Friday, May 01, 2009

Update From Meagan

For new readers, Meagan is my niece, the daughter of my brother Dave and his wife, Sally. Meagan, a teacher in the US, has lived in Zambia for the past three years, working in a Christian orphanage where many of the little ones are HIV+. Here is an update I received today from my wonderful niece, complete with pictures of some of the babies.

Hello dear friends and faithful supporters! I hope this letter finds you having a happy spring. I wanted to write you and update you on life here at Namwianga. The biggest change in the last month has been my dear friend and teammate, Louisa, moving home. As you all know, we were both planning on moving home this April, but it didn’t quite happen that way. I am missing her dearly, and life here isn’t the same without her. I’ve been very deprived of adult conversation, that is for sure!

Now, what I haven’t been deprived of at all is baby companionship! I have babies literally running all over the place. Right now most of the babies are pretty healthy. We have one at Macha Hospital right now with a feeding tube. They are checking for the cause of his failure to thrive (probably TB or HIV) and trying to stabilize him. We had two die in the last two weeks—Ruth and Daniel. Ruth was an epileptic baby whose mother was also epileptic. The mother would leave her lying in the middle of the street, and Ruth would always be found by someone and brought to the nearby clinic. They finally brought her to us, but she has never been healthy since she came, and she died a couple of nights ago. Daniel just never would gain weight and struggled his whole life. They diagnosed him clinically with Stage 4 HIV. With both of these losses I praise God for taking them to heaven where they are now free from pain and in a whole, spiritual body, but we definitely mourn here for them.

We had two more babies go home in the last couple of weeks, and it breaks my heart every time. I still find myself looking for those two, calling their names, and wishing they were still here! Bianca went home on Saturday with two aunts. They have been visiting almost every month since she came two years ago. It is so evident how much they cherish her and want her to be a part of their family. I absolutely hated to see her go, but I rested easy that night because I knew how happy she was. In fact, one of the aunts called me on her first night in the village to let me know they made it and that everything was okay. Emmanuel went home the week before that. His family loves him a lot, but I really fear they will struggle to feed him and keep him warm. We sent him with his vitamins, a blanket, warm clothes, and his Bible, and we’ll just have to pray hard for him. It makes me feel good to know how much they really love him, and I know they will try their best. Please, please pray for these little ones that are going home. Pray that God keeps them fed and safe and warm and loved. One of our HIV babies has been really sick. She wasn’t feeding well, and she was having diarrhea over 15 times a day. She only weighs 5 ½ pounds, so this was too much for her little body. We had the containers arrive recently from America, so they brought a baby bed and bedding to my house for when the babies stay here. Luckily I had it all set up and ready for her to come stay for 3 days while I tried to mend her. We had a really rough three days, but after those three days she stabilized enough to start her antiretroviral medication for the HIV. She hasn’t gained any weight back yet, but she looks wonderful now! It makes me so happy every time I look at her that she’s so much better now. The drugs usually either kill them or make them a whole lot better, and in her case they have really worked. She’s just my little precious one.
At the Haven 1, we have so many walkers these days. It seems like everyday someone new pops out of the woodwork, and it’s so fun and so busy! These are supposed to be our little ones, and 10 of the 37 are walking! It is just so wonderful to watch these milestones happen…the first steps, the first time they sit, their first smiles. Today, our little Lydia smiled for the first time, and all the aunties and I gathered around and oohed and ahhhed. We can’t make up for their not having mothers, but we try our best to take in all the little moments that their mothers surely would have. The Haven 2 toddlers are wonderfully active. When the container came we got all sorts of new things to climb on and hide in and hurt each other with! The hottest item is an umbrella stroller that they just love to sit in, and when they aren’t the one getting to sit in it, they dump the one who is sitting right out! They’ve been coming home often, too, for some one-on-one loving. They are at that age where they will say anything, and they continue to learn so much every day. So, the thing we’ve been working on everyday for awhile is Psalm 23. So far, they are really good at repeating, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Only one can say it on her own, but the others are trying. It usually goes with me saying, “The Lord is my….” and they break in with “SHEPHERD!!!” Then they love yelling, “I SHALL NOT WANT!” I need to find a catchy tune to put it to so it will help them remember. They seem to have no trouble picking up and singing any stupid little thing I say or I do. Some time back I started singing, “Emma foo- How are you? I love you my baby, my baby, my baby.” Then I substitute any of their names in, like “Westie woo” “Cacky coo”, “Nana noo,” etc. I didn’t mean to start it as a song, but it just always came out of me when I was changing them or feeding them or whatever. Now, at any given time you can hear one of them singing, “I love you my baby…” They are just too sweet, and I absolutely adore them.
We had fun on Easter. I went and ate at some of the other missionaries’ home. We had Carol, Cathy, Jason, and George. We hunted and dyed eggs, and they really enjoyed themselves. I saved out special “Easter dresses” for the girls from the container, and they felt awfully special. We’ve been doing secret sisters with the aunties at the orphanage. It has been a blast, and a big cultural lesson for me! I’m sure none of the secret sister exchanges in the states go quite like these do. I guess the two main differences are that the person giving the gift has to march their gift to the other person, and the person receiving has to dance and throw themselves on the floor in gratitude for their gift. Please pray for me and my relationship with these wonderful women. I have formed some incredible bonds with them, but I know there are many that need God and haven’t found Him. I’m working with a few of the aunties on planning a bible study for all of us, but I could really use your prayers as we try to find what is most applicable and relevant for everyone.
I’ll be coming home for a few weeks in May for my cousin Katy’s wedding! We are 9 months apart and have shared our whole lives together, and so my family is graciously flying me home so I can be there for this special time. The hardest part about living so far away from home is missing out on so many things that happen in the lives of the people you love at home, and I’m grateful this is one thing I won’t have to miss. I’ll look forward to seeing many of you when I am home! Until then, I hope all of you are well and having a blessed week. Thank you so much for your prayers for me and the babies, and for your constant support for me and the work here.

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