Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year

I am so, so thankful for each one of you who made Serving His Children's 2013 operations possible!! I saw God move in unbelievable ways and we couldn't have done it without you! 

Here is just a little view of what went on here, and what YOU were a part of this past year!

THANK YOU!!! 



I am so honored and humbled to be able to be a part of God's kingdom work here in Uganda. I'm ready and excited for another year and hope you will join us on the journey once again... (and who knows, maybe I'll actually blog more then once this year...stay tuned to find out...:) 

Happy New Year!!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Patrick

We were just finishing up a long outpatient clinic.  I was exhausted…and we still had a 3 hour drive ahead. Being a Monday the health center was bustling with patients from near and far, but it was now close to 5pm. The lines had begun to die down and the nursing staff was just getting around to taking afternoon tea.

I had completed our last patient of the day and my team was starting to pack up in preparation to leave. We had 3 severely malnourished children waiting to be taken with us and the daylight was slowly fading.  In my haste to ready everything and everyone, I heard a noise and quickly looked up…and that’s when I saw him…his pale little face resting on his mamma’s shoulder. Wearing a knitted winter hat and wrapped up, as if it were cold enough to actually warrant winter wear. His big brown eyes seemed to look right at me, and for a moment I stopped; for a short minute I looked at him intently. Had I enrolled this child in our nutrition program? No, I didn’t recall doing an assessment on the child and I wondered how we had missed them…I didn’t recognize him at all. But even from a brief, far off glance I could detect presenting malnutrition. I was in a hurry though. I wanted to start the long drive home. I had patients to care for. I hadn’t eaten all day. And my daughter was waiting for me at home. He would have to be seen at the next clinic.

He slowly closed his eyes as his mom continued to gracefully saunter away from where I was standing, on the veranda of the health center.  Unaware of my watchful glance… 

I continued packing.

But something in my heart didn’t feel right. An unsettling feeling washed over me. And so reluctantly I, along with one of my staff trudged after them.  We quickly spotted them walking though a cornfield.  A few minutes later we were making our way back to the health center where we could have a better look at the child and talk to the mother…a cornfield is not always the most conducive for medical assessments. 

After a few brief interdictions, Lydia (the mother) quietly explained that ever since Patrick was a couple weeks old his intestines had been outside of his abdomen. Due to an abnormality at birth he was taken to a hospital where a doctor attempted to do a colostomy. But the procedure was not done properly and within a couple of months the colostomy prolapsed, leaving most of his large intestines hanging out of his stomach. Patrick’s parents took him to several hospitals, even the national hospital in Kampala, but by that time all surgeons agreed unanimously: he was too malnourished to undergo the operation. It was far too risky.  So, they went back home. And they waited. They waited for what seemed only inevitable…the death of their son.  As time passed Patrick grew even thinner. He lost his appetite and refused to eat all food completely. He had no desire to walk, and now at the age of almost 3 he hardly even spoke.

That day Lydia had brought another child for malaria treatment, and because Patrick was only content in his Mom’s arms he had come along for the ride.  She was unaware that we were even there.  

It was quickly decided that Patrick and his Mom would be coming with us. We gathered their things. Spoke with Lydia’s husband, and headed out. Finally.

Once Patrick got settled in (and let me tell you he was not happy about the settling) we began to take him to see Doctors and specialist.  He needed surgery and waiting longer wasn’t doing anyone any good, but we continued to hear the same thing “Get him to gain about 8 pounds and then we’ll consider it”. And we tried. We tried to get him to gain weight and he simply would not. He would gain a pound and then lose 2. It was a constant uphill battle.  He was miserable. Poor Lydia was trying so hard! She was the perfect picture of patience. She was always loving, and never failed to serve her child with the upmost kindness.


But after 2 months passed we were only slightly closer to our goal.

We had all tried hard. But Lydia was needed back at home where her other 4 children remained. So with little luck rehabilitating Patrick from our center, we came to the conclusion that we would give it a go from home.

The next week as we drove along the bumpy dirt road towards Manafwa, Patrick and his mom sat quietly in the back seat.  

We enrolled Patrick into our outpatient program and started him on a high calorie, high protein diet. Lydia was a Rockstar! Though she was almost 8 months pregnant she diligently fed and cared for her stubborn toddler son. We saw them every 2 weeks but never saw much change. Good or bad. Then one week Patrick and his Mom didn’t come.  The next time we saw them there was change, but not the kind of change we had prayed for…

That day the little family once again made the journey to Jinja.

After some searching we found a surgeon who agreed that though the surgery was risky Patrick couldn’t live much longer without it-his health would continue to decline because of the loss of fluid and nutrients. He promised that if we could get his weight up to 7 kilograms by August he would operate!!! We were elated. Being only May we had high hopes that it could be done! But, he would have to remain in Jinja for almost 3 months, and Lydia was nearing her due date…all parities agreed and we set to work.

At the beginning of July Selah and I left for the States. We left Patrick in good hands, and returned home 5 weeks later to find him at a happy, healthy weight of 7.2 kg.  He was ready for surgery.

But shortly after our return, before the operation was scheduled, on a Saturday morning Mamma Patrick went into labor. What should have been a joyous celebration of life turned into a heart wrenching night that will forever be ingrained in my mind and heart!  That night, after almost 24 hours of labor, Lydia was taken for an emergency C-section. When they opened her up they found twin baby girls, conjoined in the abdomen.  They both died 2 hours after birth. (That evening is a story in its self. If you would like to know more you can read a blog post by one of our volunteers by Clicking Here ).

So here we are. Over 5 months from the start of our journey together…


Mamma Patrick is slowly healing from the intense trauma of that terrible night. She will forever hold a scar marking the loss of her daughters, but I believe that just as her physical wounds are healing, so are her emotional wounds. So is her heart. Almost every afternoon you will find Patrick and his Mom slowly walking laps around our compound, hand in hand, quietly talking and pointing at things as they pass. Walking towards healing, strengthening their broken bodies. And Patrick, bless his heart is hanging on to those 7 kilos.




So I write to challenge you. To invite you to be a part of this beautiful family! We have seen much tragedy and also so much joy come from watching God unfold this story.  And He is not finished yet.  With Patrick’s baby sisters at his side, He is still scribing! I don’t know what the end will look like. But I do know that somewhere in this next chapter there is a little boy who needs his physical body put back together. Because only then will he one day have the opportunity to invite the fullness of Christ to dwell inside his heart.


Will you be a part of this chapter?

Patrick’s surgery will cost about $1,500-2,000, and he will likely need more then one operation. 

If you would like to make a donation to help cover the costs of Patrick's surgery (s) you can do that at our website www.servinghischildren.org or use the link to Paypal on the sidebar of this blog

    

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Thank you so much to all of our 2012 supporters! We couldn't have done it without you.

Take a look...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all....

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Petra

Tuesday night. October second. I found myself doing one of my least favorite things. But yet there I was…again.

I knelt on the clean tile floor with a sobbing woman bent before me.  And as I spoke softly to her, her tears spilled to the floor and threatened to reach the place where I sat. I tried to explain what was happening in the next room but my own uncontrollable tears made the task difficult… I prayed silently for strength, that the words would come gently.  With love!

But she knew. She already knew the words I was trying to form. She knew why I had left my position by her daughter’s bed and emerged. She knew I had come to inform her that her baby girl was dying.
She knew because just hours earlier she witnessed chaos erupt. She heard the monitor’s alarm sound. She had been rushed out as we all rushed in; the moment her tiny baby of only 2 months stopped breathing.

That moment marked the start of a journey. A journey that I do not desire to take again, but a journey that I wouldn’t trade for anything of this world…

After only 5 days with us, Ruth, more commonly known around our house as “Mamma Petra,” was about to experience the most horrible and unforgettable thing a parent can ever go through. And as I sat there in front of her, I couldn’t make the words come out.  I couldn’t tell her, a woman I hardly knew…yet my heart was so heavy with sorrow for.  I looked up at her tear stricken face and in that same instant she looked me right in the eye. It’s as if she could see into my brokenness and she simply said “Thank you”. That’s when I knew. She already knew.

I still did my best to describe what was happening around her.  I explained that for over 30 minutes her child had not breathed; that we had to help her every breath. And that she was completely unconscious and unresponsive. I explained that while her heart was still beating, it was probably only a matter of a short time before her body would become too weak and shut down completely. I repeated over and over, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.

30 minutes turned into an hour. An hour into almost 2… Bagging constantly. No breathes.

Finally Mama Petra gathered enough courage and she walked through the door where we were all hovered over a small bed. Her eyes widened; she looked around at all the people. Equipment and papers littering the room, medications of every kind scattered about. When her eyes found and locked on her baby…that is a moment I will never forget.  She walked closer and looked frightened at the sight of her child. Frightened by the mask engulfing her face; horrified by all the tubes and cords attached to her frail body. She seemed to not have any words.  A few minutes passed. Nothing.  I broke the silence with a whisper, “Can we pray?”.  Slow nods were seen from every direction.

As we gathered around the small hospital bed, we continued to fill her tiny lungs over and over with hand-operated oxygen.  I began to pray aloud. Not praying for a “miracle” necessarily, but just for God’s presence to be felt among us. For his purpose to prevail in the life of Petra!
 
In less then 15 minutes the baby before us began to stir. Then right before our eyes she started to breathe on her own!  

10 minutes later she stopped again. Moments later she began taking breaths once more. This continued all night. And all the next day, and the next.  We watched continually, every minute we observed her small chest rise and fall; literally every minute, waiting for her lungs to give out. And they did, again and again. But with some assistance and heavy prayer the rise and fall would begin again, and again and again. Every time I reached for that bag I felt sure that she had taken her last breath.  And every time God would whisper to my heart “Not yet. Still again.”

We settled ourselves in, thinking that we would pour into this tiny life for another day or so, but all the while knowing that in the end God would take her.  It didn’t seem possible for it to end any other way.

One week passed by. Baby Petra still occupied a crib in our clinic; still on heavy oxygen, intense feeding/medication schedules and around the clock monitoring. But still alive!

2 weeks passed. The same; no improvement.

Baby Petra saw numerous Doctors, as well as a Physicians Assistant from America who was living and working at Serving His Children at the time.  We were baffled.  How her little body was still holding strong was a mystery. And why her body in this state to begin with was an even bigger one. We were dealing with things far beyond malnutrition, but what? She constantly needed blood transfusions. Her lungs were unable to handle breathing without the support of oxygen for more then a few minutes. And while she wasn’t in a coma anymore, she barely moved at all.  What were we missing? We ran test after test…but nothing stood out.

So we continued doing what we knew, and had been instructed to do…

Day in and day out worship music would float out the door of the clinic.  This might sound crazy, but that little girl seemed to be so sensitive to the Spirit.  She loved music, and would calm at the sound of soft prayers spoken aloud over her!

I remember one day I was called down to the clinic in the middle of the night, I happened to not already be there….  When I reached the door, before even entered I was met by the sound of water bubbles; lungs completely full with fluid. So loud that I couldn’t even hear the sound of her heartbeat. Fear found me in that moment. I felt in the pit of my stomach, that this was it. This was the end.  I carefully picked up her weak little body in my arms, kissing that beautiful little head of dark curls and breathed a prayer of praise. In that instant the sound silenced. As if the liquid that threatened to drown her just evaporated into thin air. I was awe-struck. Uncontrollable tears flowed.  Amazed by the power of words simply whispered unto God, privileged to witness the miraculous works of the Most High!
Things like this continued to happen. God performed literal miracles everyday to keep this girl alive. Everyday! Everyday He would do something completely miraculous, just to remind us “Hey, don’t worry., I’m in control. I got this!”  If I tried to tell you all of the things God did, I feel confident that you would not even believe me.  I almost don’t believe it myself.  

Finally, we braved Kampala (the Capital City) in hopes of finding more solid answers. We took her to one of the best private hospitals in Uganda and did a whole new workup as well as saw several Specialists.  But by the middle of the day hope was dwindling. No one could find anything substantially wrong, don’t get me wrong, they were all shocked by her condition, and after briefly reading through her file they were incredibly perplexed. But still no idea as to what was causing her to be “stuck” in this state.  Until we saw the last Doctor of the day….  Literally the minute he came in and saw her he said, “Oh, she has Fanconi Anemia”.  He had read her extensive file prior to entering the room so he was aware of her constant need for blood transfusions and all her past history leading up that very day.

He explained what Fanconi Anima actually was, and we were devastated. It is terminal and the prognosis for life expectancy is very short. The only way to give her more then a couple weeks was to have a bone marrow transplant. That procedure is not done in Uganda, nor would she have been able to withstand the surgery, even if it were possible.  Everything about her condition pointed to Fanconi, and we started coming to terms with what we had just been told.

We were advised to take her home and try to get her to a point where she could return to her actual home, and let her live her last few weeks there, with her family.

So that day, with heavy hearts, we drove back to Jinja.  Hope fading into the distance…

Days went by.  Then days turned into weeks. There were ups and downs, of course, but things seemed to remain the same; “Stablely Unstable” as we called it. We were all exhausted; worn to the very core, emotionally and physically. We were in what felt like a constant uphill battle for the life we so tenderly devoted our days to.  Sometimes I felt like God was just using Petra to test my strength,, and observe my level of perseverance…

With weary hearts and bodies, one again we continued. 

We kept fighting. We kept praying. Daily lifting this precious child up to the throne of our Heavenly Father; the God of healing! We were even joined in the fight by hundreds around the world, interceding on behalf of a small child that they had never even met. If that’s not humbling I don’t know what is. 

Day in and day out worship music floated softly out the door of the clinic.  This might sound crazy, but that little girl seemed so sensitive to the Spirit.  She loved music, and would calm at the sound of soft prayers spoken aloud over her!

Sticky notes with scripture written on them started to appear on her bedposts. And then quickly began to grow in number. As we prayed, we wrote scripture. Literally covering her in the word of God; holding fast to its promises!


It started to get harder. I had given everything I had to this small child, and I was so weary. I cried out to God-out of desperation, and also pure exhaustion.  We were doing everything we possibly could, but there was very little improvement.  And always just when we felt we were making headway, she would take a major dive for the worse and then slowly (or sometimes not so slowly) she would climb back up again to her “stabley unstable” state of existence.

We were on a continual emotional roller coaster…

31 days after we began our journey with Petra, it was decided that we would transfer her to the large government hospital in Kampala, “Malogo”.  I for one was extremely uneasy about the situation, but it seemed like the only option we had left. In Malogo she would have the chance to be seen by medical professionals from all over Uganda, and there was that small possibility that someone would know more about her persisting condition.  

With Petra having been off oxygen for 2 days, we made our way back to Kampala with slightly more ease then the previous trip. She was quickly admitted, and from there was moved from ward to ward, being assessed by numerous Doctors. Still, no conclusive answers were found…  3 weeks later we were told to bring her back and continue her treatment plan from Masese.

That day as I pulled our SUV through the big red gate that marks the entrance of Serving His Children…Petra and mom beside me.  As I parked and turned of the engine my eyes wandered over to Mamma Petra… Her smile reached all the way into her big brown eyes again.  She was “home”. Her baby was alive.  Her heart was full.

There was a joyous eruption that took place when Mamma Petra emerged from the car! The same community of people who had so faithfully stood beside this mother during times of great despair were now full of joy!! The very ladies who had sat beside, prayed for, and wept with her now leaped with gladness.  The same audience who watched her hope every morning that God would give her just one more day with her child, they were now welcoming her back with great excitement! Smiles were spread wide as the celebration continued!

And the rest, well it's history...

Petra and her Mom stayed with us for only another 2 weeks before it was determined that she was fit to return home! We could all hardly believe what we had seen. What we had witnessed.  We have only to praise!

The evidence of miracles!


It’s been almost 4 weeks since we waved goodbye and watched Petra and her parents walk back out through that very same red gate, discharge paper in hand. And I have to say; my mind still doesn’t fully comprehend what transpired in those months. I sit here at my kitchen table and think back on all the moments of fear, confusion, and fatigue that often marked the path of Petra’s days here. I would sit up all night on a stool till my back aced, praying for God's favor. But above those things, I remember the peace that was ever present in my heart. I flip through her rather large file and hold back tears. I see the bed that was once hers. Now empty...but only empty in the physical sense. Still filled on all sides with little colored paper squares. Scriptures written. Promises made. 
  

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful"

A promise held true!






Sunday, June 3, 2012


Taste and see that the Lord is GOOD!






  Fiona



Jonathan             


Reagan


Friday
Sarah


Sillman


Katoya

Patricia

Mary                                                                                  
Shakira

Adrine

Monday, May 14, 2012

We need your help.


It was 2am. Not too long after I had actually gone to bed, when I opened my eyes to see one of our night workers standing over my bed…. I jumped so high that I might have scared her more then she actually startled me.  She said, “Auntie Renee, the nurse is calling you. She says you come fast.” I grabbed a sweatshirt and sprinted down the stairs.  As I came down the last step I heard commotion coming from one of the bedrooms down the hall; I headed that way. When I entered the brightly painted blue room I saw that all the mattresses had been moved from their positions on the floor where Mom’s sleep next to baby cribs, and they were now upright against the walls.  All the ladies who had been sleeping just hours ago were now standing around the room wearing worried looks on their faces.  At the back of the room our night nurse stood over a bed. I weaved through the crowd of Moms and hurried to her side.

She began to explain that the child lying in front of me had taken a turn for the worse.  The child who had gone to bed with little reason for concern was now laying in her crib with a very large abdomen, and I mean VERY large.  She was unresponsive with a low pulse…  We needed a Doctor, and we needed one now!

And there we stood. With no Doctor.

What I was guessing to be some kind of an abdominal obstruction needed an ultrasound and a Doctor.  The likelihood of finding either of those things in the middle of the night is slim where I live, if not impossible. Though we had no option but to try.  So as I ran out of the room I shouted back “Get them ready to go please, we leave in 2 minutes.” Our nurse started preparing the baby and mom for transport, and I began grabbing what we needed from the clinic and around the house… 3 minutes later we loaded ourselves into the car and drove out through our big red gate.

Headed for where? I really had no idea, our options were limited, but as I drove down the bumpy dirt road I began racking my brain…. We really did only have 2 options;  try a private clinic where we would probably find a Doctor, though one who would likely not be able to help with the problem at hand, or the government hospital where we would probably be sent from the private clinic anyway though with little hope of finding a Doctor there at all.  As I drove, I prayed. Hard. “Lord guide us! Give me wisdom! Help us find a doctor.” And God sure guided me because before I even knew what I was doing we pulled into the government children’s hospital…

I parked the car in front of the dark, vacant looking building, jumped out quickly and gathered up the bundle of blankets that engulfed our small friend. Trying to speak reassuring words to a very frightened mother, we ran to the entrance. But when I pulled on the handle of the big door in front of us, it didn’t budge. It was locked. We ran to the back where another large door stood open. As we entered it became even darker... Although I know the halls of this hospital like the back of my hand, during the night the floors are full of sleeping people. I carefully balanced the fragile bundle I carried in my arms while fishing around a pocket for my phone; I wanted to illuminate the path so we could avoid tripping over and disturbing the sea of sleeping people laying before us.

As we weaved in, out and around sleeping patients some would look up and give a strange look, as if they were unsure weather they were dreaming, or if a barefoot white woman caring a baby really just did walk by… yes, sometimes I forget my shoes.

Finally we made it to the little room with a sign above the door that read “Emergency”.  As we walked through that doorway I prayed with everything in me that we would just by some miraculous change find a Doctor.  But no, not that night; just a room full of sick children. Not even a nurse in sight. The only working oxygen concentrator was sounding its alarm, attempting to alert someone of a problem. But no one was there…

I started to panic. What were we going to do? This was it. This was our only option and there was not even a bed for the baby I held in my arms.  But in that moment, I felt like I heard a voice saying, “Do not fear. Be not afraid.” Fear doesn't often get me far so I took a deep breath and looked around once more…. And as I looked my heart settled. My mind slipped out of panic mode and I took a deep breath.  Everything was still the same. The louder than loud alarm was still going off, no nurse had suddenly appeared, and the baby girl I was holding was still slowly slipping away. But I looked at the situation with new prospective…with new determination. 

The table where they do examinations was wide open so I got our little friend situated, left our nurse to watch her (as well as check on the malfunctioning oxygen situation), and headed back out into the dark hall….in search of someone, anyone who could help us.

After knocking on just about every door in the hospital I found a nurse! She promised to call a Doctor and then disappeared again. I made my way back to the ER and watched. Waited. Prayed! And for almost the next three hours the child in my arms continued to drift away and the doctor never came…

This story, sadly, is a familiar one.  A scenario that is played out for many sick children that God sends into our care.  It is a terrifying and heart wrenching experience for mothers who have sought refuge and help in our home.  As well as frustrating for me as I seek medical expertise beyond my own in a world where it is often just not available.  This story and others like it would be different if we had a Doctor...

God has blessed Serving His Children with an amazing staff, including 3 full time Ugandan nurses and medical equipment that is not even often available in local hospitals.  Still, without the skill of a doctor on staff, we often find ourselves leaving the comforts and equipment in our own clinic for the hope of finding a doctor. All the while small lives literally slowly slip away. 

We need a doctor!!  Plain and simple. A doctor who can be there in emergencies, give direction to our nursing staff, and provide an in-house diagnosis for the many complications that come with severe malnutrition.  A doctor who can come along side of us as we strive to save the lives of children that face the horrible reality of malnutrition.  A doctor who shares our passion for serving the Lord and who will pray through crisis and show the great compassion of Jesus to hurting and frightened families! 

So my question to you: Will you help us meet this huge need?  Our current and greatest need is to hire a Ugandan doctor.  The second is to hire a Nutritionist.  These two positions will help us to save more lives and relieve significant amounts of stress for our staff.  The cost of a year’s salary for a Ugandan Doctor is $15,000 and $7,000 for a Ugandan Nutritionist.  $22,000 is a lot of money, but it can change and save a whole lot of lives – will you help? Our goal is to start interviewing for both a doctor and a nutritionist by June 15th.  I know that’s soon, but I’m moving towards that date with total trust that God will provide exactly what is needed, at just the right moment!!!  

If you would like to join our team by helping us to hire these crucial professionals, please make a donation either by mailing a check or using our online payment program, and note “Doctor/Nutritionist Salary”

Thank you for praying! Thank you for giving! Thank you for helping us to break the cycle of malnutrition one life at a time!




Wednesday, April 18, 2012

“My favorite color is purple! When I was a little girl I had a purple dress!” She said. “Next time can you make my finger nails to be purple?” She struggled to push out each word; just that one sentence left her exhausted. She looked over at me from where she lay. Breathless. But I was unable to look back at the woman stretched out in front of me. My eyes quickly found the tiled floor where I sat. I wanted to hide the stream of tears that was now freely flowing. She asked again. “Mamma Selah, please?” I looked up into her big brown eyes that were sunken deep into her beautiful brown face and said, “Of course we can!” And just as she used everything in her to form those few words it took everything in me to smile. But my smile only went as far as my lips because inside I know that there would not be a next time…

On that warm December night our home was very quiet. It was December 25th. Christmas night. I had come home early from dinner with some of the best friends anyone could ever ask for. I was filled with good food and encouragement as I made my way back to a practically empty and dark malnutrition center. Our big brick house that’s normally ever booming with people, noise, and light was strangely still. This night as I opened the squeaky front door and I stepped into the house I could hear only the crickets outside, and the hum of a refrigerator...but as I moved into the stillness there were faint voices heard in the distance. In the darkness there was light streaming from one small yellow room. I closed the door and made my way through the house, my footsteps echoing in the empty hall, toward the soft voices where 2 ladies that are very near to my heart met me with smiles…

I relieved one of our workers who had come to sit with our only remaining patient, Lydia a 23 year old mother of 3 who had become a dear friend of mine.

For weeks we had been preparing children who were enrolled in our program for discharge-we had pretty much cleared the center out. So by the time Christmas morning came we only had 2 children remaining at our house. Well, one child and one adult. They were both unable to go home because they were in such a severe, advanced state of malnutrition. They both required 24-hour a day care so as others left for home, they remained…

Lydia had lived in our community since before I ever moved to Masese. Over the past few years I have gone through a lot with this sweet friend. We used to buy bananas for feeding program from her. Her oldest son, Allafat was enrolled into our program for 2 months back in 2009. He is now fat and healthy and we see him at our gate and running around near our house almost daily! I sat with her in her empty house after she delivered stillborn twins. I picked her up off the dirt floor and attempted to offer comfort, to tell her that it would be ok even though I knew nothing about losing the life that’s been growing inside of you is just ok. I tested her for HIV and took her to start on ARV treatment when the result was positive. She stayed at my house after her husband forced her out and refused to allow her to see their children. I walked to their house everyday for a week trying to convince him to change his mind. I was there when she delivered a happy, healthy baby girl! I looked in horror as I was told that my friend was dying of anemia because there was no blood. I drove like a mad woman to a small Catholic hospital in the middle of a sugar cane field because they had one unit of blood. I went to the hospital every day with food and literally watched her come back life over the course of a week. I prayed with her every day. Everyday. I sat in the lab with her as she told me that she wanted to know Jesus in her own heart!!! And then she moved to “the village” to stay with her family for a while….

6 months later I got a phone call from her brother who said that Lydia was very sick, so the next morning we went to visit. I don’t think there was a whole lot that could have prepared us for what we would see…

Standing before us was the same woman I’ve always known; when I looked into her eyes I saw little difference but as I looked at her physical body I didn’t see the friend I’d grown to know and love. I saw a frail, thin, tired, very sick woman. My heart broke. I tried not to show the shock I was feeling on my face. When we moved Lydia into our house the next day she weighed a meager 53 pounds. 53.

For days we forced her to take her medicine, eat and drink. It was a constant battle; she had seemingly lost all desire to live. She refused to take the medication that was her only chance at life. We tried and tried. She was counseled, prayed with, prayed over, and over and over again. But as the days passed she continued to grow weaker. She lost the strength to walk, and then even to sit on her own. We were told that there was nothing more we could do. So we just did all we knew. Pray without ceasing, and love unconditionally.

So Christmas day… There we sat, two people, broken and hurting. For different reasons that seemingly felt very much the same. Two people from opposite worlds who had yet been brought together by the God who created us both.

Two people at a loss for words, or was it just that we were unable to speak them…

Earlier that day the other baby girl who had remained, died. She fought so hard but her fragile body just could fight no more. She was in so much pain. God decided to take her to be with him; I know there was a celebration in Heaven as she made her way through those big golden gates!

So there we were at the end of the day, Lydia’s hand in mine. It’s hard to say whether I was holding her hand, or if she was really holding mine. I guess it’s safe to say that we were comforting each other in the silence of those few moments. It was then that I noticed her long beautiful fingers... So much of her body had been overtaken, consumed by her sickness. She was scarcely recognizable. But her hands. And her feet. They remained the same. Almost untouched! I rushed upstairs and dug through my bathroom. After finding what I was in search of I ran back down. She lay still in bed, just the way I left her-her skeletal figure almost invisible underneath a single sheet.

I sat down near her and spoke softly. “Would you like me to paint your finger nails?” She slowly opened her eyes and barely nodded in response.

I picked up one of her limp hands and started to change her dull nails into a bright shade of red! I painted each fingernail slowly, with care. Praying healing over her body. Praying for God to restore strength. To renew what had been lost… To give her the opportunity to use her hands for His glory; to allow her the privilege of holding her baby girl again, even just once more…so that the next time I could paint her fingers purple… because purple was her favorite!

The next day God decided it was time to restore Lydia, to make her completely whole by taking her to be with Him. It was sad to say goodbye. But I know I’ll see her again, dancing in heaven, clothed in many shades of purple!