Friday, September 26, 2008

Part III

Baby Clinton having a bottle on a sunny afternoon.
Sweet Bahati just chillin' in his bouncy seat!

The word positive has never before meant anything as negative as this. It is with a heavy heart that I tell you that Bahati, Clinton, and Helena’s blood tested positive for HIV. I was just holding Bahati this morning and marveling at his beautiful dimples. He is beautiful and rarely in a bad mood. He is playful and easy to love. Positive. I just can’t wrap my brain around the fact that outside of a miracle these sweet children’s lives have already been decided for them. I am trying hard not to blame their parents. One can only imagine the possible hardships they had to endure. I am upset that the consequences of their actions are being played out through the loss of their children’s innocence. They are not expected to live to see their teenage years.

Of 30 children born to HIV-positive mothers, approximately 10 will acquire the virus simply by being born. Another four will become infected from breast-feeding.

I have no doubt that they will receive excellent care at COL but what will happen to them when they are too old for it here? What will happen to them when they are three and the drugs that they used to be on are no longer working and they have to increase their cocktail of meds? What will their lives look like when they are forced to grow up in the system. Who will rock them to sleep when their bodies are failing them and they are suffering?

It is estimated that 90% of the world’s HIV-infected children live in Africa, and more than half a million die of AIDS each year.

A few weeks ago that was simply a statistic now I pray that it is not the fate of our precious babies!


Part II

“The subject no longer has to be mentioned by name. Someone is sick. Someone else is feeling better now. A friend has just gone back into the hospital. Another has died. The unspoken name, of course, is AIDS.”

A few weeks ago Nanny Neema told Liza (one of our roommates who has since gone back to the states) that her sister wasn’t feeing well. She was complaining of stomach pain among other ailments. Liza generously took Violet, Neema’s sister, to the Hospital. She was not surprised to discover that Violet had HIV and because of the infection and weak immune system she was also suffering from typhoid & malaria. Liza made the trip to the hospital possible by paying the cost to get to the hospital (a few dollars). In Tanzania the cost of the blood test and most medication is covered. We are told that it is not uncommon for people to not go to the hospital out of fear of what they will discover, but hiding from the truth doesn’t make it any less real. After hearing about Violet we were encouraged by the chance to get to meet her. Neema invited Stephanie, Hallie, Heath and myself over to her house. She asked us to love on her sister, but not to talk about her being HIV positive as they are not telling her family. Violet herself is a mother and a widow. She lost her husband and a baby probably to AIDS, but that was never discussed. We spent a lovely afternoon hanging out with Neema, Violet her brother Matthew, his wife, Their mother and two of Neema’s nieces Liteness and Joyce. They were precious and welcoming. After a while of being together we joined together and prayed for Violet and her health (also not mentioning AIDs by name). They then walked us all down the hill to catch the daladala to go home. As we walked down the hill Violet told Hallie and I that she was HIV positive and that she couldn’t even tell her neighbors for fear of rejection and humiliation. She thanked us for coming over and spending time with her. I lost my footing a few times as we walked down the hill and she clutched my arm closer to hers to steady me. She told us how unwell she felt and how difficult it was to be away from her children so that she could be closer to the hospital a few days a month to receive treatment. And then she said, “but God is good.” Over here in Africa I am constantly reminded of my conditional love for God. If God is my definition of good to me then God is good, but if he causes pain or suffering well then that’s a different story. I am blessed by Violet and her unswerving love of God even in the face of suffering.

HIV/AIDS More than statistics Part 1

In Tanzania alone it is estimated that there is 1,400,000 people living with HIV/AIDS. 110,000 of them are estimated to be children between the ages of 0-14. 1,100,000 have lost one or both parents to the Virus

