Sunday, August 24, 2008

Update From Meagan

I have already told my classes about my wonderful niece, Meagan, who lives in Africa at a Christian orphanage called the Namwianga Mission. Meagan is an absolute jewel and those of you who know her can shout, "AMEN!" This is an update I received from her several days ago.

Hello! It’s been a busy spring and summer. This is my first week since March when we haven’t had a visitor staying with us, so I kind of don’t know what to do with myself! It’s been so nice to have friends, family, and everyone else around this summer—I am blessed by all of the visitors I get here! In May my brother Benny and my cousins Betsy and Luke came to see me. Betsy and Luke stayed for 2 weeks, and we had an incredible time! We had so much fun together and they lifted my spirits tremendously. I tried to show them a little bit of everything in their time here. They were at the orphanages the majority of the time, but they also went to the village a bit, we went and visited some babies that had gone home, and they got to go on a safari.

Benny came with Luke and Betsy, but he stayed until the 4th of July, so I got to have him for a good two months! We went on the Northreach Medical Mission again this year, and I think Benny enjoyed the medical aspect of things on that trip. When we were back at Namwianga, he mainly came to the orphanage with me. He loved the babies, and they loved him, too. Whenever the two year olds see pictures of him around my house, they say, “Benja wainka?” meaning where did Benja go. It is pretty precious.

I really hated to see my family go. It was so comforting just being around people that understand you and know you and know the part of you that is way across the ocean. I loved getting to show them the babies that they had prayed for and heard about for so long. I loved just having someone go through my daily life with me. After they left, Meredith White, a girl that Louisa had known from Harding, moved in with me for a month. She had been here since May also, but she had been staying in another guesthouse. She became an instant friend, and she worked at the orphanage with us. She had a huge heart for the babies, and she loved a little girl named Lorraine in particular.

Meredith flew out on the very same day that one of my dearest friends in the world came to visit for two weeks! I went to high school with Lisa in Wichita, and since then we have never really been in the same place for longer than a few days at a time. It was so great to get to catch up with her and share this life with her. She, too, loved the babies and hated having to say goodbye. Here she is with one of her favorites, William. So after Lisa’s departure last week, it’s just back to Lou and I again. I am remembering just what a lonely life we lead here when it’s not the summer months!

Work went on as usual with all the guests—we just had extra hands with us at the orphanage to share the load, which was so nice. Right now, we are experiencing that kind of healthy calm at the orphanage that kind of makes us worried. It is so unusual to have no one deathly sick. We’ve lost 10 babies since mid March, and that has worn on all of our spirits I think. No matter how prepared I might have thought I was to move over here, there really is no preparation for the things you see and experience. We lost Whitney, Clifton, Caesar, Faith, Meagan, Carly, Jennifer, Paul, Steven, and Hannah. Their deaths, burials, family situations, etc. are the things that movies could be made of. The last few months when so many have been so sick it was like there was this actual, physical weight in my body all the time. All of us who work at the orphanage felt it, and every night when I would go home I would say goodbye to babies because I never knew who would be dead when I got back in the morning. That kind of stress and worry really exhausted us and left us feeling weak and tired and incapable. Even though the majority of those babies had HIV and their deaths were basically inevitable, it still always makes you wonder what you could have done differently, if you waited too long to take someone in to the clinic, if you went to the orphanage sick one day and made one of them worse, or things like that. God is good to us, however, and he provides the comfort we need. He also gives us times like this where we can sleep peacefully at night.

Our numbers are still growing, and we’ve actually started referring babies to another orphanage until we have a few empty beds again. We have 38 infants at the Haven 1 right now, 24 1-3 year olds at the Haven 2, and 8 babies that are staying at the Merritt’s “overflow.” It seems that we cannot get this third orphanage built fast enough. I mentioned in my last e-mail that the third house that is being built is going to be a sort of hospice care for the babies once we’ve exhausted all medical possibilities here. We plan to equip it with an oxygen machine, incubator, etc. so we won’t have to bring these sick ones too far when they need things like that. Our dream would be to eventually have our own nurse full time at the orphanages, but that’s still a big dream! The foundation is finished on the house, so we’re making progress. It will be at least another year before it is finished. Right now at the Haven 1 14 of our 38 babies have tested positive for HIV, which means that more than 1 in 3 of our babies are coming in with HIV. At this point, we’ve only had one make it past a year, so this house is a really necessary thing for us.

The Haven 2, where our two year olds are, is bouncing with energy right now. Someone sent over a new tricycle on one of the containers, and I can’t begin to tell you how many fights I broke up yesterday over that thing! It seems that no matter how many options you give them, they all want the same thing. We are still in the process of potty training and tooth brushing, and we’re ready for a break from it! The potty training seems to be just a social event for them. The teeth brushing is definitely a crowd pleaser. It takes all of their effort to wait for their turn while I brush all the other kids’ teeth. They love every bit of it—helping me put the toothpaste on, brushing, spitting, rinsing! It makes them feel really special to have something of their own. As of now, in their entire lives they’ve owned 2 things personally. One is their own toothbrush, and the other is a hat with their own name on it, provided by my cousins Amanda and Katy and brought by Luke, Betsy, and Benny. (new twin baby girls) William finally reaching 10 pounds (at 10 months)

Most days I come home completely overwhelmed at how incapable I am of being enough to these children. I would love for you all to keep praying for all of us that work with them that God would fill us with his love and patience and kindness and compassion when we’re afraid we’re running out. Pray that our sick babies are healed and made whole again. Pray that God holds them and comforts them when our hands aren’t enough to go around. Pray that some day someone will be coming to get them who will continue teaching them about the love of God. Pray that God will start preparing my heart to leave them someday.

I hope you all are doing well. Thank you for praying for us, supporting us, and encouraging us. I’ll try to stay in better touch!

God bless,
Uncle Steve
Luke 18:1
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