Doing More

I’m making my way back to Denver from Angola Africa, where I’ve been for a week working with our baby malnutrition initiative with Saving Moses. I think this is my 6th trip to Angola & it never fails to bring me to my knees, almost literally. 

On this trip, I’ve never seen, held or experienced so many malnourished babies possibly combined in my whole life – over the course of close to 5days. And I’m coming home with all of these experiences swirling in my heart, thoughts & emotions. Clearly, this will be a journey for processing, literally. And at the same time, I’m compelled to do more. 

It seems to me like we all want to do more. But I wonder if we want to do more of the right stuff?  Sometimes maybe we should think about what it means to “do more” prayerfully considering if our more is being directed by God. 

Unable But Yielded

I’ve never had a day Ike today, feeling overwhelmed & inadequate to everything around me. I visited one of our malnutrition clinics here in Angola & when we landed this morning, there were 98 babies who were being looked after for malnutrition. That’s a HEAP OF BABIES & I’ve never experienced malnutrition in such high numbers. So walking around the buildings this morning, I seeing babies at various severities of malnutrition, this was definitely challenging. And I don’t find myself numb from the sheer numbers of babies. I’m able to recognize the distended bellies, stringy arms, knobby knees, glassy eyes, xylophone ribs, lightened hair . . . . I know the symptoms & it’s difficult to see each baby struggling to survive, along w each mom, abundantly stretched with worry & care from looking after their baby whom they deeply love. 

By the time we left this afternoon, the clinic had 125 babies & everyone was trying to figure out where to let everyone settle for some space & hopeful rest / recovery. 

When I’m past my breaking point, it helps me remember that whatever we do to the least, we do to Jesus. So let’s love well, no matter where we are nor what’s happening around us. 

No Crickets

When I’m in a malnutrition clinic here in Angola, I’m delighted to hear crying babies drown out any cricket noises. A crying baby in a malnutrition clinic means they have enough strength to cry. A quiet & lethargic baby in a malnutrition clinic can be very disturbing to me. It’s even worse when a quiet baby in these clinics looks into my eyes & I don’t see anything beyond a glassy stare.  

I’ve just spent the day at one of our 6 malnutrition clinics here in Angola & it’s uniquely unraveling to watch a baby struggle to survive.  Add in a stretched thin mom, worried for her baby’s life, and this can become very unsettling. So how do I process not just one mom & baby in this scenario but not less than ten?  

It helps to pray, for sure & it helps me to spend time & give genuine love. I know that God lives to spend time with you & enjoys your company!

Getting Better

Arriving & Improving: I prefer arriving over improving because to me the difference is destination versus journey. And yet here in Angola, with Saving Moses, I’m reminding myself that improvement is an essential ingredient for destination & change. 

I say this having driven by one of our malnutrition clinics today & observing the improvements to the lodging arrangements. In the past, this clinic had 3 large huts, poorly ventilated & lit, concrete floors & abundant flies. Today, the lodging has vastly improved – I’ll describe it here on my blog tomorrow. 

And still I see friendly moms with malnourished babies, waiting daily for their baby to improve & hopefully return home healthy & strong. Malnourished babies & toddlers meet your eyes with a dull stare or achy eyes. Their motions are lethargic & labored, so as to minimize the energy expense. Sometimes their bellies are swollen with edema & almost always their ribcages look like xylophone strips. And their heads are disproportionately large on their underdeveloped frames. 

So when I see babies in these conditions, it’s difficult to look at the building improvements because people always trump facilities. Nonetheless, I can choose to celebrate progress even if I have yet to see the full realization of helping Angola live in the state of declining infant mortality. 

Avoiding Tough

I’m flying to Angola today, where we have 6 malnutrition clinics to save babies & toddlers. I haven’t been in Angola for 3years because of various technicalities. And Saving Moses has these malnutrition clinics in Angola, because of such a high infant mortality rate.  Angola is the country where I first experienced the realities of emaciated babies with xylophone ribcages, hallow eyes & labored breathing. I have yet to experience anything in my life that compares with holding a baby who is feather light with fleeting breathes from being malnourished. So this is a tough trip. 