I never thought that I would be riding in a suv with a tiny baby on my lap going to a clinic to get a blood test to find out if the precious child I am holding is infected with AIDS, but here I am. Hallie, Heath and I accompanied Davona the director of Cradle of Love to the clinic with three beautiful children. When we arrive at the clinic they take the babies to measure and weigh them. They then ask Davona their names and ages. This proves to be more difficult then one would assume as we don’t have their paperwork with us and honestly most of the information we would have had is a guess at best. Names: Bahati, Clinton, Helena Last name: No idea! How about Cradle of Love? Whereabouts of the parents: Mother died (probably from AIDS) father abandoned child and mother after birth or was unable/unwilling to look after the child). This is extremely typical here in Africa. After waiting a little over an hour in the waiting room (an area outside with plastic chairs covered by a tin roof) they call Helena. Bahati & Clinton have already gone and from the sound of it this is not going to be fun.
They undress her as three doctors/nurses hover over her to take her blood. They take off her diaper and inject the needle in her groin. She cries but they make sweet faces at her to try to distract her from the pain. I’ve only known Helena for a few weeks but I am overwhelmed by the realization that the outcome of this blood test could change the projectory of her life forever. There is a sweet missionary named who has been approved by Tanzania and the US to adopt so if Helena’s tests come back negative for the Virus then she will have a baby and sweet Helena a mother. Adopting a baby outside of Tanzania is difficult and is only increased (basically impossible) if the child tests positive for HIV/AIDS. AIDS is still looked down upon here in Africa so the chance of a child being adopted that has Aids by a Tanzanian is highly unlikely. To add insult to injury there are also only a few orphanages that will take children who are HIV positive so even when it comes to institutions their options are limited. Please pray for loving families for these babies regardless of the outcome!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Shots and Suckers

A few weeks ago two government nurses came to COL to give all the older babies and toddlers vitamin A, de-worming medicine in chew-able tablets and the MMR vaccine. We were all playing with the kids outside and thought that it would be best if the kids went in one by one to get the shot. We stayed outside until they called the name of the child we were holding. This my friends is not how it is done in Africa. When they called our child's name we went in but realized that all they were giving at the time was vitamin A and the chew-able tablet. All the kids were sitting in the room as the nurses starting going around to each kid to give them the shot. It was awful. The younger kids didn't know why they were crying but began to once they heard the shrills from the one who was receiving the shot. It was a ripple effect. If this wasn't bad enough the big kids came in and as soon as they saw the needles they began to freak out. I insisted that the big kids needed to go first because the anticipation of the shot would be much worse then the shot itself. I prayed this would be true. They kicked and screamed and Stephanie, Health, Hallie and myself fought back the urge to cry with them. Luckily the big kids found out that it really wasn't as bad as it had appeared. When all was said and done Davona gave the big kids suckers and we sat outside while they soaked up the extra love and attention. The shot soon became a distant memory. I think that's how life is sometimes that the anticipation of things is often much worse then whatever challenges we are facing and that at the end there is a sweet reward. Too often we spend our time being fearful of something when the reality of it is not at all what we had anticipated. I have no doubt that the shot was a little scary and painful, but I'm sure that the measles & worms would have been worse and that if allowed to dwell the anticipation would have been the worst part. I am thankful to have grown up in a house were we never spent our time worrying about tomorrow. In Luke 12:25 Jesus says "And which of you by worrying can add an hour to his life?" Thank God that there is much better ways to spend the hour ;)


Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Week Filled with Goodbyes...

Our week started off with a goodbye party for our friend Erin, who had to unexpectedly leave on Tuesday. Erin was one of our first friends at Vineyard Church. She was so warm and welcoming we became fast friends. We shared so many good times and laughs! I can't believe she had to leave so soon! We already miss her so so much!
This is a picture at the going away party all dressed in African garb!!! Erin helped us all get hooked up with custom made clothes and bags!


Early Thursday morning Simon, Cory and Ben all left to go live at a new orphanage, Havillah Village. They have just out grown CoL. Havillah is a group home for children age 3 and up. It is an American run facility with a standard of care equivalent to CoL. At Havillah they will have the opportunity to be with older children and go to school. Ned and Emily, who are currently running the facility, volunteered at CoL in the fall and know the boys very well. I'm so glad the boys have familiar faces to help with the transition. Our prayer has been for the boys to have a smooth transition and feel comfortable in their new home. Davona received a message from Emily on Friday saying there had been a few tears, but over all the boys were doing very good. This is going to be a wonderful move for the boys, but we already miss them so much. Now there is no one saying "Me want to go to Danish" or "Me get nuts" or "Take me Bath". We may have more issues adjusting than the boys...haha. But, the good news is that Havillah is only about 15 minutes away. So, we should be able to visit them!

Staci with Simon, Ben and Cory

This is the house the boys are living in.

Ben is in the middle playing with 2 of the other boys at Havillah, on a visit a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Marveling at God's work...

