Sunday, August 29, 2010

God's Gift of Hope

Her story does not end but this story must. Ana has become a person of determination and purpose. In Jr. High she set a school track record in the 70m and 100m sprints. Her High school track accomplishments include go to the state finals with her relay team 3 years in a row. Two of her greatest accomplishment have been, Member of the National Honor Society, Detroit Free Press Honorable Mention All State Basketball Player, Point Guard.

As her father I have the greatest blessing in watching her prepare to impact the world. Her studies are preparing her to make a difference in the lives and living conditions of the worlds neediest peoples. Through long nights of praying and yes, crying, God has given us His gift. Today we live in a society where life seems so cheap, so disposable, so inconvenient at times. God help us to see life the way He does.

If you would like to know more about her story contact me through my email address, I can try and make an audio version of my pending book available. There is so much more to the story. Family tragedy and the near death of Hilary will lead us, me, through some very dark times. God has a plan for all of us and His plan is being worked out in my life.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Friday, August 27, 2010

God's Gift of Hope

We hadn't been in the city very long when we planned another trip to Chavuna-Chinjawa. This time our trip would be a little more serious. We were taking with us a representative of the Child Welfare Department. We had met with him and needed his advice about approaching the family about our love and desire to adopt Ana. He told us that in many rural areas adoption was unheard of. He agreed to go with us and help explain it to the family.

We picked him up in the city of Mazabuka and headed to the village. He knew at this point that Ana's father had only given us permission to care for her until her first birthday, which was only a few weeks away. We arrived at the village with the usual excitement from the children. We unloaded the food items and greeted everyone in the traditional way. When Mr. Colomo introduced himself and who he represented a look of puzzlement was evident. We sat down around the fire pit and small talk, and talk about Ana and how she was doing lasted for a few minutes.

Sensing the spirit of the family members gathered with us I brought up the subject of loving Ana. Both Donna and I expressed to them how much of a part of us she was. The elderly women of the village were remarking that it was easy to see that we loved her and she was " a bit OK". That meant that her progress was easy to see. As this conversation was going on Mr. Colomo would interpret, not only the words but the nuances of the conversation. Having prayed about this trip for some time the moment was at hand to talk about adoption.

Donna was talking to the women about how Ana was responding to the good food and medical attention. The women, almost in unison, told us that if Ana was in the village she would face troubles and problems. At this point Mr. Colomo brought up the point that Ana was doing well because of the way she was loved and that he was sure the family wanted her to continue to be OK. They all agreed and then he talked about the word adoption and that we wanted to bring Ana into our family as one of our children.

There was a fair amount of misunderstanding among the family members. We explained that Ana would be one of our children and she would have all of the blessings of good food, clean water and medical care. That made a little more sense to the women and I could see a little more understanding on their part. As we thought we were making progress our discussions took a sudden turn. Dominic, Ana's father, reminded us that he agreed to have us care for her until she was one and her birth date was coming. He said that because we loved her and she was better we could care for her until she was two and then he would come and get her.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

God's Gift of Hope

Hilary's first visit to the Chavuna-Chinjawa area had a tremendous impact. On our way back to the station she cried because the conditions were so bad and Ana's half brother and sister were so sick. We told her that each time we were able to go out to the village we would take food supplies out to them. That made her feel better for the remainder of the trip. Donna and I both knew the devastation that we would all deal with if little Ana had to go back to the village. Our prayers would need to be extra vigilant and we would need others to be praying for us. Donna told her mom and other people began praying for us.

In a week or so after that visit we made our move into the capital. Life was going to be very different for now on. Living in the city offered some luxuries that the bush did not, markets and some fresh vegetables. But, living in the city was also very dangerous. At night our living compound was closed down and twelve foot high steel gates were kept locked. It was pretty common to hear gunfire and sirens. When I traveled at night I never stopped at traffic lights or stop signs. Any body driving a newer vehicle was a target for heavily armed carjackers.

