Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Kathi

Yesterday was also Kathi's birthday! I mention Kathi all the time, and all this time have meant to put up a post just about her, who she is, how I came to be with her, but there's just too much to say and I'm not eloquent enough to say it.

About 35 years ago, Kathi moved to Zambia, and almost 30 years ago she started taking in babies into her home who didn't have anywhere else to go. Babies were being buried alive with their dead mothers because that was viewed as more humane than letting them starve to death after the mother and the milk supply were gone. But at one funeral, years ago, a man stood up, said he knew a woman he thought would be willing to help, and that was the humble beginnings of what is now the Haven. One woman taking on one baby at a time.

I met her and her husband Roy on my first visit to Zambia in 2002. My time with them that summer completely changed my life. They had just started taking boys of the streets of Zambia's biggest cities, and I was in awe of the love they showered on these kids who the rest of the world saw as unlovable, unworthy, unreliable,and ungrateful. I thought to myself, Surely I can love kids that need love, too. It was kind of as simple as that. Their example of living out the gospel rocked my world.

After a couple more visits, I decided to move to Zambia and work with Roy and Kathi full time. They had recently moved all the babies they had into the Haven and out of their home.Kathi had so much to do with her own house full of older boys (and girls), so she was more than thrilled to have me come to work with the baby side of things.

This whole place would not be here had Kathi not decided to take in that tiny little baby that day. What started out as her taking a couple of babies into her home grew and grew, and she's saved so many lives by providing them a place to live until their families could care for them properly.

I'm honored to work with her, to learn from her, to be friends with her. She's changed my life in so many ways. Some days I thank her for that and other times I yell at her for it! But no matter what kind of day it is, I'm grateful to be the one she allowed in to take on this task, and I know I'm better because I know her. Happy birthday to one of the world's heroes (and one of mine)!
The aunties pouring water on her for her birthday, a Zambian tradition.
Trying on her daughter's heels!
Louisa, Kathi, and me
Kathi with the 2 year olds that used to live in her house!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Happy Birthday Helen!

People inevitably want to know which baby is my favorite, and I usually respond with, "Oh, I love them all in their own ways!" And while that's the truth, we all still have ones that are special to us. Each and every auntie has a baby she calls "my baby", and I'm no different. The difference happens to be that "my baby" usually is a scrawny, sickly, dying one that I think we might lose, but that God heals, but by that point they're already stuck to me like glue. See my problem?!

I'm drawn to the weaklings, the frail, the ones that need a little extra loving to make it. It's also kind of my role here, to fight for the kids that need intervention medically or otherwise, so oftentimes I'm thrown into the fire with the sick and dying, and miraculously, some of those make it.

When I moved back here, the very first baby my heart was drawn to, excepting the ones I already knew, was Helen. In fact, when Kathi was introducing me to all the new babies that had come since I'd left, I took one look at Helen and told her, "Welp, that one's my baby I guess." She was all the things I listed above. Scrawny, sickly. 4 months old, 6 pounds, and just struggling to live.


We struggled together, and so many times I thought she was dying (all the while I was mentally kicking myself for my habit of growing attached to the ones I know may not make it). But little by little, day by day, a little baby girl emerged from that bag of skin and bones. She transformed before our eyes, until one day we were like, "Whoa! Look at Helen now! It's like she's not even sick!"


Today she turned one, a day we never  thought she'd see at certain points in her life. So we celebrated her life, like we do all of the lives God has given us for this season. She ate a brownie (loved it, by the way), she wore a special outfit, and she was cuddled a little extra by all those that love her so much.

The 11th born child, I wonder what her day would have been like today had her mother lived and any of her siblings could have kept her. I wonder if they remember that today's the day she was born. I mourn for them that they don't yet have any idea just how special she is.

So while I'll still hold to my claim that I love them all in their own ways, I sure do love this little one in a special way. And I'm beyond thrilled that she's still here with us today.
I know I said she wore a special outfit, but by this point it was late in the day, the outfit was dirty, she's cutting her second tooth and drooling like a fool, and she looks a little like a ragamuffin. But still.


Her aunties actually fighting over who got to hold her in the picture.
Georgina won.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Priscilla

Please pray for our sweet Priscilla. She's a tiny little thing, two and a half months old and weighing about 6 pounds still. She's failing to thrive and has a number of health concerns she's battling right now. Please pray for life and healing for her.







Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Stop

I spent the majority of today holding Nelson. He's a week old, weighs exactly 4 pounds, and has started life with a mother who has just died and no known father. We are not all dealt equal lots in life. 