I like to avoid tough & embrace comfort, reject inconvenient but welcome smoothy groovy. 

But genuine love steps into things that are tough, heartbreaking & impossible, even though I drag my feet. Choose genuine love with me 🙂

Keep Looking

“Where is Jo-Jo?”  I’d circled through the stark malnutrition clinic in Angola with Saving Moses, looking for the struggling little baby that I’d met just before we took a break for lunch.  I remembered seeing Jo-Jo’s mom: she was extremely tired and her nerves were obviously frayed.  But I was hopeful for Jo-Jo, since she was in our clinic now and could receive some medical care and a steady supply of the malnutrition formula that has kept literally thousands of babies from dying.

I talked with my friends about Jo-Jo over lunch and I was eager return to the clinic and  encourage her mom that we would do our level best to help her frail daughter to survive and even thrive.  I walked through our clinic again, slower this time, looking for little Jo-Jo in her bright red shirt.  I couldn’t find her so I asked our translator to check in with the nurse to see where Jo-Jo was.  “Her mom took her and left,” was the nurse’s reply.  “We have to find her!  She doesn’t stand a chance of surviving without our help!  Where’s her file, find her address, call the phone number, let’s go to her house, let DO SOMETHING!!!”  I was really upset and I could tell the nurse was also very disturbed.  We looked at Jo-Jo’s chart, found a phone number and only the name of the neighborhood where she lived, since Angola doesn’t use an address system like we do in the US. There was no chance of finding her in the neighborhood listed, it was HUGE.  When we called the number listed on the chart, there was no answer.  So how could we keep trying to find Jo-Jo?  Could we send someone to her neighborhood in the very remote chance we’d find her?

We did this and we kept calling the phone number, but we never found Jo-Jo and given the extremely frail state of her little body, I would suppose that she died.  This has really bothered me for a very long time because Jo-Jo’s mom seemed to have given up all hope for her daughter to live.  What kind of hell does a mom go through to get to the point of giving up hope for her baby to live?  Could I have been more sensitive to the mom’s exhausted state?  What would I do differently in this situation for the future?

Some things are deeply disturbing and this is probably a good thing because such experiences can interrupt our comfortable living and provoke us to bring genuine love and life to the world in which we live.  Let’s keep looking for ways to let God love the world through us.

hot topic: dead babies in storage shed

I was absolutely appalled to read about the discovery of 4 babies found dead in Canada yesterday in a storage unit.  The Canadian authorities are obviously doing a thorough investigation into the situation and because they were only found yesterday, there’s not alot of information to answer the host of questions that neither you nor I have at this moment.

When we hear of situations like this, I think it’s extermely important not to get callous nor indifferent to these kinds of atrocities – hence my work with Saving Moses.  Our mission with Saving Moses is to help babies & toddlers where the need is most urgent & the care is least available.  With these parameters, we have a malnutrition program that feeds severely malnourished babies in Angola (very high infant mortality), many of whom would die without our therapeutic formula.  Additionally, we run a really novel program in Cambodia called nightcare, where we take care of the babies of prostitutes at night while they work – so they don’t have the babies with them while they’re working, or abandon them in unsafe care or situations.  We are already setting up plans and funding for 2015 so that we can continue to expand of efforts with our mission to “save Moses.”

If we are not deeply and even primordially disturbed by these atrocities with babies, then perhaps we need to pause & reconsider some basic human values 🙂

an outlier father

Watch this a short & really amazing video of a  legendary father

After you watch this, consider that he’s most likely the ONLY single dad that our malnutrition workers have ever met in Angola in more than 15 years of work there.  Moses is totally amazing!!!!

