Monday, October 29, 2012

Milestone Monday

On the Friday night that Aumbi died, we got a call from a preacher of a church in town. He didn’t know what to do. A few days back, he’d met a young mother while visiting the sick in the hospital. He’d only met her once, but when she passed away the hospital called him to help. She left a ten day old baby behind, no known father, and a grandmother who was old and unable to care for the newborn. The preacher was asking if we would be able to take the baby. I said we could, and we made plans to meet that evening.

After stopping by to visit Aumbi, before she got sick later that evening, we headed into town to pick up this new little one. Fortune directed me where to go, and we found ourselves sitting in a hot, dark church building. The grandmother handed me a bundle of blankets, and when I looked inside, I gasped. This was not your average ten-day old baby girl, but a 700 gram premature baby (about 1 ½ pounds). She looked so white she could have been white, and she resembled a small ghost. I couldn’t believe that the baby was just hanging around outside an incubator, but then I remembered where I was. I asked the grandmother if the baby had a name. She didn’t, so we named her after her late mother. She became Beauty.

We filled out all the important paperwork, prayed with the grandmother, and then headed back to the Haven to get our incubator cleaned up and ready to go.

She is now 20 days old, although she was a little over two months premature. She’s given us quite a few scares when her underdeveloped lungs forget to do their job, but overall she’s doing well. Her feeding tube was removed, and she’s now sucking on her own!

So, our first milestone to celebrate today is Beauty gaining weight (up to 1,030 grams or 2.2 pounds) and sucking! It’s a miracle, and we know God’s hand alone has kept her alive and growing.

Aunti Naomi keeping watch over Beauty

When the power goes out  and the incubator turns off, we have to actually dress the little lady.
Look! No feeding tube!
Our next milestone is Petra adjusting well to her new home and TB medications. She’s the baby I wrote about a couple of weeks ago who cried her first whole day with us after losing her twin sister and mother. She has settled in nicely, and we are quite smitten with her. The aunties call her "black shine" because of her dark skin.

Last but not least, Princess started reading this week. It's been a BIG week around here :).

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Catching Up

First things first. This is probably my favorite picture ever taken of Aumbi. Christa sent it to me when she was still in the hospital in Lusaka before leaving for India. I think she looks angelic, as she was. We buried her this afternoon in a sweet, little, white coffin. And we’ll keep loving her and missing her and fighting for others like her.

We’ve had three babies go home in the last week, as well. First, Louise went home with her uncle and aunt. They already have two daughters, a 4 year old and a 2 year old, so Louise will fit perfectly in their family of little girls. The girls loved Louise, as everyone does, and they even brought her matching hair clips to pledge their sisterhood and unity. It was sweet to watch a family dote over this new little lady they are getting the chance to love.


Twapegwa went home a couple of days later with her grandmother, who also couldn’t wait to be reunited with her. Her name means “we were given” in Tonga, and I love it so much. It’s a perfect way to describe her—she's a gift God gave the whole world.

And a day after she left, William went home with his aunt. It's like they wouldn't stop coming :) ! We need breaks between them walking away with pieces of our hearts!


I wish I could tell you all the little things these three did that made them special, that made them unique, that made each of them not just another of our many children, but a cherished individual we dearly miss. You should have been able to hear Weesie’s soft, barely audible voice singing with the shiest smile. We’ve never, ever, ever had a child as chill and cool as Twape was. She just could not be rattled, and her calm nature made you want to give the child anything she asked for, anytime of the day. And Wiwi, he just could melt your heart with his pint-sized body and his smile that took over his whole face. Oh, and he eats like a grown man but still cuddles like a little, bitty baby, which is an irresistible combination. We miss them so much.

And since we missed Monday’s Milestones, I’ll throw in a couple just for fun. Here are the two Emmanuels that we currently have, both sitting up! Now, Emmanuel the twin is in a bumbo, but to his credit, he doesn't have to be. And Emmanuel the Great (named for age and comparative size, not to put him on a pedestal or to mock the size of his head or anything) is also saying "hello" while sitting, which is pretty great.


And Emmanuel the twin's twin, Joy, is also sitting like a champ now. You'll have to excuse her attitude-- she's really quite cooperative most the time.