Ana continued to improve with the formula and now Donna was preparing her baby food. Fresh fruit, guava, mango and passion fruit were available and Donna used her blender to make the baby food. As she developed we noticed that her legs were bent to the extent that they appeared to be deformed. The doctors told us that due to the malnutrition she would probably have rickets, a condition that deforms bone growth. Even with that observation we were so happy that she was doing well. With her one year birthday approaching our love for her grew and our apprehension of the village grew as well.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

God's Gift of Hope

That rainy night when Ana came so close to death was to become a turning point in her struggle. We know that God in His mercy and love brought about a real miracle. This is not to say that everything was fine from that night on, on the contrary. We would face many more challenges with her as she developed. As Ana neared ten months old the family was being transferred into the capital city of Lusaka. i was given the responsibility of property development for the countries of Zambia and Malawi. We were looking forward to the move because all of us would be together as a family. You see, up to this point Marily had to live in the capital for school and was only able to come out to us every other weekend and when the weather permitted.

Before our move we decided to make another trip to Chavuna-Chinjawa. This time we were taking Hilary with us, she was so excited she could hardly contain it. It was all she talked about for a couple of days.This time we would not have to walk as a friend was going to go with us and he knew the bush like the back of his hand. So, we loaded up the truck and headed for another visit to the area of Ana's birth. The trip this time only took about three hours and was easy compared to the first time.

As the truck approached the village area the little children could hear us coming and were running around, laughing and pointing at the truck. Again, they were shouting "Magua, Magua".
We parked the truck and the entire family soon gathered around. Our friend Elvis came with us and he would interpret for us. As soon as the greetings were over and things seemed to settle we talked about Ana and how well she was doing. The older women of the village were talking among themselves about Ana and how much we must love her.

As we sat and talked the little children were coming up behind Hilary and trying to touch her hair. You see, Hilary had beautiful long blond hair and the children had never seen hair like that. When Donna figured out what they were doing she had the children sit next to Hilary and they ran their fingers trough her hair for a long time. They would touch her hair and giggle and touch it again. This trip we brought out some oranges for the children and Hilary showed them how to smile with an orange wedge in their mouth. It was a touching sight to watch Hilary and the children laugh and giggle at each other over somethig as simple as an orange.

We brought the oranges due to what we learned on our first visit. The children were doing very poor. One of Ana's half sisters had lost her hair due to malnutrition and her half brother was almost totally blind due to measels. We had decided that every trip we made we would bring out fruit if it was available and 90kg. bag of ground meal. There would be no corn in the village due to another drought.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

God's Gift of Hope

After a two hour walk we arrived in the area known as Chavuna-Chinjawa. There an extended family going back many generations lived and died. The Kalumbu family has lived in Chavuna-Chinjawa for almost one hundred years. As we approached the village of Ana's birth we were spotted by a couple of children. As soon as they saw me and Donna they began yelling, "Magoah, Magoah", which means white ones. The closer we got to the huts the little children ran and hid. I was getting used to the children running from me. When we first arrived the kids would run down the road screaming that I was a white monster. I guess at 6'4" and 220 pounds I looked like a giant.

We entered the village and all of the extended family members were there except Ana's maternal grandfather. He lived in his own village area. After a time of greetings, there is a traditional method of greeting, beginning with the eldest in the village, we sat down to talk. Donna was still carrying Ana in the chitanga and some of the women smiled when they saw Donna and Ana. I suppose it was a site they were not used to. In a matter of moments one of the elderly women came and took Ana from Donna. She held her up and smiled for all to see.

After a few minutes of sitting out in the open area between the huts we moved into a small almost open air hut. This is where the adults of the village sit to discuss things and the children know they are not allowed. Ana's father, Dominic, translated for us because in the village he was the only one to know English and our Tonga was limited to greetings and farewells. Before our trip to the village Donna and talked about the visit and what we wanted Ana's family to understand.

We felt very passionately about helping her family understand how much we loved her. If they could visualize how she was doing and know that she was eating everyday and getting the medical attention she needed, they would see the wisdom in allowing her to stay with us. Our visit lasted a couple of hours and on our way back to my truck Dominick took us by Ana's maternal grandfather. He was so happy to see her and his smile could have lit up a room. When we got ready to leave Donna asked if she could take a picture? You have to ask because some of the peoples believe you steal their spirit when you take a picture. He agreed and held Ana so proudly when the picture was taken. Our first trip to the Tonga land of Chavuna-Chinjawa was almost over.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Thank You

I want to divert from my posts about Ana just enough to express my appreciation to those who read my blog. As an infant writer nothing brings me greater satisfaction than knowing people are reading my thoughts and experiences shared through this medium. As a Believer in Christ and knowing God's call on my life I look at this blog as part of a communication ministry.

