Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Rescue... Carol Zulu

The following story was written by Dianna Boyce, a team leader who has been with Mothers Without Borders for several years. Her description of the rescue of this very special girl is one that you will always remember. Thank you for sharing this with me, Dianna!

The Rescue
...that's right. Yesterday we really did rescue a child. Just be forewarned: this is going to be a L O N G one. Really, words cannot fully explain the events of the day. And, in writing, it may not all make sense. You just had to be there. Here's a little background information: At our kids camp at Julius Village earlier in the week we had the groups of kids perform dramas to end the camp. One group of about thirty young girls performed a song and this little girl, Carol, just sang her heart out. Our whole team got a kick out of her. She was a one-girl gospel choir. In fact, the Zambian volunteer we had with us, finally just had to cut her off from singing because she wouldn't stop. When she was finished she told our volunteer, "I just can't stop sometimes. I feel the Spirit of God so strongly that I just have to keep singing." I loved that.
In contrast, when Kathy arrived back from the States on Wednesday, our staff informed her of a little girl that had been treated in the medical screenings in Julius Village that they were quite concerned about. Josephine, our program director, had given her grandmother transport money to take her to a local clinic, but didn't know if she actually would. We ended up connecting that the sick little girl was Carol (although you never would have known it from the way she was singing!). I'll spare the details because it's pretty bad, but her medical examination showed that she has multiple STDs from being molested by an uncle starting about 2 years ago. Her condition has progressed so much that it's showing up as sores on her face as well. Kathy and Josephine made the determination that they needed to follow up on her condition.
Now, to the events of yesterday. Yesterday was titled "Africa Day" where as a team we rode in the back of our big truck, bought trees and then went to the newly purchased 55 acres of land and planted them. The team had to haul water from a well that's a fair distance away from the land. It was a great experience. We originally planned on slaughtering chickens at the farm with the kids there (they're pros at it!) but their water pump is broken and it takes a lot of water to boil and pluck the chickens. I witnessed that my first year and that was enough. I was o.k. with missing it.
While we were at the new land, Kathy, Fred and Josephine went to Julius Village to find out about Carol. We ended up meeting up with them on the road as we left the land and about 6 of us got off the bus and into the back of the truck because the bus was SUPER packed with people. We figured we were headed back to the farm for our sewing school graduation. Turns out Kathy received information from the village that Carol and her grandmother had gone to a clinic and Kathy wanted to see if they could find her before we went to the farm. We tried one clinic with no success and then drove about 20 minutes down the road to another. She had been there, but already left and all they gave her was amoxicillon. They didn't do any testing or refer her to VCT (that's voluntary counseling & treatment for HIV. It's free HIV testing and help). It was interesting to see the sense of urgency developing in all of us that we needed to find Carol. Kathy offered a prayer asking that we would be guided to find this little girl and know how to help her once we did. It was at least a 30 minute drive back to Julius Village. About halfway there we stopped to ask if anyone had seen them and a group of children told us they had been there and were headed back to the village. So, we pressed on. Eventually, after driving on the most African road I have experienced, we found Carol in the village.
She and five siblings are being cared for by her grandmother in the tiniest, dilapidated shelter-type structure you can imagine. It was beyond belief. Her father and mother abandoned them quite a few months ago. We learned from the grandmother that the father actually came to visit about 2 weeks ago, but saw Carol's condition and said he would never take her like that. That's the short version, of course. So, Kathy and Josephine talked to the grandmother about getting treatment for Carol. They offered to take her into MWB care temporarily so that she could be tested, receive treatment and get a little healthier. The grandmother was, of course, reluctant (who wouldn't be?) and wanted to seek permission from the parents first. That about sent Kathy over the edge. She had Josephine calmly translate that these parents had given up their rights long ago by choosing abandonment and neglect for their child and that the rights of this child had to be considered as well. It was kind of funny because we had George, the dad of the children's village farm, with us and he had about 30 seconds to decide if he wanted to become a dad yet again. What would his sweet wife, Faith, say? She's due to have a baby in about 2 months as it is! But when Kathy turned and asked him what he thought, his answer was, "Oh, yes, we must take her. We cannot leave her here." And when we asked Carol what she wanted to do, she said that she wanted to get well.