I hope you are all having a good week. Hold your babies tighter tonight. You're so blessed to have each other.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


After a hard-fought life, Aumbi died late Friday night. She arrived back in Zambia late Thursday night, and she was doing well when she arrived. Late Friday afternoon she seemed to have developed a lung infection. We were blessed to be able to hold her and love on her again before she died.

We are at a loss for words, obviously. When we have times where nothing makes sense and you don’t feel like you have any answers, I guess the only thing to do is to cling to what you do know. We know God values life, and we know it’s important to Him that we fight for little ones who have no one else on earth to fight for them. Please pray especially for the Murphy family that took Aumbi into their family and loved her intensely until her last moments. Love is always a risk, and they are wrestling with all of these feelings and emotions in a new way now.

Thank you to all of you who followed Aumbi’s journey and who prayed with us along the way. She was blessed by you, as I hope you’ve been blessed by her. She was a little life-changer—I wish you all could have met her.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sometimes I forget to be sad about orphans. Crazy, I know. But I’m so enveloped in the joy and the second chances and the life that is in this place that it’s easy to forget that at the heart of all of it, a great loss exists.

Then there are days like today. We’ve been waiting for about a week for a set of twin girls to arrive. Mama (Mrs. Siafwiyo, Haven director, my boss, my mentor, my Zambian mother away from home…a whole post coming soon about her!) got a call last week saying we should expect the girls any day. They stay far away, buses only come on certain days, but sooner or later we knew they’d arrive. Today was the day, only there were not two baby girls. Only one made it. The other sister died a couple of days ago, before they reached us. Their mother is dying in a hospital a couple of hours away. The father has 5 other young children, and the baby has nothing to eat and no one to watch her.

So we welcomed a new baby girl, three months old and darker than any baby we have. She has been crying ALL day. Well, she’s worn herself out a few times, literally crying herself to sleep. We’ve passed her from auntie to auntie to auntie, strapping her on our backs, trying to give her something at least slightly familiar. Everything else is new to her. Being inside, drinking from a bottle, a new type of bath, wearing a diaper, different milk on her stomach, no sister, no mother, no father. I’m not sure I’d stop crying, either.

Research says no matter what the age, an infant feels the loss of a mother. We’ve found that to be true many times over. Sometimes babies do come to us seemingly unscathed, unaffected by the monumental loss they’ve just incurred. But sometimes, like today, they seem to feel it deeply. Nothing comforts. Nothing soothes. Nothing takes the loss away. Try as we may, we are not the mother to this baby girl. She looks up with big, pleading eyes, as she roots around on the nipple of a bottle that just doesn’t fit quite right in her mouth, and she seems to know it, too.

It came back around to my turn in the rotation tonight, trying to quiet and comfort this screaming baby. This time I tried rocking her while patting her bottom and gently jostling her. She kept crying a good while, but finally she settled down and for the first time all day, she was awake AND not crying at the same time. We’re making progress.

Today was a real reminder of the pain these children go through.  Thankfully, she’s just a little one, and she’ll recover quickly. Tomorrow she’ll cry less, and the next day even less, until she attaches to us and becomes comfortable in her new home. She’s already sucking better than she was this morning. Her stomach will get used to formula. She’ll become accustomed to our schedules and bath times and diapers. And we’ll watch her grow up, doing for her what we wish her mother could have. We’ll cheer when she starts smiling finally, when we start seeing signs of adjustment. We’ll be there when she starts sitting, crawling, walking, talking. We’ll help her learn to share and play nicely and sing songs about Jesus. And then one day, a year or two down the road, Lord willing, we’ll hold back our tears as we hand her back over to her family, who we pray have been anxiously awaiting her arrival just as fervently as we’ve been dreading her departure.

And in many ways, she’ll be right back where she is today, mourning the loss of her mothers. Her village will look new to her. The food will be slightly different. Candlelight will replace electricity. The clothes won’t feel the same. The bed won’t be like hers. They’ll sing different songs. Her new siblings won’t know her nicknames or how to push her buttons. Yet.

But they will eventually. And just like she’ll adjust to life with us, we pray every day that our babies that go back to their villages adjust back to life with extended families again, too. Losing your parents is hard. But God is good. He comforts us and goes before us and restores what has been broken. He knows full well the injustices of the world, and He will set them right one day.