We were so blessed to be able to spend 6 days in Zanzibar, an island off the coast of Tanzania! It was so easy to see God in the beauty of the Island. We were able to have wonderful quite times and read while lying in a hammock on the beach. We stayed in Kendwa on the beach for 3 nights and in Stone Town for 2. Even though our lodging was "budget", both were so cute and comfy with AMAZING views! We all absolutely LOVED the Clove Hotel in Stone Town. I have posted a picture below of the view from the terrace where we were served breakfast and relaxed on coaches. It was so peaceful, even though there was a crow that would land on the table and drink the creamer...yucky!

A picture could never capture the true beauty, but here is our best effort!

View from the sail boat on our way back from snorkeling.

A boat anchored in the beautiful Indian Ocean just outside our hotel at the beach.

Heath, Steph and Christy on the spice tour with our bouquets of spices. On the spice tour school boys decorated us with necklaces, bracelets and crowns made of banana leaves. They were making us "Spice Princesses"!

This is the view from the terrace at our hotel in Stone Town.

View of the Indian Ocean through a rock on a beach near Stone Town.

The beautiful sunset we viewed while eating dinner in Stone Town.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

There's not even a storm!!!

So, here in Tanzania and probably most of Africa the power isn't exactly reliable. But, we sometimes get spoiled and it stays on for several days in a row, which had been the case for the story I'm about to share....

Well, we were watching 'The Notebook' on our fancy TV aka Laptop when everything goes black. The good news is that the laptop runs on a battery, right? soon a the power goes I check the battery and it say 14 mins, which we all know really means more like 10 and there's at least 30 minutes left in the movie. And come on it's The Notebook and it was just getting good when Ally was going back to see Noah after 7 years. Sure enough the battery dies, we were so upset! Not only was the movie getting juicy, but our little bit of light was GONE! YIKES!!! After we shot up a few prayers for the power to come back on and received no answer we started thinking of other options. We couldn't get the DVD out of the computer because it was completely dead. BUT, lucky for us, Heath has the same computer so we took the battery out of hers and put it in mine. We were back in action! We get all settled in and get right back into the movie. Our sweet new roomy Clair (cute as a button volunteer from England) has to go potty and is afraid all the candles we had lit may burn the place down, so we pause the movie. Of course, I check the battery and only 12 mins this time. AHHHHHHHH! Ally was just trying to decide whether to stay with Noah or her finance. Once again....intense! No options this time, the power is still out and no more computers. We were at least prepared with our headlamps this time. Now to make the situation even more frustrating THERE WASN'T EVEN A STORM and we looked across the street and they had lights. The power was just out for us! TIA(This is Africa)...After a little whining we just went to bed to dream about Noah! We had to watch the rest of the movie the next day at lunch.

I'll have you know that the power didn't come back until 5 a.m.!!! When every single light in the apartment lit up! Thank goodness Christy got up and turned them all out, saved me from having to get out of my mosquito net, phew!

Ok, so maybe watching a movie in Africa is a much bigger deal than back home! You at least have a little taste of our night life!!!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Precious Smiles

I have a hard time picking a favorite. It changes every time a pick up a different baby. For the past few days it seems Lil Maria and Rachel have been by my side or on my lap. They are 2 of the sweetest little girls. In this picture Maria is on the left and Rachel on the right. Lil Maria is a mix of sweet and feisty. If you catch her in at the wrong time she may swing her hand and say "NO!" or you if you catch her at the
right time she will ball up her fists, squish up her little face up, and grin with excitement. She then will come give a big kiss, which sounds like "mmmmmmwwhaaaaaaaaaa"! It is the sweetest thing ever! I can't help, but give her a big hug and carry her around. She's a tiny 2 year old weighing no more that 15 pounds, hence the "lil" Maria, so she is easy to pick up and carry. It must be said that she is always wearing red shoes and I just think it matches her personality to a tee!
Now to Rachel....when I first meet Rachel she was very quite and reserved. She was always very serious, never smiling or talking. But, lately she have made been laughing and smiling and playing. Nothing warms my heart more than to hear her raspy little voice say "Pepanie" and look down to see her big beautiful grin. When she is smiley and playful she is very independent and loves for you to watch her run and play. When she slips back into her serious mode, she is sweet and cuddly, but nothing can make her smile. I really don't know much about her past other than her parents are refugees from Burundi and she was found living on the streets with her brother who is only about 7 years old. I can't even fathom what she has had to experience in her short life so far.
Each time I see these 2 little girls playing and laughing or raising their arms for me to hold them my heart warms and I'm quickly reminded of why I'm here. God has sent me to share his love with these precious little people!