Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Tale of Three Mothers (make that Four)

I have a close missionary friend, whom I'll call Amina, who works with women in prenatal care about 2 hours through the bush from me.  We're so similar that it's uncanny.  We're the same age and we both grew up in Africa as children of missionaries.  We both were in the States for our Senior year of High School and we were both cheerleaders…in fact our schools played each other in basketball and we cheered across the court from each other and didn't even know each other.  We went to nursing school and then we both became midwives as well.  And then we met here in Niger over 10 years ago and we work in the same part of Niger.  We often get together to visit, pray and discuss our work.  We consult with each other when we have a puzzling case, and we try to be there for each other when the work seems overwhelming.  I'm sharing some of our stories in this blog post.

Mom #1 - Too many children
Several posts back, I wrote about the mom who came to our clinic and was in despair because she was pregnant again.  She had misunderstood how to take her birth control pills.  She had many children at home and the youngest was only 9 mos. old.  In spite of her efforts to end the pregnancy early on, she failed and then became resigned to her situation.  She would come nearly every month for her prenatal check-up, and each time she came, I had a chance to get to know her abit better.  We soon became joking friends, and at the end of her 8th month, I told her, "Now when you have that baby, you bring it to me" and she assured me that she would come and show me her baby. 
Two weeks later, I left the clinic and was heading through the bush paths home, when I saw 2 women on bikes get off to the side so that I could pass.  I recognized my friend, so I stopped the car and jumped out.  Her belly was down, so I asked, "Where's my baby?" with anticipation, and she replied, "It isn't".  I was shocked.  I asked her when she had delivered.  What had happened?  She couldn't give me enough details for me to completely understand what had taken place.  She said, "My stomach was in great pain so that I went out of my head and they finally took me to the clinic in Makalondi.  I don't remember very much except the pain. There when I delivered, the baby wasn't."  That's all she could tell me…and with disappointment in her voice.  I told her how very sorry I was and we arranged to visit the next week at clinic.  I drove home with so many conflicting thoughts and emotions!
She came the next week and brought me a bowl full of dried okra as a gift.  We talked about her children and birth control…and then she thanked me and left with her toddler on her back.  She says she'll come back when she's ready to start the pill again…

Mom #2 - Too Little, Too Late
Amina received a call at 1 a.m. while asleep in Niamey.  It was friends from her village calling to tell her that their expectant family member, and Amina's friend, was in labor and hemorrhaging.  They wanted to know if she could come and get them (it's a 3 hr. drive, half of it on bush paths).  Amina had taken cold medication and was so groggy, she knew she wasn't safe to drive, so she persuaded the family to put her in a donkey cart and call the ambulance in the next town to come and meet them on the "road".  They did that, and soon she was at the hospital in the next town.  She was seen by a nurse, but lay there for four hours bleeding before it was decided that she should be sent on to the Maternity hospital in the City.  At 7 a.m. the family called Amina to say she had arrived and was admitted, so Amina rushed to the hospital and found her.  It was obvious to her that the mom was in shock, so she asked the staff to please order blood and told them that she was in shock.  They replied that she was just tired from her labor and was soon going to deliver.  Amina insisted that after bleeding all night, she was in shock.  No one paid attention.  So Amina sat with her friend, who would turn to her from time to time and say, "Amina, I think I am dying." Or "I'm afraid. I think I will die soon".  It was excruciating for Amina to be unable to help.  Finally, in spite of her very weak state, Amina delivered twins.  But shortly after, she began to gasp, and the nurse said, "Oh, she's in shock" and they ordered blood.  But before the blood could even run in, the mom, Amina's friend, slipped out of this world.  Too little done for her far too late.  Unbearable Grief!

Amina checks a mom while toddler snuggles

Mom #3 - No Room in the Ward
Amina knew this expectant mom was in trouble.  She was so weak by the time she arrived at Amina's compound that she couldn't walk or even sit up by herself.  So Amina had the family members put the mom in her truck and they all left for hospital in the next big town.  On arrival there, they put the woman in the ward, and finally at Amina's insistence, they drew her blood, but they didn't bother to do an exam or take a blood pressure or any other vital signs.  When the blood test showed that her hemoglobin was extremely low (3), Amina decided to take her on in to the City to the Maternity hospital there.  Being severely anemic, it was obvious that she needed blood transfusions right away. 
On arriving, she was admitted, but no exam was done and the minutes passed into hours.  Amina kept asking for the staff if they would order blood for her and to read her papers.  Finally she managed to talk to one nurse and showed her the low hemoglobin result.  The nurse agreed that yes, she needed blood, so Amina asked her to please give her the papers to begin to get it done. 
Meanwhile they didn't have enough bed space, so they put the pregnant mom out on a bed in the hallway to share with 2 other women.  It was that way all down the hall.  The women didn't have enough room to lie lengthwise, so they lie curled up widthwise! 
Amina went and collected the blood and when she got back, they gave the mom a unit and then put her back in her bed.  She'll need several more units before she'll regain strength, but meanwhile they've put another mom in the bed with the 3 moms! 

