Monday, July 02, 2007

Real Life

With both arms locked around my waist and her head in my chest she screamed in agony. Her body had been rejecting the 3-month-old life inside her for several hours, and now she was forced to lay still on a cold metal table while the nurse scraped out the inside of her womb with nothing to dull the pain. Sarah stood at her head, speaking softly to her and, because I know the look she gets in her eyes, praying for the girl. Sarah is always praying, everywhere she goes.

Our Mondays are spent in the local Gondola hospital, helping where we can and mostly just building relationships and finding out firsthand what life is like for a Mozambiquan. We don't know the circumstances behind this young woman's miscarriage. What we do know is that a common method of abortion in this area is to drink a homemade poison which rejects the fetus. However, it doesn't do the job completely, and this is not the first woman we have seen in unbelievable pain on the metal table. As the nurse scrapes she yells out in Portuguese, "STOP!" "It hurts so bad!" "Let me rest a minute!" "Enough, I can't take it anymore!" We grit our teeth and want to flee from this awful sight, but cannot will ourselves to do so. As often happens, I find myself wondering about the baby and grieving its death. For a split second I am angry, until compassion finds its way back. I do not know what life has held for this 19-year-old. I can hear her screams, and feel that perhaps they stem from much more than just this current agony.

We move then, from maternity to patient wards. Our first stop was to see the children. There were five of them, all severly malnourished with puffy ankles and skin peeling off like tissue paper. They were with their mothers, who we chatted with for quite some time. One little girl's name was Emma, and I was drawn to her. Perhaps it was her eyes which held me... the empty look in them. Or perhaps it was because my lifelong dearest friend's name is Emma, and I yearned for the joy she has to also be given to this little one who shares her name. Regardless of cause, she touched my heart.

After conversation and before prayer Sarah suggested we sing. As we did so, the most wonderful thing happened! Sweet little Emma sat up on her bed, grinned from ear to ear, and began to clap. No photograph can ever be taken of moments as sacred as this one, but the sight will never leave my mind as long as I live. At least, I pray that God will not allow me to forget.

What I have seen and heard I share now with you. The young girl needs youto hear her screaming, and little Emma needs you to see her smiling and clapping to the melody of a simple song. Of all the myriads of things I wade through when thinking about what God has taught me while being in Africa, one thing soars high above many others. Africa has a face and a voice to me now. There are many appalling statistics to be found about Africa, and all of them are helpful to put into perspective what we are dealing with. But they don't give us a face or a voice... humanity is what we can relate to because we ourselves are human. As children of God we are called to love our neighbor, and with transportation being what it is the African people certainly qualify. We can make a difference, one person at a time, if we will.

No comments: