Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Life goes on... because it must.

"I again realized that I am blessed only to be a blessing. I am here to be an ambulance, and a hearse, a friend and a shoulder to cry on. I am here to hurt for others as Jesus hurt for me. I am so blessed, God, let me also be a blessing." 
(Rick Neufeld, June 5th, 2013)

Was a tough day for us yesterday. Our friend and employee, Maganesu, lost a child yesterday. A beautiful baby whose life ended because of a lack of doctors to perform the C-Section Maganesu's wife desperately needed. Doctors are on strike here at the moment, and that most likely contributed to the problem. She laboured for nearly 12 hours and then waited for a surgery to be open for another 4 before finally having the C-section performed. By then it was too late.

 Today Rick is driving home with the body of the child in the truck, being held by family members because no coffin for a child that small could be found. 

Lord.... why??? Why must a parent hold their child like that? Why ? Why must doctors demand a wage far above anyone else in the country and yet provide service that is sub par to begin with? Why are the medicines and supplies continually stolen leaving hospitals and clinics woefully understocked and unable to assist? Why do we have to watch our friends lose child after child to diseases and problems that are preventable and treatable? Why does my heart hurt so much? Why cant I stop the tears from falling this time? What is different about this situation? I see so much death and suffering nearly every day here, and I cry for each one, but this particular child seems to have resonated deep within me. Seeing Maganesu's face and watching my husband sob as he prayed over the family, as he wept alongside this man that is not just an employee but a friend. As three of our staff come to inform me that they cannot build a coffin for an infant that young because culturally only the older women will take the child, wrap it in a capalana cloth, and go to bury it alone. Building a coffin for an infant that small without permission of the local Regulo (chief) could result in a fine. Coffins are for people. Traditionally, infants that have not yet eaten a "meal" are not considered people yet. (And we thought that was a North American problem...) There will be no funeral procession or proper burial, since babies who have not yet taken their first meal or breath when they are born must be buried in the soft wet ground by the river so the mother will not become infertile....   I again ask.. Why ???

( Felicio watches the video I took of him)

Just this week I posted a video of little Felicio, one of the Amigo Orphan kids, not even old enough for school yet, reciting Psalm 139:13- (this is my English translation of the portuguese he recited)  "YOU created every part of my body, YOU have formed me in my mother's stomach." (see link to video at the bottom of this post, in the video we laugh because he was mixing up some letters, saying porco (pig) instead of corpo (body) I have placed the link at the bottom, bc of the value of the verse it represents, not to make light of this situation)  As a local Pastor told Rick today,  "I am a Christian, I believe the Spirit of God resides, even there, in the child in the mothers stomach (meaning that even an unborn child has a soul, and is in fact a person) but how can I change the minds of everyone? This tradition is so old." Even the Christians, like Maganesu, struggle to do what they know is true in their hearts, when there is the threat of a fine or worse, if they do not follow traditional practices.

Last week I got a card from my mom, saying she was praying for a different one of the farm employees, Meque, who has lost 8 family members in the last year. She recounted sharing with an acquaintance about it and this person had responded "well, they (as in the local mozambicans) are probably used to it". My mom of course was astonished at the callousness and replied that no, actually, the people here grieve the loss of every family member and love each of their children just as much as north americans do. They feel that death as keenly as anyone would, and weep just as we do. The only difference is that here life must go on, just to survive they need to pick themselves up, and keep going. Just to feed themselves they HAVE to go back to the fields or thieves and cows will steal their only source of food for the coming year. They HAVE to go fetch firewood and water or their remaining family members wont be able to eat or bathe. They HAVE to keep on, "keeping on". They dont have a choice. They dont have the luxury of several weeks of bereavement leave, they dont even have the luxury of a week to prepare to "say goodbye". Most are buried within 24 hours of death, their simply is no place to keep a body.  

 Our mission staff sat in stunned silence and sadness today as they heard about the death of this child. Not a single one of them is immune to this sort of thing. Many of them have pregnant wives right now and know all to well the dangers a complicated birth can bring especially here, more than 40 kilometres from the nearest Maternity centre. Most of them do not make much by Canadian standards, but will humbly contribute a small amount from their wage to support a friend who has lost a child and needs help.

They may not grieve the way we do. But they do grieve. They may not bring casseroles over to support the grieving family, but they give of what they have.

On the days when I just feel like asking WHY? I am so glad that I have the knowledge that God is sufficient for my needs. He is sufficient for the needs of those around me. He is not scared of my "why's" or my tears or even my anger. He is waiting to comfort me and give me Peace that passes all understanding. He is doing the same for Maganesu and his wife. Even for his two young daughters whose crestfallen faces last night were more than this momma could bear to see. Because this world is not perfect, and because we live in a place where things often do not make sense, I HAVE to rely on my Father God who sees the much bigger picture than I do. I am so grateful that I can rest in Him, so grateful to be able to put my hurting heart into His loving hands. 

I have no idea why this particular death has made such an impact on me. Maybe its because Maganesu has worked closely with us for two years on our house, maybe its because Rick was the driver of the ambulance and now the hearse. Maybe because I know the father's heart that Maganesu has, oft times RUNNING to protect Tendai, dust her off when she has fallen or rescue her from a bug when she screams, simply because he cares. Maybe its because I might be just stressed in general. Whatever it is, this one has hit me hard. I know this blog is normally photos and brief updates, but I have felt God impressing on me lately to share not just the ups of mission work, but also our stresses, our moments of anguish and pain, and the struggles of living and working in a place that is more and more our home, and yet will never truly be. To share all of these things alongside the joys and highlights and successes. I wrote about the challenges of working cross culturally several posts ago. And today I have confronted those things once again. As I struggled to understand a culture that wont allow proper burial for fear it will render others infertile, and as I cried in front of three of our staff, I was again reminded how very different our cultures are. I know these men were incredibly uncomfortable to see me crying like this. I know they wonder what I am thinking, or why I am so upset by this part of their culture. I know that they also respect me for trying to understand and for being willing to show my tears and fears and being willing to put aside my own culture and to allow them to wrap this child and lay it in the ground at the rivers edge, despite knowing full well it will do NOTHING to protect the fertility of the mother, or anyone else. 

Lord, please help us to be a light in this darkness. Help us be a beacon of light and hope into a culture full of traditions based on fear and spirits of anger and retribution. Help us learn to better navigate in this community as we struggle to understand. Help us to remember to rest in You, and in You alone. Help us to remember that we are here for a reason, each and every day. Today, that is to be the driver of a hearse, tomorrow it may be to speak a word of encouragement to a struggling pastor. Another day it may be to assist a widow or orphan. Whatever the reason is, Lord, help us to be ready, help us to be willing, help us to be open to Your leading.

Life must go on.......

Thanks for the prayers... Heather (and Rick and Tendai)


Stam family said...

Wow Heather. I wept reading your blog today and it was so real in giving me the depth of your grief and sadness over this death and the sad frustration over 'traditions of men' that are part of the culture there. We are lifting you up in prayer, asking God to use you mightily and thanking Him for your tender hearts! You are right where He wants you and that is so special. Thanks for sharing your heart. We will pray for your staff and especially Maganesu and his wife.

Rachel said...

I'm so sorry, and I will be praying for you and Maganesu's family. This definitely gives perspective to the "stresses" of American life.

Thank you for sharing!

Rick Cogbill said...

This was one of your best blogs, Heather. Very moving and real; thank you for sharing it. May God give you and Rick peace and strength as you continue to love the people of Mozambique.