Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The kids, the women and stuff that was difficult

Okay, I have felt the pressure, I must add to the blog. I have now had almost two weeks to "re-enter" our American culture and all it's benefits. Through my work and am bombarded with sadness and difficulty, but not the the degree I was in Congo. I realized through this trip what true power I have to get things accomplished here in the US with the systems I work in through child welfare, state programs, etc. and being in Africa, and seeing the difficulties and powerlessness that the people and mostly the children face daily was almost more than I could stand.
The term poverty really does not describe the problem there. There are just so many deficits that are present that make the whole situation overwhelming and seem insurmountable. Okay, enough on my assessments, the children there wear the same dirty clothing day after day. This is evident because we would see the same group of kids every day. Many do not have shoes, many do, but they are very worn. They are filthy with dirt and many have skin diseases that are evident. While there were few kids that looked to me like they were starving, for food, they were certainly starving for attention and care. Certainly, they were getting the bare minimum for food and water was in short supply too. I did not see many teens, my favorite age group, because they were all working, carrying loads or in the fields. When we would go outside the compound, we immediately drew a crowd of children, many looking for Uncle Fred, the candy man, and most looking for attention from the Muzungu (I will never learn to spell that word correctly!) It almost felt like they believed that if they touched us or got our attention from us, that they believed good would come to them, I felt very sad by this. When I was handing out candy, tyring to get one piece to each child, a struggle ensued for each piece. For me it got to the point where I had to limit how much time I would see the children. Why are my children so blessed with good food, clean water, and clothing? The need was so great, like a bottomless pit, that I was helpless to fill. I think that is probably the main thing I took from the experience there, is my inadequacy as a human being. Only Christ can fill that kind of need.
So, we handed out tracts and most importantly the talking bibles, since many cannot read. It was wonderful to see the look on one of their faces when they saw how the bible worked and that it could be charged through setting it out in the sun. This was something that they would be able to listen to over and over again.
We were blessed with the opportunity to meet with women in a local schoolhouse who had experienced sexual assault. There were at least 50 or more women there. We were able to talk individually with eight of them. Again, the need there was just overwhelming and there was again the logistical problem of getting to talk to all the women, there were simply not enough interpretters for all to be able to gain access to talk. And let me be clear, we had wonderful interpretters to help us while we were there, I just wish we could have cloned a few! (Brad has not learned that medical intervention yet.) But we were able to hear their stories and pray with them and tell them all of our concerns and prayers that we have had for them and will continue to have. Through this intervention we were able to get three women, in desparate need, to arrive at the clinic the following day for treatment. One had been assaulted 8 years ago with no treatment until Brad saw her, another needed surgery for a prolapsed bladder and the other needed some physical theraputic interventions. We were able to get the word out among those in the outer part of the village and other villages, that the clinic is there to help them, and that was satisfying. Initially I was reluctant to go to the clinic, since I am not a medical person, but once we knew we were not in the way, we would visit the people that were staying there and bring them tracts and snacks (probably not the best food for them, but for some, that was all they got). Katie, Bonnie and I saw a baby being born, Katie held the lantern (it was in the evening and getting dark). Those women are tough cookies when they give birth! And Brad made delivering a baby look like a piece of cake.
I must talk about team unity, because it was just unbelievable. Even though I am a social worker, I definitely have my times of unsocialability (is that a word?), I treasure my alone time and expected that near the end of this trip that I would want to hurt someone (sorry, but it's the truth), but you know, that time never came for any of us in the group. Even with the long flights, close quarters (some had to share a bed), less then clean rooms (by our standards) and daily contact, there were no issues of discord or conflict of any kind. That could only be the Lord, especially when it comes to His work in my flawed life. He just smoothed out the rough edges for the whole trip and made it a pleasure. I loved every minute with ALL members of the team and am so glad for each one that I got to know better. Everyone was at their best and demonstrated the individual skills and abilities that God gave them. I had the most wonderful roommate Katie, I knew she would be wonderful, so it was no surprise, but she is a lover of all things clean, just like me, and we had a great shower system devised (with the trickle of cold water we got) and clothes drying technique worked out that cemented our connection. Bonnie was great at listening and gathering everyones thoughts and concerns daily. Ardith has such energy and genuineness with others that was contagious. Every person on our trip was positive and wanted to find ways to serve the Lord each day. It was not always easy to know where we could help, but once we figured out the "rules" of Africa, we were able to go with the flow and add where we could.


Anonymous said...

Laura, Thanks you for sharing your story. It certainly made me count my blessings. I would love to see pictures of the actual village and places where the people lived if anyone has any. Keep blogging you all. Kathy Irving

B. Irv said...

amen sister. The Lord used everyone in a unique way there.