27 August 2015

We Should Have Bigger Concerns than the Toy Aisle at Target

I spend a lot of time on Facebook, mostly because it is my primary connection to my friends and family back in the States.  This, of course, exposes me a lot of click bait and the reposts of clever (or not clever) memes and the pro-con opining over whatever the issue of the week is (such as Target and gender in toy aisles or Trump's misogyny).

I talk about a lot of heavy issues on this blog related to our work in East Africa, but as much as I believe that we're here doing what we're called to, the issues going on in the Middle East are so much more important than what we're doing.  

I really try to shy away from being graphic about the things we encounter here unless it's important.  This is important.

Christians are being martyred similarly to the time of the Roman Empire.  You probably heard about the beheadings in Libya and Egypt, but have you heard about the Christians in Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq and traditionally a base for the Christian faith dating back to the days of the early church?  They have been entirely chased out or murdered.  Since the ISIS occupation, Christianity has been so thoroughly eliminated from Mosul that they've even carved the crosses off of the tombstones.

Women and girls are being systematically raped, and the leaders of ISIS have even warped their theology to encourage it.  The sex slavery markets are so efficiently organized that as soon as a Yazidi village was overrun, buses with curtained windows carry the women and girls off to stocked holding centers where they're sorted and categorized and assigned numbers before being sold off to fighters.

Apparently the silence of the West, particularly America, has been an encouragement to ISIS and a profound discouragement to the Christians trying to hold out hope in the facing of growing fear and despair.

I have posted about ISIS and the genocide they are perpetrating on this blog in the past, and I've linked to a number of articles on Facebook.  I'm probably starting to depress or anger some of you, but I've recently been encouraged by my friends Jenice, Adam, and Lindsay and by an article on Relevant Magazine's website written from a first-hand perspective to be more active.

Here are three things you and I can do that really will help those under attack by ISIS:

1. Talk about it!

ISIS is recruiting on social media, including Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.  They publicize their slaughter of Christians and other victims, glorify their cause, and recruit fighters to their cause from the United States, Great Britain, Europe and around the world.  You don't know who sees your posts and who they may be connected to.  If you've traveled in the world, have friends abroad or sponsor a child, especially an adolescent boy, in Africa or the Middle East or Central Asia, you are in touch with people who may be targeted for recruitment by ISIS.  There are many people in the West who are tired or frustrated of hearing about this seemingly hopeless situation, but we need to keep talking to our friends and communities and law makers and news makers about stopping ISIS and helping the refugees reach safety.  Contradict people who complain about hosting refugees and immigrants in our safe countries. 

2. Donate!

I found a little organization called the Hatune Foundation through a website (I appreciate their ISIS coverage, but I won't link here because their other content is not really in line with my views.).  This organization is German and seems to be actively engaged in getting women and girls out of slavery and to medical and psychological support.  It's not tax deductible in the States (yet) and I don't know anything about their financial accountability, but they're actually doing something pretty great (or they're great fraudsters).  I'm taking the risk and donating to them through Paypal. 

3. Pray!

I don't leave this to last because it's least effective - it is the most effective, but it's the hardest thing to do really.  
Let us pray for protection for the civilians and those opposing ISIS.
Let us pray for God to intervene miraculously, Old Testament style, to defend His people.
Let us pray for escape and healing and peace for the enslaved women and girls.
Let us pray for conviction in the hearts of ISIS fighters and leaders, that spiritual bondage would be overcome and that the truth of Jesus' love would transform them.
Let us pray for opportunities for Christians and Muslims (and Hindus and Buddhists and atheists) to join together in opposing ISIS and radical terror.
Let us pray that we entitled, comfortable Christians of the world would speak and act and pray for peace to come and ISIS to be wiped out.

Please join with me.

21 August 2015

A Literal Miracle Happened This Week!

If you're not of a theological bent, I suppose this event could be ascribed to a series of coincidences, but personally think that God had a hand in pointing the people to the place at the time, and as a result, a miracle happened.

On Wednesday this week the Mama Maisha Coordinator and Advisor went out to one of our target villages to do a training for more Traditional Birth Attendants about how to use the Hygienic Birth Kits we are providing through a grant from Mennonite Central Committee.  They went with a Dutch medical resident who is volunteering at Shirati Hospital and wanted to see what Mama Maisha is all about.  Well, she had a front row seat!

