospital to visit Nonjabulo.  I was very curious to see how she would be doing because on Friday afternoon they ran out of oxygen.  That is the second time I know that has happened.  I don't understand how a hospital can run out of such a basic, life sustaining item.  I noticed there was a little one across the hall that was much sicker than the Nonjabulo and the little boy in her room and she had oxygen so I don't really know if they gave her Nonjabulo's' oxygen or if Nonjabulo's tank had run out and they didn't have more to replace it with.  I was so thankful this didn't happen the week before or Nonjabulo may not have made it.  We were pleasantly surprised to see that Nonjabulo was doing much better!.  She was smiling and when I held her up to "stand" on my lap she actually put a little weight on her feet!  Her grip was much stronger and she was making little baby pre-talking noises. She was so happy to see her gogo.  Thini had been sick for a few days last week and didn't go to see her.  Thini has that loving gogo quality that I think would make anyone smile, let alone her granddaughter.   We left so happy singing praises to God for Nonjabulo's improvement. Once again, I would have loved to take a picture of her smiling face, but I just couldn't bring my camera out and invade the other's privacy.  Maybe one day I will. 

My prayer request is for my car.  I know that seems odd.  But I'm beginning to wonder if it will last me another year, let alone any longer should I stay past next year.  Without my car, there's little I can really do.  I do a lot of driving on a lot of really rough roads.  I think the suspension is shot.  The knocking noise it makes as I go over the holes and rocks in the dirt roads sounds real bad and I have noticed it just doesn't have the power it used to.  It's only 11 or 12 years old with 174,000 km's on it so I really don't know what the problem should be. (She says with sarcasm in her voice.)  My prayer is that: 1) it doesn't die on me somewhere in the middle of nowhere or in a dangerous spot.  2) that no one gets hurt when my car decides to give out. 3)  That God would guide me as to his will with this vehicle and His plans for me.  Should I keep just having faith it isn't going to fall apart on me or should I look for a newer, more mechanically sound vehicle.  Automobiles cost a lot more here in comparison to the US and that is money that could go a long way to projects or helping out kids.  And finally 4) If God does want me to get a newer vehicle, he would guide me to that vehicle. 

Thank you for all your prayers.  Nonjabulo is just one more piece of evidence that prayers really do help!