The past 2 weeks feel like a year. It’s so hard for me to begin to think of what to write about Sifa and Augustine (Augie)… especially Sifa. Let’s recap. Mama Masika, a 4 time rape survivor, devoted her life to restoration of rape victims and their children (most of whom are born of rape). I went to visit them for the first time mid January. I was introduced to two babies who were found (no relation to each other) with the corpses of their dead mothers… two weeks after massacres took place in their villages. Masika heard about an attack, hiked up to look for survivors, found the kids and took them (Sifa and Augie) to the hospital. After one week, and not finding any surviving family, they were released to her, and that is where I met them. We don’t know their ages, their real names… we know nothing.
Sifa and Augie on Sunday, February 21st.
So what do I know? I know God has given me the capacity in my heart to love big, bigger than I ever thought possible. But these kids… whoosh! I can’t even… Maybe it was knowing their past, or I guess not knowing their past, that was so connecting for me. Maybe it’s the far away emotionless expressions they carried in their eyes; that void of hope and joy that drew me to them. A desire in me to see them restored to the fullness of who they were created to be.
I am not sure, I can’t even really begin to understand and at this point I don’t actually care. They are already so intertwined into my story, it doesn’t matter. Sifa faintly smiled in her sleep the day I took her to the hospital (February 19th)… I held that image in my mind for days because it gave me hope; this is not all for nothing. In her deep subconscious… somewhere in there, that small, brief smile showed me a faint glimpse of the innocent child who was still there. She’s not gone.
I took this just after she had that slight
smile, February 19th. She looked peaceful for the
first time since I met her.
Whatever it was, they were on my mind night and day. I couldn’t close my eyes to sleep without seeing their faces. I love them so much. I woke up at 5 am every morning with anticipation waiting for the sun to come up so I could go to the hospital and see them. I wanted to give them their baths and feed them, especially Sifa. Augie was doing so much better than she was. She didn’t sleep easily or much; she was in so much pain. On Saturday (Feb 20th) I came to visit; Sifa had been awake for a while. Augustine was sleeping and Rachel was exhausted, so I took Sifa to give her a break. (Rachel is Mama Masika’s oldest daughter, 28, who was staying in the hospital with the kids... all on the same bed).
Sunday before church, she reached for me when I came
in and was actually making eye contact for a while.
We went outside for fresh air, and as I sang to her, she fell asleep. Finally. After that day, she actually started looking at me and reaching for me when I came. This is a huge milestone for her. She did not engage in eye contact for a very long time. She would look off into the distance, and if you tried to move yourself to be in her line of sight, she would just keep looking somewhere else. She then started keeping my gaze for a second at a time when I sang to her or when I was talking to her. Eventually when I put her down, she started to watch me. Sunday was a great day, lots of emotional improvement and she even walked for the first time since they found her.
Augie too, was feeling better. They were both coughing less starting to show signs of being emotionally present. Monday morning was the same. I came back at lunch with one of our staff members to pray for the kids. We thought we saw a sly grin on Augies face at one point, as if he thought of something funny and curled up one side of his mouth. Sifa, although she reached for me, was slipping away again. By the time I came back later that evening, she was in critical condition. She had a high fever, her heart rate was so high the doctor could barely keep up the count… and she slipped back into her zombie like state of emotionlessness.
The nurse came to talk to us and prepared us for the worst, but reassured us the doctors would do everything they could. “It is in Gods hands now” she said. This is where my previous post came from. I love this little girl so much. I did everything I could to keep it together in the hospital, but I was dying inside. It was hard to watch them take her lifeless, but still alive body out of the room to the ICU, where I could not go. I was holding Augie, who was oblivious and just looked around with his adorable bottom lip popped out. They both had been fighting for their lives since the day of the attacks. They were both emotionally and physically tired. Sifa’s body was giving in. I kept thinking, “ok God, this is it… do I really believe you. Do I actually trust you like I say I do”. I made a decision there; "Yes" I did. I would continue to pray and no matter what happened, I trust what He’s doing, because I do believe what He says.
Back to Rachel for a minute. Now, when I say staying at the hospital, please erase everything you know about hospital stays. The smell of a hospital; erase it. Hospital beds… erase that image. Cleanliness… erase it. Erase everything you know. They are in a community pediatric room. We tried to put them in a private room so they could have some quiet and maybe sleep better. But we were told they needed to stay with the other critically mal-nourished kids because they are all monitored the same and on the same feeding schedule. There are bugs. That’s all I will say about that. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than the rural hospital. Some of the beds have two mothers on the same bed. The room is full. When I come in the mornings, there are mattresses that have been pulled out into the middle of the floor so 2 of the mothers have a place to sleep. This was not an easy job and the responsibilities put on her were huge.
there is a camaraderie in this room.
The women all become friends; I was fortunate
to be included in it. Every time I came I
received a warm "Karibu Muzungo"
(welcome foreigner)... eventually, some of them
started to call me Jenni.
received a warm "Karibu Muzungo"
(welcome foreigner)... eventually, some of them
started to call me Jenni.
Sifa and Augie sitting on their bed back in the corner.
Rachel may be the strongest woman I know, literally.
Tuesday morning the doctor allowed me into the ICU. She was stable; her fever had gone down, but otherwise she was the same. The doctor decided she needed a blood transfusion. She received an IV port in her neck, and a blood transfusion. Tuesday night Sifa was back in the community room. She looked so helpless and miserable. She could not move her head because of the IV, she still had a fever and was soaked in sweat. I would rinse a rag with cold water, lay it on her head and switch it out every few minutes. I laid on the bed with her for at least an hour singing to her, praying and changing her sweaty, hot rag out for a cold one.
4 IV ports in 2 weeks. Her tiny veins kept blowing.
Now I know I’ve said this before. Joy is a choice. When I see her laying there in pain, struggling to breath, I have a choice. I choose joy. It’s not easy, but it gets me through the hard things. And I believe strongly that in the face of death, God shows us life. He has never failed to bring life and show joy to broken situations. I think for so long, I focused on the situation, not on the choice I have in responding to the situation and I missed out on a lot of joy.
Case in point. Monday night, after they took Sifa. I wanted to go home and cry. Instead I stayed to play with and love on Augie. He was sitting with me on the bed;I was talking to him and being goofy, probably more for my sake than his since I was still trying to hold it together… and he smiled. HE SMILED!!!! This is the baby I held, soaked in pee, at the funeral that had been emotionally detached since I met him. His adorable smile turned into laughing. As I got more and more excited for his smile and laughter, he laughed harder. We were all ecstatic! This was his first smile since he had been found. His smile... his deep, belly shaking baby laughter was a gift of love, joy, peace and hope in the face of the Sifa's uncertain recovery. This Hope I have is an anchor for my soul. I let loose. I cried anyway… tears of joy.
His first smile... (yes it's a girls onesie). I don't have the laughing. every time I started to film, he would stop.
Wednesday, Sifa was doing much better. She was sitting up again when I left her that morning. Later that evening after work… I walked into the room and as I walked over to their bed… this is what I saw.
I almost screamed. I’ve prayed for this moment since the first day I met her. I immediately pulled out my phone, took this picture through tears and then started to film. I was so excited… she too started to laugh at my excitement. I have never heard more precious or adorable sounds. EVER. These two babies laughing… it was unbelievable. UNBELIEVABLE.
Yes, we have matching dresses. They ran out of
fabric for Augies shirt. So we are having
another set made with different fabric.
These kids are miracles. They should not have survived 2 weeks in the bush, alone, no food, no water, (by the way, “Mayi” which is Swahili for water, was the first word she said to me). They should not have survived the torrential rainstorms we get almost every night and the cold, wet chill of the mountains at night. They should not have survived the malaria and bronchitis with how severely mal-nourished and worn down their tiny little bodies were (Sifa, who is older, weighed in at a whopping 7 kilograms and Augie 8.5… they both gained a kilo the 12 day they were in the hospital). And I certainly don’t understand how they can survive the kind of trauma they've experienced.
Love is powerful. God is love. So yes, God has given me the ability to love big… but these experiences, they stretch you. Every time He allows my limits to be stretched, my faith, my trust, my confidence... I end up feeling as though my heart exploded only to be made bigger to hold that much more the next time. This expanded capacity to love and be loved is not something I could have ever done on my own. This is all God.
Sifa loves to play ball
Augie loves to get belly szurberts... (don't
judge me. I don't know how to spell that).
Sifa and Augie were checked out of the hospital this past Monday. It was so bittersweet for me. I am beyond gratefully to God that they are healthy and so much better, and out of the hospital… but my heart aches because they are no longer just down the street, where I could see them when I want and spend hours with them each day. They are now hours away. Please, please, please continue to pray for them. They still have a long road to being fully restored to health. They are doing well, but not out of the woods yet.