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Friday, April 16, 2010


I'm not exactly flying through the Bible these days, but am trying to regularly read chunks from the historical books, wisdom literature, psalms, and Gospels.  So in the first category I've made it up to Numbers, first two chapters. Which, at face value, is a bit of a dry list.  Simeon's male descendants over the age of 20 were 59,300.  And the leader of Manasseh is Gamaliel son of Pedahzur, who camps with his 32,200 men on the west next to Elixhama son of Ammihud.  

However, if you think about it, numbering implies value.  Here were former slaves, so expendable that all male babies could be thrown into the Nile river.  Suddenly they are free.  There are rules.  Organization must be put in place to rally a mob that had been oppressed and bullied for generations into a people movement capable of withstanding the desert and conquering territory.  By numbering, Moses was assigning place and importance to every individual.  

This is an issue of justice and public health that remains today.  The children of Bundibugyo are not numbered.  We do not know how many are born, and how many die, and where, and why.  When we ask a mother on the ward about her other children and find out she's buried 10 of 13 now, that is staggering news.  Or it should be. Instead it is hidden suffering.  In the last week five children have died on our ward, in our care.  Baluku Thomas, the child with ants crawling on him day before yesterday, I found this morning as a body wrapped in a kitengi cloth, having breathed his last at 3 am, his grandmother waiting for help to transport him back home for burial.  He and another child I never even saw both died of hunger, severe kwashiorkor, languishing in another hospital for a week then being transferred here to die.  Ahebwa and Kisembo Nassan both died of fear and ignorance, having their gums sliced for supposed false teeth.  Katusiime Annet was the one month old infant of the Barts' former house worker and our neighbor, who received everything we could give for a three day battle with severe pneumonia, and lost.  

The movie The Interpreter ends with the main character reading aloud lists of the names of people who had died.  Africans, whose deaths are more easily hidden than those of many continents.  (It's fiction, but truth, and a fantastic movie by the way).  So today I name our losses of the week.  

And look towards the day when the Babwisi and Bakonjo are numbered, when a birth is registered, and a death certified, when the abundance and loss impact policy and catch attention.


Amy Pasqualini said...

Thank you for naming the sweet children that have been lost this week. As sad and as helpless as it feels to read your post, I so appreciate the time and care you take with each child, even in their death. Thank you for treating them as Jesus would; putting your hands on them, blessing them, caring for them, acknowledging their worth and calling them by name. Thank you for ALL you do each day. I'm praying God continues to give you the strength to press on each and every day and many more success stories to carry you through.

Tricia said...

"numbering implies value"
Thank you for this reminder.

I am praying with you for the children to be numbered and therefore valued. Bless you for all you do.

Bethany said...

We watched The Interpreter last night. Definitely noticed different details watching it here as elections were wrapping up. I'm clinging to the hope that God numbers our days (in terms of counting or noticing each of them), knows our stories, holds our tears, and speaks our names.