I got to hold a miracle today.
Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny after a long night of orthodox prayers called throughout the city ALL night long, starting at midnight. I figured it must be a holy day for the orthodox church because that is usually the occasions on which they start the prayers at midnight. On the way to the church we were going to in Korah, Murad (one of the leader guys) confirmed that it was a day where they were honoring some man or saint or something in that religion. We got to the church and before we went in to the stick-framed building covered in green and orange tarp material that comprises the church, Berhanu gestured for us to come follow him. We went behind the building on the rocky, litter-strewn path to a little area where there were "homes". They were small spaces in the rocky dirt surrounded by rusted pieces of corrugated tin, lopsidedly placed here and there with pieces of life - dishes, blankets, plastic shards, mateless shoes, bottle caps - in piles in and around them. One had a cook fire smoldering in it and another had several chickens picking around in the dirt while an orange striped cat sat nearby, perhaps contemplating a chicken dinner. I was certain no one could, or rather SHOULD, be living in this place of dirt and trash and animals and rusted metal, but I knew they were. Sigh....We ducked into a short rectangular doorway into a very dark room. It took my eyes a minute to adjust to the extreme darkness and I saw a small woman stand up off of a filthy blanket-covered sleeping area. Flies buzzed around. There was an ancient, ragged piece of blue and white linoleum semi-covering the dirt floor, torn and ripped in many places, a large yellow water can in the middle of the floor, and another bed against the wall on the other side of the very tiny room. The whole space was maybe 30-40 sq feet? I was standing next to the other bed from the one the woman had been resting on and it had a pile of very dirty rags and blankets heaped on it. The back of my leg felt very warm and I turned to realize I was centimeters away from having my long skirt catch on fire as there was a small pot over coals on the floor behind me. I stepped away from it to the other side of the room, sat down on some sort of seat, watching a cloud of gnats and flies scatter out from under the seat as soon it was disturbed, and I mentally begged my face not to reveal my inner cringing at the bugs. It was then that I noticed 2 dark brown heads poking out of the top of the pile of rags and blankets on the bed across from me. There were twin babies under there!
Cherrie had told us about this woman who she had been taken to shortly after her twins were born and the babies were quite close to death when she found them. They were just a few pounds each as they had no food and the poor mother had not had any milk come in and could not nurse them. They had been taken to the clinic and Cherrie has helped find diapers and food for the babies and the mama. It is such a hard situation as clean water to make formula is not readily available and so bottled water must be obtained and to clean the bottles, the regular (unclean) water they use is collected and put into the big yellow can, then boiled over the hot coals, then used to clean each bottle, for 2 babies, multiple times a day, every day. It is like primitive camping with 2 newborns when you don't feel well, but way harder and way less fun and in horrible filthy conditions. Alone, with no husband to help. Every single day of your life. Heartbreaking. Cherrie assured the mother she was doing a very good job cleaning and taking care of the bottles and making the formula (which she really was!), and handed each of us a baby to hold-they were so tiny! They are 20 days old and smaller than any of my babies were when they were born. Oh they were so beautiful! Just amazing,as they are doing well and gaining weight and looking healthy-they have come so far even just in the last 2 weeks!! We had the privilege of feeding them each a tiny bottle. Danielle's little girl greedily sucked down her formula while my little guy got bored halfway through, sighed and went back to sleep. This little life in my hands and the one in Danielle's hands next to mine were nothing less than the hand of God performing an absolute miracle.
I looked around me at the squalor I was sitting in with the dirt walls and the flies and the ragged blankets and thought of the American nurseries all decorated to the nines, with all the bedding matching just so and elaborate murals on the walls, etc. I couldn't quite get my mind around the discrepancy. I choked back the tears welling up a couple of times. I couldn't stop the mama-worries that started churning in my mind at first. These babies were so fragile, life is so fragile-would they make it? They seem to be growing and healthy now, but then what? What about this tiny mother, can she do this by herself? How about when they are crawling, do they crawl on that floor? When they want to put everything in their mouths like toddlers do, then what? Oh sometimes it is so much for a heart to try to take in. All I could do was praise God that He has them in His hands, and all we can do is take the situation as it is right now and not try to predict the future. No, I don't mean that they are not working on a plan for helping this family (they are), I just mean that here, you have babies on the verge of death in front of you and just keeping them alive now is top priority over future crawling and toddling worries. I just honestly pray they live to be old enough for those issues to need to be addressed. It was soon time to leave after the babies were re-wrapped snugly in blankets and we said goodbyes-I hugged the mother and told her what all mamas need to know, that she WAS a good mother to her babies.
We picked out way back across the dirt and rocks and down the path back to the church where the worship music was rockin' out. The service was all in Amharic but I was told they were talking about the scripture Romans 12:1-2 about being living sacrifices for God. Various children would come in and out, sitting next to me and pinching and squeezing the skin on my arms. I think they are curious to see how white skin feels and behaves so I am always getting squeezing and pinched wherever I am here. All the freckles and spots on my arms really intrigue them, haha! The little girl who snuggled up next to me at one point in the service spent a good deal of time pushing the wrinkly skin on my knuckles up and down and then held her pinky up to mine in deep concentration, comparing the 2. She shrugged and decided to be satisfied sitting and holding my arm across her chest, like how one might carry a pumpkin in from the patch, while the service went on. I laughed to myself as here that is so normal and didn't phase me in the least, but I wonder what I would do if one of my children did that to a stranger at church at home? :)
Church was followed by lunch at a coffee shop. Danielle and I both ate the rice and vegetables, so familiar from my trip this summer since we ate some form of the same every day for lunch. It was amazingly delicious and that may have to do with the fact that it was not trail mix nor a slim jim, which have comprised most of my meals here thus far. The meal was finished off with delicious macchiatos, which I MUST figure out how to make at home b/c I love them beyond what is reasonable feelings for a cup of coffee. In my defense, they are not just a cup of coffee, people. They are like heaven in a tiny cup. We went back to the house where I had some time to talk with the various folks who live here at the house and then my brother Bisrat showed up in the doorway! He said his trademark phrase "I am very excited!" and we had a huge bear hug. We sat and talked and caught up on life for about 2 hours. I showed him my family pictures and he had a great laugh about Thing 3's chubby round cheeks and said "I really love her!" Haha, those chubby cheeks are hard not to love!! We made plans for him to maybe come to Korah to be with us for the bead-making if he could, and if not, to have dinner Tuesday. We talked about some ways maybe we could go visit some of the street children also, maybe at the end of the week, and share with them about how much they are LOVED by God and so special to Him and also maybe help them to find some food. I really hope we can work that out!!
The rest of today has been just like a Sunday evening at home, reading, doing not much in a relatively quiet (with the soccer match blaring from the bar across the street-the ET version of Pat and Chris on Sunday Night Football ;) ) house. Tomorrow, it is game on at Korah, all day! Please pray that God would use me however He most wants to use me for the rest of my time here. I hope your Sunday was as full of His mighty miracles, no matter what size package they came in, as mine was!!!!