The grandmother's friend came over and listened to what was going on and told the grandmother that she should not hesitate. They had been praying that someone would come to help Carol so that she would get well and this was the answer to her prayers. (Thank goodness for Fred translating in my ear!) So, we loaded up Carol in the back of the truck with Kathy right beside her and she started singing. And she sang for all 45 minutes of the drive to the farm. When she wasn't singing, she was giving us little sermons about being forgiven and prayer. She told us that if we ask God for things, he will always take care of us and answer our prayers. Kathy asked her if she really believed that and she responded saying yes because God had given her food, clothes and family. Oh, did I feel humbled to be taught by such a strong, mature spirit in a tiny, sick, malnourished twelve-year old body. I wish you could have seen her. You can tell she has been taught the Bible well. I think she's definitely been part of some hand-clapping, vibrant church that has permeated every part of her.
When we got back to the farm around 4, (we were supposed to be there at about 12!) Carol first went around and shook everyone's hands, like she was the one welcoming them. One of the Americans went and got a sandwich off of our bus for her and Carol started breaking it off into tiny pieces and handing them out to the other children. It was just too much to see this hungry little girl put the needs of strangers above those of her own. What a lesson to be learned there! We finally convinced her after she gave over half of the sandwich away that she needed to eat the rest. So, for now, she'll be at the farm and next week she'll go get tested and, should her results for HIV show up positive she'll get on the ARVs (anti-retroviral treatment). It's going to be a long road though.
So, yesterday I had a true "Africa Day," although I never could have foreseen what the events would be. I really saw what it meant to be a Mother Without Borders. It means caring for children all over the world, but, also, just stepping outside of the border of our own families to save a suffering child. The tag-line of the organization is 'nurturing and caring for orphaned and vulnerable children.' I've never seen a clearer example than this. We were able to literally rescue this orphaned, vulnerable and exploited girl and put her in a safe place. That's what this organization is about. And that's what it TRULY means when we say, "One child at a time." This was hands-on, clinical experience that has kind of put me into an emotional whirlwind, but it will all settle eventually, and I will be forever changed because of it. Words cannot describe how blessed I feel to have been a part of this and to have stood by Kathy's side through most of it. Her ability to follow inspiration, to really be still and then act on specific promptings is amazing. I remember at Neal A. Maxwell's funeral it was said that "His genius was the product of diligence." I can't help but think of Kathy in that same way. She is tireless when it comes to saving these children and protecting their rights. I thought of Christ and how he wasn't just satisfied with the 99, but had to go searching for the lost ONE. We have 15 kids at the farm already. It's a huge responsibility and could probably be considered more than 'enough.' But, Kathy and Josephine found the One. It took searching and prayer and diligence, but they found her and now she is safe.
MWB has been working with this village for over a year now. They know Innocent and Josephine well and they are always so grateful for the American volunteers that we bring. One of the reasons the grandmother was comfortable and consented to us taking Carol is because of the trust we have established and support we have given to the village in their development. If all that has transpired in the past year or so with this village in building a strong relationship and bringing in our teams was just so that we could take that little girl into our care yesterday it was worth it. Just being able to help one really was enough.
Carol reminded me that happiness is not based on circumstances, it's based on your relationship with God. For all of the suffering that has occurred in her life, which is surely more than I will experience in a lifetime, the love of her Heavenly Father has transcended all of that. She can speak of forgiveness and love and sing praises to him. She knows that he is mindful of her and loves her. She has left a true 'heart-print' with me.
Whew! I knew it would be a long story. Really, when do I run out of things to say? :-) I'm so thankful for the time I have to be here. I miss home, but I needed the time here to really grow and gain understanding of who I am and what I am capable of giving. There is so much we can all do. Kathy has taught me that it's all about just being aware and available to what Heavenly Father wants us to do. If we can wake up each day and in our prayers say, "What would you have me do?" and "Where would you have me go?" we can truly do His work. I hope that I don't ever go another night without praying for children who are suffering and that those who have the means and ability to help them will be inspired, because I saw so clearly how our actions yesterday were an answer to prayers that had been offered up. Being here truly has changed me in every way and in every relationship that I have. I could never fully express how thankful I am for that.
The team leaves tomorrow. Maybe I'll email some 'lighter' things after that. I do have a good story about being chased by a dog on our run the other morning, but I'll save that one.

Much love from your humble, grateful and truly blessed friend,