 

 

Learning different ways

I’m sitting at one of our malnutrition clinics for Saving Moses in Angola & it’s the noon feeding time, so I am having the pleasure of watching 30+ moms feeding their babies w the therapeutic milk that saving Moses provides everyday for approximately 4-6 feedings per baby. In the attached picture, you see a mom using a spoon to feed her baby & I’ve had lots of people ask me why they don’t use bottles at our clinics & the answer for this question has 3 simple parts:
*i can use our money to buy therapeutic milk or bottles. The more money I use for bottles, the less I have for milk
*bottles aren’t commonly used here & would be considered to be more of a luxury than a necessity
*bottles require more maintainence: cleaning, hygiene, replacing parts etc, whereas spoons are a very simple feeding tool in contrast to bottles 🙂

As I finish this blog today, let me just say that I wish you could sit with me, watch & hear all of these babies eating their lunches. They’re really noisy & it’s nothing less than music to my ears bc often times, a quiet baby is too weak to make noises. The louder the better 😀

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Babies, babies & babies

I think that it’s really important from time to time to get some fresh perspective on life & the world in which we live. Today has been a day of fresh perspective for me. I’ve met heroic & legendary moms & dads who are doing everything in their power to keep their babies alive. But I also met a mom today who was extremely discouraged & I’m deeply concerned that she may have given up hope. Her baby, Josephine, is only 10 months old but is extremely sick & close to dying. Her mom, Miciah, brought her to our malnutrition clinic to receive milk & medical help but was herself not feeling well. We took a short break for lunch & upon returning to the clinic, I started looking for Miciah & Josephine but couldn’t find them. As I asked around, the nurse said that Miciah had left the clinic w Josephine & the nurse strongly encouraged mom to stay. Miciah left, regardless of the nurse’s appeals & we don’t have a way to track them down – no address or phone number. I have tremendous concern for Josephine because she was not doing well at all. Please remember to pray for her – I’ve attached her picture so you can please remember her. The lesson for all of us is to never surrender hope.

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I LOVE PROGRESS!!!!

Today has been quite incredible & Angola never ceases to amaze me. It is a country of immense potential not only in natural resources, but moreso with the incredible citizens of this beautiful nation. Today, we visited a malnutrition clinic & met more moms whose courage is nothing less than breathtaking. We were able to follow up with Belito, my little buddy who I met on my 1st visit to Angola. Two years ago, Belito was in a really bad state. His mom, Marcella, had brought him to the clinic with severe malnutrition. We helped her bring Belito home with some formula, food & feeding instructions. Last year, we were able to touch base with Belito again & saw that he was healthy & doing well. Today, I popped in again to say hello & check in with Marcella. We had a really nice visit & I even got to hold Belito who snuggled into me 🙂
After our chat with Marcella, we began to explore the idea of giving literacy lessons at the malnutrition clinic (the higher the level the education for the mom, the more that the infant mortality rate declines). So this is an EXTREMELY exciting possibility that we’re exploring & I’ll of course I’ll happily keep you posted on our progress.
If you haven’t already done this, please consider going to www.savingmoses.org to make a donation to help us buy malnutrition formula for these babies. Without this kind of special therapeutic milk, the chances for these babies to survive rapidly deteriorate. Let’s help to give them a fighting chance to survive & possibly be the next “Moses” for Angola!! Thanks HEAPS for your consideration 🙂

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Welcome to Angola!

Today we are going back to the malnutrition clinic where we spent alot of time last year. This is the same clinic where we got to know Belito & they told me that we can visit him again this year so I’m looking forward to checking in w him & seeing how’s he’s doing! I’m also a little introspective because I have a little bit of a sense of some of the infants we will get to meet today along w their moms hopefully.
With this trip, I want to be fully present & I want to lavishly love no matter what shape the person is in.
But presently I’m a bit challenged to be loving bc my sleep last night was almost non-existent due to the night long street disco party & our early departure, coupled w the last 3 days of travel. So truthfully, I’m finding myself in the “just keep swimming” mode, as Dori would say in “Finding Nemo”. Just keep swimming, Sarah 🙂

traveling to Angola for Saving Moses

Greetings friends!  Just to keep you posted, I’m flying to Angola with savingmoses because we want to put the tangible love of Jesus into action by helping to keep “the least of these” (infants & toddlers) from starving to death.  You see, Angola has the world’s highest infant mortality rate & the majority of the reason it is so high is because of a lack of food.  When I went to Angola last year, I looked infant mortality in the eyes & it broke my heart, knowing that the simple supply of formula & food could prevent the majority of these deaths.  So over the course of a year, we’ve been steadily providing money to buy formula & now I’m going back to check out what’s been happening over the last year.