This morning, I walked right past him, rushing to whatever task I was wanting to accomplish. But then I heard this weak, soft whimper, looked down at him amidst a sea of blankets, and thought, What could I possibly have to do right now that's more important than stopping and rocking this perfect boy? 

And so that's what I did. I parked myself in the recliner at Haven 1, and I spent my day marveling at this tiny creation. I fed him, I burped him, I sang to him, he fell asleep on my chest, and then we did it all over again and again. 

I could work all day and never run out of things to do here. There is always a baby to rock, a class to teach, a bottle to wash, a need to fill. And admittedly I spend way too much of my time consumed and overwhelmed with all there is to do. My wise mother told me when she was here that I needed to be better about just smelling the roses. She was exactly right, as mothers usually are. 

Today, I think the Spirit urged me to just stop. To stop looking at the need at large, but to just look at one, tiny, vulnerable little need and do something for him. I constantly have to fight the temptation  to spend the whole time I'm rocking him thinking about what else I need to be doing, which medicine hasn't been filled yet, who's crying in the other room, who else needs me. 

And I don't think I'm alone in this problem. There is so much need in our world that it can be exhausting just thinking about it and deciding where to start. So we do nothing instead. Because what would it matter if we helped just one? But it matters. It has to. I'm hinging my life on that fact, that even though we can't help everyone and we can't change the orphan crisis entirely, we can sure change the world for the ones put in our lives. And our prayer is that maybe those will go on and have a heart for orphans and pass that love on when they grow up. 

Obviously I can't spend all my days just snuggling Nelson, as much as I'd love that. There are others that need and deserve that same kind of attention. But today I'm glad  I stopped for Nelson, and I hope his mama was watching from heaven, assured that we're doing our best to love her baby like she would have.
"Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world."
- Archbishop Desmond Tutu 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Play Yard

Because of an extremely generous couple in Austin, we now have an incredible little play yard for our babies to roam in. It's basically a glorified play pen. We've had it about a month now, and every afternoon, that's where you'll find us. It took some getting used to, but the snits are finally used to, and are actually embracing, the dirt. Our babies live pretty sheltered lives, mainly because a lot of them are sickly when they come and we try to protect them as much as possible from possible infection. But, they all go back to their villages somewhere, so getting them used to dirt is good preparation! They truly love being outside, and they come up with all sorts of creative things to do. 

Enjoy a few pictures of them loving the new place.
Here's the place from afar.
The entrance
Maureen practicing a great life skill
Joel's first day didn't go so well. He hated the new surroundings. But look at him by day 2 or so....
Pouring sand all over himself!
Kurt's a busy little guy. He spends a lot of time raking, sweeping, gathering. He's just your typical outdoors man.


Seth, too, is always moving with a purpose. He likes to pretend tea is sugar and sell it to his friends. Or just carry huge buckets of sand from one side to the other, dumping, scooping, and redumping. 

Sweet Reuben
 Tim just clings tightly to whichever toy he first grabs that day, fills it with sand, dumps sand, repeats times a hundred.

Lincoln has fun no matter where he is or what he's doing.
Auntie Cliness gets in on the action
A moment of peace and harmony, and a photo-shopped sky. 
Nandi teaching Maureen how to share, a bit unsuccessfully. 
Jessie, just another victim of sand dumping. 
Virginia found this empty Sour Patch Kids box, and it became her toy of choice. Heaven help whoever tried to separate her from that sand-filled treasure.She held onto it for days.
When the box finally wore out, she moved on to bigger and brighter toys.
They love the boat.
Afternoon tea is now taken in the play yard. 
Ella, finger painting in sand.
Nico with a handful and a head full. 
Princess, loving life.
Prince, trying to love life.
I'm sorry, but Emmanuel could not get any cuter. 
Martin, covered from head to toe. His entire face is brown with sand. 
Sliding.
Solving the world's problems. 
Memory
Aunties helping the kiddos play.
Hands, hands, hands. 
Russell probably loves being outside and in the dirt more than any other kid we have.
Wade loves the old Vaseline container. Actually, that's a highly fought over container. If any one wants to send over any sand toys, they'd be appreciated! 
Cathy's the ultimate diva. It took her a good couple of weeks to decide she could touch the ground and not die. She is carefully perched on the plastic thing to avoid the touching of anything gross.
But look at her now! Look at all that dirt covering her shirt. 
Botias, having a blast
Lizzie loves filling cups.