Tonight, I’m praying God’s comfort for a grieving father as he sits beside his dying wife, with empty arms longing for his daughters, while our arms are full.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Almost Home

Aumbi is doing so well! If all goes as planned, she should be flying home from India on Thursday. Please keep praying that all goes well, and that they have safe travels back to Zambia.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Milestone Monday

Hello! I've decided that on Mondays (solely because it's the only day of the week starting in M, and I'm a sucker for alliteration) I'm going to start sharing some of our babies' milestones from the previous week. Some of you that read this blog do it because you are longing to see pictures of the babies that you've met and love. I'm happy to oblige!
For the rest of you, this is a bit of a glimpse into my week. A big part of my job here is working with our babies and their development, figuring out with the aunties where each baby is and what we really need to work on most with each of them. Here's a little of the progress we've been making. 
Twins Maya and Marissa are now sitting alone without toppling over backwards, thanks to Harding students Petra and Aubrey and auntie Melody.

Louisa gave us her first smiles this week.

Mercy started crawling (some might choose to call it scooting, but I would not!).
Leah started walking as her primary mode of transportation. It's slow and shaky, but we're getting there.
Angel is sitting alone-- such a big boy (ignore the Mommy's little girl onesie...).

That is Busiku with a fully opened hand! This is a huge step for her. You can see that her right one is still curled up, but the left one is really relaxing.
And sweet Jason. If any of you have been around since the first time I lived in Zambia, you'll remember that Jason was one of my original eight babies I worked with when I moved here in 2006. He is precious to me. If you are a Brentwood friend, you'll remember him because he's one of David and Linda Gregersen's special guys. He's seven now, in grade 1, and reading like a champ. Quite a milestone!
Thanks for sharing in our excitement as our babies grow and achieve new things all the time.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Namwianga Mission is so many things: a college, a secondary school, basic schools, a farm, a church development team, orphan homes, a radio station, and a clinic. I’m sure I’m missing some things, but those are many of the ministries Namwianga offers. I love it when I see those ministries overlap and we can all work together for a common good. Like yesterday, for instance, a group of college students came up to the Haven just to hold and play with babies in their free time. That’s so great for both the students and the babies who both give and receive love in the process.

Today, I was able to again see the various ministries overlap when I took one of our children, Busiku, to Namwianga Clinic’s new Physiotherapy Room. It’s only been open a short while, but I already know it will be so valuable to some of our babies at the Haven.
Francis and Busiku
Busiku has cerebral palsy and microcephaly. We are trying to find a special school for her to attend where she can receive the interventions and therapy that she truly needs. Busiku’s needs are outside the realm of what we normally handle, and she is school-age without a special needs school around. We are looking into some schools in Lusaka, but in the meantime, I met Francis, the new physiotherapist at the clinic. I told him about Busiku, and he said he’d love to help her. So, we began a standing Monday, Wednesday, Friday therapy appointment, where he will teach both me and one of our aunties some stretches and techniques that will help Busiku loosen up her muscles and hopefully one day be able to sit unassisted. All of the stretches can eventually be done from home, so his training will be so beneficial for us.
It was great to watch Francis work with Busiku so lovingly. She is one of the the happiest children in all of our homes, and she just giggled away as he worked on stretching out her hands, elbows, knees, hips, neck, etc. She only got mad at him a couple of times, but she smiled even as she grunted at him! She was definitely worn out after a hard morning’s work.

As I drove home, Busi laughing at every pothole in the road that bounced her up and down, I smiled at how good God is to us. It was so wonderful to only have to drive 5 minutes down the road to get Busi some therapy she needed. And it wasn’t from a gruff, impatient person we could have easily met at a nearby hospital, but it was Francis, a Christian man who treated her like she was valued and important. He saw in her what God sees in her, which was refreshing to watch. It was just neat to see the body of Christ work together, everyone doing what they can do to serve God’s children with the talents they've been given. Namwianga's a special place, and I feel blessed to be a part of this body. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Out of Surgery

Just a quick update to let everyone who has been praying for Aumbi know that she made it out of the surgery and is stable! Christa writes from India, "The next 24-48 hours are still critical for her as her body learns how to balance the change in blood flow to her lungs and heart.  She will be on the ventilator for a minimum 24-48 hours, and in the PICU if all goes well a little less than a week." She also sent this picture of her the night before her surgery. Please keep praying with us that Aumbi keeps fighting and lives! God really is the perfect healer.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Big Picture

Sometimes it’s too easy to lose sight of the big picture. It’s easy to get distracted by the losses  or the hard things, and when I do that it eclipses the beauty and the positive, both of which I truly long to see.