So, please be sure to keep your eyes peeled because I’ll be doing all the blogging, fb-ing, tweeting, etc that I possibly can to keep you up to speed on our progress in Angola over the last year 🙂

Processing Angola

I’ve been home for about 36 hours & I’m trying to work through some thoughts & feelings, which are rather jumbled around.  Its complete bliss to get to be with my family – they are nothing less than spectacular & I’m thoroughly grateful for them!!!!  At the same time, I’m also trying to process this last week.  When I see a baby now, I have this instinctual reaction to ask how old & how much do they weigh.  When the mom tells me the answers, it feels like I shatter into a million little pieces in my heart & thoughts as I think about the babies I’ve just seen, held, touched & am trying to help.

One such family is a single mom with 2 kids – Marcella.  Her youngest son, Belito, is about 14months old & struggling with malnutrition.  Marcella has had 6 kids & only 2 are surviving today – the 4 who died never made it to 6 months old.  I met Belito & Marcella at a malnutrition clinic we visited & I was able to visit her everyday when we were in Angola.  We got to visit her home, meet her oldest son who is 8yrs old, meet her mom & exchange greetings with her neighbors.  Belito weighs about 13lbs & is 14months old.  He is very weak & frail.  His mom is trying super hard to help him to get better.  As a single mom, she doesn’t really have a job & there’s no gov’t support or subsidies to help her, so her way of getting money to buy food is to slowly sell off whatever she has that’s valuable.  She used to have a job selling bananas, but since Belito has been sick, she hasn’t been able to stay with the banana selling.  She lives w her mom, who has a job washing clothes and this helps Marcella a little bit.  When we asked how we could help her, she said that some rice, beans & oil would be super helpful.

I talked quite extensively with Marcella, seeking to understand how she arrived in the current situation.  When I asked about her husband, she explained that he left her because he felt that she couldn’t take care of his kids because they kept dying.  He doesn’t give her any support & she’s never learned to read or write.  In our conversations, I asked her what would be some things that she’d like to achieve & she said that she would like to get back into the studying she had been doing before Belito got sick, so she could learn to read & write.  We talked about various job possibilities & what she’d like to be doing in the future to earn a living.  This was all a very powerful conversation for me that occurred over the course of 5 days.

I very much want to help Marcella – she’s a kind and intelligent woman who deeply loves her son.  Before we left, we bought her the rice, beans & oil, but we also bought her some formula & porridge for when Belito gets discharged from the malnutrition clinic.  I explained how to mix the formula – quantities of water (boiled please) along with scoops of formula & then how to mix these w the porridge.  All in all, at this point, I’m not sure who has benefitted more from this friendship – Marcella or me.

Angola, while being being an extremely poor country, is very rich with the quality of her citizens.  The picture attached isn’t of Marcella & Belito (they are the picture in my last blog), but is a VERY common scene.

Lets Make a Difference in Angola

Today was pretty hard core. It’s after 9p & I’m struggling to process this day & it’s events. We drive to a more remote city / town & visited a medical clinic w some volunteer Portugese medical students & doctors who were doing everything possible to preserve life under unbelievable conditions.
I’m not sure how much I can share at this point because of how this is affecting me. How could we consider a day to be successful when possibly only 1 infant died of anemia & malnutrition instead of 4? What about the family that has contracted tuberculosis that is a strain resistant to the 1st line of drugs? Is the 2nd line of drugs for tb available?
How about the 6yr old sister charged to watch her 4 wk old brother? Or the single mom who needs a job & whose 14month old son needs food?
And yet the good news of today is that one of the severely malnutritioned babies we visited yesterday we were able to look in on & it looks like she’s going to make it!
When you do something to “the least of these”, you’ve done it to Me – Matt 25

Angola – lets help!

Angola 2
Well, today was unreal. We were able to visit a malnutrition clinic for babies & I’m finding it extremely difficult to find words to communicate how this is affecting me. We got to meet the moms of these babies & it was really incredible to meet these women. I met a mom who had traveled approx 400 miles to bring her daughter who was born with a clef pallet & having difficulty feeding her baby.
Please check out my facebook page to see a brief glimpse of some dear people I met today.