When they arrived in Nyambogo, they were notified that there was a young woman in labor at our Maternal Health Advocate's house.  Every time we have gone to Nyambogo we have met a woman in labor, and this village has no health facility at all.  (We walked to the closest health facility, 10 km away, a few weeks ago.)  So Victoria, the medical resident, and Ellen, our Advisor who is a retired nurse-midwife, went over to check the 19 year old first-time mother.  She was very close to delivery, so they couldn't put her in the car and send her to a health facility.

The woman was a few weeks premature and very unprepared for delivery.  She didn't even have a khanga (a ubiquitous cloth which can be used for everything from an apron to a diaper to a menstrual pad) with her, but our staff happened to be there with over 100 hygienic birth kits!  Victoria, under the coaching of Ellen and with the assistance of five Traditional Birth Attendants, used the kit to deliver the baby!  There was a tense moment which led to Victoria doing an episiotomy to ease the baby's entrance, and if she hadn't had a birth kit, she would not have had the tools for that, and the mother would have torn badly or the baby would have remained stuck in the birth canal.

After the tiny baby entered the world, she wasn't breathing well for the first few minutes.  In a village as remote as Nyambogo, if that baby had had any problems getting her breath, there was almost nothing they could do for her and no chance, even with a car, to reach the hospital in time.  Moments passed and they prayed and held their own breaths to help this little miracle breathe, and she did.  She cried and took some deep breaths and started nursing to everyone's relief.

In many African cultures the baby is not named until he or she is born.  Much of this comes from the traditionally high infant mortality rate, as well as a very spiritual culture in which people fear curses upon the mother and her baby.  This baby, a little girl, had no name when she was born, but due to the role of this visiting Dutch almost-doctor, there's a new little baby Victoria in Nyambogo village!

13 August 2015

Gretchen is 18 Months Old!

(You know those days when you wake up in the morning intending to be super productive, then you head back to bed at 8:30am with malaria?  You take medicine and park in front of the computer, because you have a blog post due, along with many other things, and the internet is so rubbish that it takes more than two hours to post three photos.)

Yesterday, this little beauty achieved 18 months!  She's a shiny, happy little girl who chatters away, sometimes in English, sometimes in gibberish.  She loves to copy our house helper, Adera, who always wears a scarf over her head when she's outside.  This purple scarf was a gift many years ago from Mama Esther Muhagachi, and it's nice and soft, so she loves to pull it out to play with.

She is also *in love* with Dora the Explorer.  She always asks to watch "DORA!" on the tablet or the laptop, and she complains loudly when Inno or Wesley try to change the channel away from her friends, whose names she all knows: Dora, Swiper ("shwipa") and Boots.

She also loves her baby doll ("Baby!") and carries her around, puts her to sleep, and smacks Wesley with her.

Although Gretchen is completely enamored with her father, we're getting ready for five weeks traveling together.  She's a friendly, flexible little girl, and I think many of you will enjoy meeting her in the coming weeks!

06 August 2015

Photo Update Courtesy of our Canadian Visitors

Our friends, the Janzens from Shantz Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ontario, were visiting last month with three young men from their church to do a number of service projects.  They were very good about updating their blog and taking loads of pictures, so here are a couple of highlights from their visit.

Their first project was repairing a water cistern and doing some minor repairs and upgrades at the home of a pastor we work with a lot, Pastor Joseph Buna.  

Jane went with me one day for a Mama Maisha client meeting while the guys built a new home for a very vulnerable family.  At the end of the project, they prayed to dedicate the home.

Terry's birthday happened during their visit, and I made him a birthday cake so we could all celebrate together.

They also helped install a water cistern for a teacher they met last year during their first visit.  She hosts an HIV support group in her home, and her intention is that the clients will benefit from the water.

The major reason the team came was to work on the bathrooms for the vocational school that Fred has been working on for years now.  The music department that Jane oversees and the choir that Terry participates in did a benefit concert that raised all the money to build very sophisticated bathrooms for the school.
The team was supposed to do one more house build for an HIV+ widow and her two adolescent children.  The night before they intended to go build, the news came that the mother had died that afternoon.  They reorganized their schedule and built a sunshade for a paraplegic patient of the palliative care program.  He spends most of his day in the sun and rain, so this shade will be a huge benefit to him.  The house for the new orphans was built after they left.

We so enjoyed having the Shantz team here, and hope it's not the last time we see them here!  Thank you to Shantz Mennonite, KCI Music Department and the Janzen family for caring so much for the people of Rorya District.