Mom #4 - Healthy with Preemies
Last week we held a Bible School module on the book of Romans.  It's still harvest time, so we never know how many students will show up.  One of our students, Jeligu came, and left his wife at home with the task of harvesting the sesame seeds.  She was 7 months pregnant.  He came in every morning at 8:30 to Makalondi for the class, which ended around 1:30.  Wednesday when he returned home, his little boy said, "Daddy, you need to take mommy into the clinic in Makalondi because she is very ill".  When he saw her he found out that she was in labor and was having a difficult time.  So he put her on his motorcycle and they bounced out of the bush and into Makalondi.  All that night she was in labor and at 4 a.m., they came and called two of our women students to come and help the midwife.  Finally at 7 that morning, she delivered twin baby girls, both who were only 7 months but breathing on their own and fairly strong. 
At class that morning, we noticed that Jeligu, Zainabou and Nuadiba were very late arriving.  Jeligu showed up first and gave us the good news and received many congratulations.  About 20 min. later, in walked the two women students, each with a tiny baby girl all bundled up in their arms and following them was the mom.  Mom had just been awake all night delivering twins and then a few hours later, she walks into the class looking somewhat tired, but amazingly strong!  We had a celebration of exclaiming over the precious babies and thanking God for the health of Mom and babies and then they left.  Mom was getting on the back of a motorcycle with two babies in hand and going home by way of the bumpy bush paths again.  Oh, the admiration I have for the African women!  Words can't express what strength and resilience they live out every day!  
That's Mom in the middle

In closing these stories, Amina and I experience the gambit of emotions in trying to care for the women we admire and love.  We sometimes despair at the reality of the situation for so many here.  And then the next week we will rejoice with the health delivery of a new baby and a safe mom… and we ask God for more strength and hope to continue to fight for these women…our neighbors and friends.  They don't give up…we certainly can't either.  God is faithful and we choose to trust Him to enable us to help them.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Special Baby Naming Ceremony

As a rule, the Gourmantche people don't usually have a Baby Naming Ceremony on the Eighth day after a baby's birth.  But many West African people groups do practice this custom, and for many different reasons.  Some give names based on what events were taking place when the child was born, others to reflect family history or future hopes and dreams for the child.  Often the religious leader of that family's faith will be the one who will conduct the ceremony and give the baby its name.

Many of the Niger Gourmantche have been influenced by the customs of the Zarma people whom they live closest to, and often, among.  So it isn't surprising that the Baby Naming custom has jumped over into Gourma culture as well.  Among the Christian believers, a Baby Naming ceremony from a Biblical approach is often a way for a family to bestow a Biblical name on their baby and at the same time, be able to share their faith with their neighbors.

Recently we had the joy of attending the naming ceremony of our first Gourmantche "Grandbaby".  Baby's parents had both been children in my Saturday Kid's Clubs over the years, moving up into the Youth Group as they became teenagers.  Baby's mom, Ninli, is the daughter of my closet friend in the village, and the dad, Yemin, is the son of close friends as well.  Last year we were happy to watch this young couple get married and to take part in all the festivities surrounding the wedding.

Now Ninli and Yemin had recently had a baby daughter and so they invited family and friends to come to the Naming of baby girl early on a Saturday morning.  Gary and I arrived at 7:30 a.m., when we were told it would begin.  Needless to say, we were very early and so we got to watch all the preparations taking place. One of the pastor's of our churches would do the honors of giving a short message to the parents on their responsibility to raise their daughter according to principles in God's Word and then give baby girl her name.

On arriving at outside their yard, we were just in time to watch the guys skin the goat 
that would make our meal.
Meanwhile the outdoor kitchen was busy with food preparation and all kinds of
village news being exchanged!

Dimbou was being dished out near the kitchen, as a snack to tide the visitors over
until the meal would be ready later that afternoon.

The older women were all visiting just outside their home... the men were on the other side of the compound talking man talk

Mom, Ninli, is expected to stay inside until the ceremony begins, so most of the women go in and pay her a visit while she waits, with baby next to her.

When the parents and baby are finally called out for the ceremony, Gary gets to go by and greet Ninli and Ooo and Ahh over baby girl.
Pastor Jan (In the middle), did the honors of giving a short message to the parents on their responsibility to raise their daughter according to principles in God's Word and then gives baby her name: Rebeccah 

The official ceremony over, Yemin takes his baby daughter around to greet the visitors...

Yemin and Ninli's first family photo with baby Rebeccah

I finally got to hold my "granddaughter"...
AND try to eat my Dimbou (grain with leaves and spices - just delicious!)

 These young men were very patient through the ceremony, but extremely happy 
when the food finally made an appearance!  What hams for the camera!

And these two little ladies were quite refined while eating... such little cuties!! 

One of our village grannies showed up late, but made the baby's dad pretty happy to show her off!

 I tried to get two of my friends to smile for a picture, but they got too tickled and between
the laughter and shyness, I didn't get their faces.  I still love this picture of them.

So I close with this beautiful picture of my best friend, Zainabou...the new Grandma, 
pretty happy to finally get to sit down, relax, and hold her new grandbaby, Rebeccah!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Another Milestone for Sahel Academy

When Gary and I first came to Niger in 1988, we came to work at Sahel Academy, SIM's school for the children of missionaries in Niger and neighboring countries.  We loved our ministry there and our sons attended the school.  A number of years later, the Lord moved us on to another ministry, our present one in "Gourmaland".

Our youngest son, Joe, attended Sahel Academy the longest - from 4th grade through 10th grade.  He enjoyed his years there and made life-long friends during that time.
(Here he is as an Artist on a History Day back in S.A. days)

This past August, Joe and his wife, Amy, and their 3 children arrived here in Niger as new missionaries.  Joe is a pilot with our mission aviation service, SIM Air.  They arrived two weeks before the new school year at Sahel Academy began, quickly settling into their new home.  That was important so that their daughter, Claire, would be ready to begin school on the 15th.  

Claire is Sahel Academy's FIRST 2nd generation MK to attend Sahel.  I think that's pretty special!  We have had some of our MK's return to teach and work at Sahel, and even had two of our MK's from Sahel get married…and now we have our first 2nd generation Sahelite.   

First day of school...

Claire's teacher, Miss Botheras, was a 7th grade student when Gary and I and our boys arrived at Sahel Academy in 1988!  So now we have a Sahel Alumni teaching a 2nd gen future Sahel Alumni...
Pretty cool! 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Summer Days To Remember

A busy summer and writer's block have both contributed to a silent blog site for the past several months.  Somehow I just didn't seem to be able to write about things that were happening around us.  Gary and I both assumed extra responsibilities while others went on vacations (we took ours in May) and that combined with the excessive power outages in June and July left us feeling abit wrung out at the end of our days. 
We had some great times though and sometimes pictures will say enough…

May was a Highlight Month for us... We celebrated our 35th Wedding Anniversary by visiting Turkey for 2 weeks, staying in little family-owned guesthouses and exploring as much as we could of this country with a rich historical heritage.  Istanbul is full of history and fascinating sites. Visiting the ancient church, the Aya Sofia, was an awe-inspiring event!

The original frescoes are being restored in the church.

Everywhere in the city are beautiful colors, designs and foods waiting to be enjoyed!

We quickly fell in love with Turkish Delight...

...and Apple Tea.

Visiting Biblical sights was a highlight of our trip.  Seeing the site of the original church of Pergamum was pretty special!

The ruins of Ephesus are not to be missed!  It took us 2 hours to walk through this ancient city and we could have taken longer.  The Library is very impressive!

It's hard to take in such ancient history. 

Pamakkule is the only place in the world where the water flowing over the mountains contains minerals that leave a white coating.  It was just stunning!

Our few days at Patara Beach on the Turkish Mediterranean were so restful.  The water was the clearest blue we had ever seen!

The region of Cappadocia was like visiting a place from science fiction!  Altho our balloon ride was canceled to bad weather, we enjoyed watching them go up the morning before...

The town of Goreme at night was surreal.
It truely was a trip we'll never forget!  We have become BIG fans of Turkey!

Then back to Niger...

When summer vacation began, Michael's family was able to pay us a weekend visit.  While they were out our way, we took the opportunity to visit a village, which would soon be unreachable after the rains began.

June was really special because our dear friends returned to Niger after a 7 year absence.  It was their oldest daughter's birthday just after arrival, so we celebrated by going out to mingle among the giraffes.

The birthday girl takes pictures.

July and we didn't get much rain...that's quite late for this country.  Thankfully the power situation was better in the city and we all watched and waited for a rain storm every day!  Meanwhile...

We enjoyed a toasty July evening picnic with friends on the dunes outside the city.  Beautiful!

And July was the first time in 25 years that I was able to catch an amazing series of pictures of a sandstorm arriving.  We were driving from Makalondi into Niamey, and just outside the city we had a perfect view of this unique storm.  The following are a few of the pictures we were able to get...

The wall of dust came rolling in on our right side, over the city...

...and we saw the rain coming from the left of us.

The two storms grew closer until they collided in front of us!

As we crossed the Niger River into the city, it was dark.  In the middle of the afternoon!

AUGUST was an eventful month, starting with a long-awaited event:
Our son, Joe, and his family joined us here in Niger...he's a pilot flying with our mission aviation program.

Back in the U.S...
4 of our grandchildren started school in August...

...leaving only one at home now.  And isn't she a cutie?!

Because we had so much rain in August, I wasn't able to drive through the water filling normally-dry riverbeds.  The clinic staff carried on very well in my absence.

Now it's September, and I can get back to clinic...and the rains are slowing down. And life continues to give us new adventures...