A couple of days ago, God reminded me to look at the big picture again. In one day, Shelley’s grandmother graciously brought her back for me to see, and Sibajene’s father came with his new wife and son to claim him. Two reminders that we’re on the right track, that good is being done, that even when you can’t save all of them, you can help make life better for one. Or in today’s case, two.

Shelley stays quite far away now, but her family always makes an effort to bring her back regularly to see us, to show us how much she’s grown, and to thank us for the love we poured into her granddaughter while she couldn’t manage. Shelley is always happy when she comes, and she truly seems well adjusted and well cared for by her grandie.

Sibajene has been with us for two years, and his father has now remarried after the loss of Sibajene’s mother. Many of our children actually have living fathers, but when the mother dies, there is no one to keep the child during the day and feed the child. The babies end up being severely malnourished, and so The Haven is a place where the baby can receive nutrition and love until the father, or in most children’s case an aunt, grandmother, older sibling, etc., can take care of them properly. It is always our goal to reunite our babies with someone from their family if at all possible.

Sibajene leaving creates a hole in his house where his sweet, gentle, playful spirit was. As he was leaving, I prayed with his father and new mother and brother. By the end of our prayer, the father was weeping in thanks to God for His provision for Sibajene. It is incredible to watch how God can use this place and this ministry to stir people’s hearts and point them to God. I’m not sure about Sibajene’s father’s relationship with God, but I know that today he was aware that God is love as he looked at his son, and all the aunties who loved him during his first two years.

It’s impossible when working with infants and toddlers to have intense Bible study or to ensure that they understand the Bible stories you are trying to teach them. But God is great and He works for us, planting seeds in the hearts of our children and their families in ways we could not. It’s not what we can do while they are with us, but what He is doing in them that really matters.

Sibajene, 3 months
Sibajene, 11 months
Sibajene now
Sibajene and his family

Monday, October 1, 2012


I wanted to give you guys a quick update on Aumbi. Lord willing, she will be in India by the end of the week having further evaluation and probably surgery to repair the holes in her heart. She now has a passport and is awaiting an Indian visa. She’s had a rough week with fever and infection, most likely from the long stay in the hospital, but she has stabilized as much as she can with her current condition. Please pray with us that the fever and infection will completely clear to allow her to fly and be operated on as soon as possible.

Aumbi is loved by so many. It would be hard for you to meet her and not be overwhelmed by how God made such an innocent, loving little girl. An American doctor and her family who stay in town fell in love with Aumbi upon meeting her. They partner with us by coming out most weeks to check the babies and treat any sick children, and she helped us greatly in diagnosing and treating Aumbi’s medical needs. After watching Aumbi fight to live, they felt strongly as a family that they wanted to foster her and provide for all her needs. With a child as special as Aumbi, the one-on-one attention and medical care they will be able to provide for her during and after her operation will be such a blessing. With her own family unable to provide the support she needs right now, we are grateful God provided a foster family to fight for and love Aumbi. With God's help, they have made so much happen in a week's time to try to get her the operation she desperately needs.

Aumbi is currently in the hospital in Lusaka with her foster family, trying to get ready for the journey ahead. I received this picture from them a few nights ago—she’s smiley and ready for a well heart!

Pray for Aumbi to be well enough to travel. Pray for her foster family as they make arrangements for the trip to India. Pray for her family as they face the unknown and fear of their baby being sick. Pray for the doctors who will see Aumbi and make decisions regarding her heart. Pray for all of us who love her so much, that we’ll hold unwaveringly to our faith in God and not give into our fears.
Aumbi's name in Tonga is the equivilant of "again". Usually it is given when there have been multiple children in the family before this one, and then another one comes again. We like to think of it as Aumbi's life keeps showing us God's goodness and power again and again . Thank you for praying with us!