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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

small smiles

Kyomwenda's smile at six months of age is a small miracle, if any are small. He had come to us shortly after birth, unable to breast-feed and dwindling from hunger due to a congenital anomaly. Thanks to a team-effort to get him milk (purchasing from Pauline, accounting from Sarah, organization and documentation from Heidi, distribution from Nathan, donations from our supporters, and faithful care from his mom) he more than doubled his weight over the last five months. And last trip to Kampala, I was able to visit a spiff new mission hospital specializing in surgical care for children with disabilities called CoRSU (something like coordinated rehabilitation services for Uganda . . ). Amazingly, the program coordinator explained that under a special charitable funding program, cleft lip and palate repair is FREE. All we have to do is get him there, connect him with the services. I was so excited to bring this life-saving news back to Kyomwenda and his mom. Tomorrow they will travel to Kampala for the surgery that will enable him to feed, to talk, to smile unobtrusively, to lead a normal life. His family already received a dairy goat from the Matiti program, so he'll have milk to drink once he can actually use a cup!
And his story helps me reflect on an aspect of life here that I find satisfying: entering the battle, small-time. The struggles are local and tangible. One child whose mother abandoned him and whose grandmother has to scramble to provide gets connected to food, and good triumphs. One miniscule triplet is brought to us because we've taken an interest in her survival since well before birth, and her little spleen seems too large and her breath too labored, so we divert her to the lab and catch a potentially life-threatening malaria, hopefully in time for rescue. Another one-year-old fails to improve on two full weeks of treatment, prompting further investigations which reveal probable TB, and a life that would have ended in the next few months now should continue for decades. An 8-month-old shyly smiles on her second day of admission, and her tired HIV-infected mother breathes a sigh of relief when her child's test shows that the virus has not been transmitted thanks to treatment and grace. Another baby's subtle lip-smacking is recognized as a seizure, prompting a lumbar puncture (only after arguing to convince the lab to give a specimen container) which reveals cloudy amber fluid of the wrong sort coating her brain, and she begins treatment for meningitis instead of marching inevitably towards death. All of this really happened, today. There will be more tomorrow, more small stories of grace and healing, of averted disaster and renewed hope. One child here, another there. Small steps towards the Kingdom Come, slow progress towards the New Heavens and New Earth without empty stomachs, infected brains, lonely people, or gaping lips.
Some people need to legislate justice, some need to delineate diseases, some need to change the agricultural approach of a whole nation. Many need to manage programs, to plan projects and see them through. God has asked us, over these many years, to do a bit of all that. But mostly He asks us to just engage on the very specific, obscure, remote, unnoticed field of battle day by day, to struggle for one life at a time. Just because it's the right thing, and He cares about individual lives, even small ones. Just because one baby's life struggle in Palestine a couple of thousand years ago was a local focus of cosmic war, and the same danger and desperation that is repeated in a million little lives every day. Eugene Peterson writes about the necessary privilege of staying grounded in the reality of one unglamorous locale, with a view of how that hand-messy real-people service fits into a glorious behind-the-veil unimaginable drama.
So Kyomenda's smile represents all that: the final triumph of good over evil, foreshadowed in one baby at a time.


MrsD said...

OH! You made me cry! My baby boy was born with a cleft lip and palate and I've been so thankful I could adopt him and get the care for him here...I am GREATFUL you could get this little babies surgery taken care of and hopeful that he will have a great outcome all around. I will be praying!

Amy P said...

Thank you so much for ALL you do for so many little ones and their families. Caring for those who can't care and advocate for themselves has to be the most important job in the world! Thank you for not giving up on thses precious little gifts from God. Each one matters to Him and they should matter to us!
I'm always amazed at what you guys tackle in just one day; stuff that most couldn't manage if faced with just one of these challenging cases in their lifetime and with such tough surroundings and circumstances.
Thank you for continuing to be faithful to what God has called you to do. You are truly a light in this world and in Uganda! I'm praying for you all and for lots of healing and recovery; more success stories!

Anonymous said...

Your blog is becoming my daily devotional place. Each entry leaves me moved, challenged, and full of hope in the midst of worry. Thank you.

Michelle said...

Hey guys, This entry is absolutely amazing to read today. Knowing daily the ends and out of what Africa has to offer you this is a read of hope and victory especially for the children there and your ministry to them. Really amazing about the free surgery in Kampala. Wow times have changed in 10 years!