Today our super-bubbly, 5 year old daughter Zoey is running around gleefully shouting, “I can run! I can run!” whereas a couple days ago she was lying on our floor bleeding profusely and writhing in pain. Needless to say it has been an eventful few days between then and now so we thought we’d fill everyone in with the details…
On Wednesday night, Zoey and her brothers and sisters went to church next door to our house. After church, Zoey comes running home crying saying that she fell. After a few tears, a pack of cookies and a hug she was up running around in our yard with the neighborhood kids and dancing around with one of our new kittens muttering something about how “cute, cute, cute” it was.
When it was time for her to take a shower, she took off her clothes and showed me that her underwear were wet with blood. “Hey mom, what’s this?” she asked matter-of-factly. Me, being the not-so-great-with-blood parent called for Dave. He laid her down on the ground and started looking for a cut, but could not find one. Turns out the blood was coming from inside her vaginal area.
We tried to apply pressure, but could not get the bleeding to stop. And there was a lot of blood. After about 20 minutes we were feeling a bit panicky and decided to take her to a missionary doctor friend who lived with a neighboring people group. It was then that I started to wonder what we would do if the bleeding did not stop. Was she going to bleed to death? Dave left while I stayed home with Bonnie (home-school teacher and friend) and the rest of the kids. Dave could not get cell reception so Bonnie and I more-or-less sat there wondering what was happening.
In the meantime we started interviewing the rest of our kids about what had happened. All three of them explained that Zoey was sliding down a hill of sand by the church, legs spread, when she slid into a rock. Apparently this rock made a small tear just on the inside of her vagina. The question of sexual abuse entered our minds so we asked the kids if Zoey had left during church or was seen with any adults. They all said that she was there the whole time and never left their sight.
So, while these types of questions were being asked at home, Dave carried bleeding Zoey into the house of our missionary doctor friend who put a tarp down and laid Zoey on her own bed. The next hour was very traumatizing for all parties as they could not get the bleeding to stop. However, the doctor did reassure us that while it looked like a lot of blood, for that part of the body, it was not. She told us that Zoey would not bleed to death. What a relief. Dave was obligated to hold Zoey down while the doctor, Reda, examined Zoey unable to find the wound. She was forced to try to put cotton where she thought the wound might be and apply pressure. For a little 5 year old girl, the pain was intense and she broke her Daddy’s heart by crying out, “Daddy, make it stop!” “I wish this wasn’t happening!” “Please Daddy make it stop.”
Fortunately the bleeding finally slowed down and tired Zoey returned home with her Dad around 9PM. When she returned home she sat down on my lap and ate a bagel sandwich I had made for her and told me all about her “vagina.” She was perky and we breathed a sigh of relief that this was behind us. We also examined the pants that she had been wearing and found a whole where the rock/stick must have pierced through. We were grateful for that because it more-or-less confirmed the other kids’ stories and eliminated the possibility of sexual abuse.
But when she got off my lap, my dress was wet with her blood and we realized that this mini-crisis was not yet behind us. We laid her down in the living room and this time I held her down while Dave tried to apply pressure to get the bleeding to stop. After about 30 minutes there was blood everywhere and tired Zoey was writhing in pain. I was trying not to cry so I could comfort her. Dave was feeling helpless not knowing what to do.
So at about 11PM he went back to Reda’s house and decided to stay the night there. She was able to apply lots of pressure to the bleeding area and after an hour of intense pain for Zoey, the bleeding slowed and Zoey fell asleep. We were all sure that when Zoey woke up the next day, the bleeding would have stopped, but we were wrong. We were tremendously thankful that it has slowed down, but still she was a good amount of blood, especially when upright.
A doctor in a hospital on the other side of the country, Mbingo, said that the wound should heal on its own. So we waited a day. But the next day there was still blood. Because there was a pediatric surgeon visiting at the hospital in Mbingo until today, Sunday, we decided to drive there to have him take a look. So after a two-day drive, we reached Mbingo last night and had Zoey looked at. They put her under so they could open her up to see exactly what had happened. They found that there was a tear that would not have healed on its own so they put two stitches in and a couple minutes later, rolled sleeping Zoey out to us. They said that there were no fragments of rock or a stick and we were very thankful.
Today Zoey is up playing and giggling and we can kind of pick up the pieces, thank God for this outcome and start thinking about the phonology of the Bakoum language again.
Where Does this Leave Us?
When Jesus said that he would be with us to the ends of the earth, he meant it. He was there the entire time and how he showed us he was there was mainly through his Church. We had three different parties offer to connect us to pilots to come pick Zoey up and fly her to the hospital. I had friends that I called in the middle of the night. I had family members pray with me over the phone. I called our local pastor and told him that Zoey was hurt when the call suddenly dropped. By the time I called him back he was on a motor-cycle in the dead of night on his way to our house. My neighbor, Carol, practically wept with me and her husband came over to pray for us. Our entire local church came over. And Facebook exploded with concern for Zoey. Sometimes the enemy wants to tell us that we are alone out here, and this flies in the face of that lie. We are not alone.
And the Lord answers prayer. He hears his children and he answers. It is true that we do not exactly have a local ER out here, but our faith is in Jesus who, although he uses medicine, is not bound to it. We are thankful that Zoey did not bleed to death, we are thankful that he heard us.
And yet, I know that living right next door to me is a mother who has lost at least 3 children. This same mother has a girl living with her who has polio and is bent over with her face close to the ground, never to stand up straight, barring a miracle, in this life. On the other side of us there are three babies who are just now crawling. And so they crawl around in the dirt putting trash they find on the ground in their mouths. One of them is often sick. Their mothers hate it but what can they do?
And where do these mothers turn? Often to local healers that mix herbal medicines with traditional religious practices. Or to the local clinic that tells them they need to buy medicine that may or may not be what they need but is definitely outside of what they can afford. There are no helicopters coming for their children and they often just die.
It is staggering having been born into a country of such privilege and wealth to now live in a country of such poverty and despair. I did nothing to merit my citizenship as an American. I did not deserve loving parents, good schools, accesses to good medical care and faithful friends and yet I have been given all that and more. And now I live among people who have never seen running water, who go without food, and whose children die. I do not know exactly what to do with this except thank the Lord for his grace on my life and pray that he might use me to be a small instrument of grace in theirs.
Is it Worth It?
In many ways, ministering here is filled with joys that I would not have experienced if I had stayed in the States. But there are also instances like this where I feel the weight of what we have left behind. I am thankful for the outcome in this situation but it is a stark reminder that we have left access to good medical care which may at some point be very costly.
So is being here worth it?
A couple days ago I was grappling with this question when I ran across this verse:
"Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" (Matthew 10:37).
There is much that could be said about the sovereignty of God, the promise that God has every person's days numbered, the reality that America is not Heaven and so on. And yet, this verse was Jesus reminding me that our decision to come here honors him. So in a word, it’s not the people here that make it worth it or even the possibility of a translated Bible changing an entire people group. Instead it’s the joy of walking with and following Jesus that makes it all worth it, even in the face of potential great loss. Following Jesus has always been costly but He never leaves his children lacking.