Thanks for giving my stuff a read and if you have a mind too would you tell your friends about the blog.

God's richest blessings be upon you and yours.

God's Gift of Hope

It didn't take long for the girls, Donna included, and I to know we needed to do some serious talking and praying as a family. With the prospect of Ana leaving us after her first birthday we were all pretty burdened and anxious. The idea of adopting Ana had not been talked about before. In fact if we thought about it, it was private. The thought of losing Ana, not necessarily to her father, but to the village, was very frightening. Most people will never understand what life in the Southern Province of Zambia can be like. There is no rain for eight months and the land becomes as hard as concrete. If the rains fail then the people die, it is that simple. There are no markets or grocery stores in the bush. The markets are miles and miles away.

With the certainty that we wanted adopt Ana we knew that the next step was to travel out to the Chavuna-Chinjawa area and visit her extended family. It would be no small task as it would take Donna and I most of an entire day to get there and back, even though it is only about fifty miles. With the decision made to visit her village I arranged for the day off and Donna, Ana and I headed off into the really unknown. We drove for two hours to the nearest town and then a two track that ended at the base of some really big boulders. We were stuck in the fact that we didn't know in what direction to start walking in. We were close to turning around and heading back.

As we sat in the truck a young man ventured our way, coming across an open field. He walked right up to the truck and greeted us in Tonga. After we explained to him what we wanted to do he told us that he could take us to the village. He told us it was about ten kilometers and we would have to leave the truck and walk. Donna put Ana in her chitangi and off we headed. For the most part we walked across barren ground with a few trees and an occasional trail. As we walked down a trail I noticed the young man looking into the trees. When we sat for a really needed break, needed by us not him, I asked him about looking into the trees. His reply was simple and to the point. In fact was so simple he used one word- snakes.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

God' Gift of Hope

Ana continued her battle and very gradually she got stronger. A short time after the rainy season ended a visitor came to our home, Ana's birth-father. He walked to the station to find the grave of his daughter. Once he got to the area around the station he learned that the child was still alive and that we were taking care of her. When he told me who he was I invited him in. After a short conversation he asked if he could see his child. I was feeling really anxious at this point because we had no legal standing should he decide to take her from us.

Donna went into the bedroom and brought Ana out to him. He held her on his lap for a few minutes and smiled the whole time. Donna took her back to the bedroom and came back out and sat next to me. We told him about her struggle to survive and how God had provided for her. We told him we thought the formula from South Africa was helping her to become strong. He told us that he could see how much we loved her and that the local people felt Ana was a special gift.

After a few minutes of conversation he thanked us for caring for her. As he was getting ready to leave he told us that he would like us to care for her until she was one year old and then he would come and take her back to the village. He left the house and after his parting words Donna began to weep. We both knew that if he took her back to the village any time in the next few years she would die. A little while later Hilary came in and we told her about the visit. After she and Donna cried a little more we knew we had a lot of praying to do. For our little Ana and for ourselves.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

God's Gift of Hope

Just before Christmas the Principal Nursing Officer brought Ana to our home. Some of the babies in the orphan nursery had died during the past week and the staff did not know why. They new how much Hilary and Donna loved Ana and how hard they worked to keep her alive. They thought it best to bring her to us and live with us. She had survived almost three months and needed every opportunity to become healthy. For the last month we had been buying infant formula from South Africa. It was very expensive and we had to buy it in the Zambian run store. The small amount of American funds we had was gladly used for the formula.

With Ana in the house I had more time with her and I must admit that my heart was very guarded. I thought a lot about Donna and Hilary and how they would deal with Ana's death. I didn't want to get to close so I kept up an emotional barrier. She was so weak and sickly looking that it was upsetting. She still only weighed a little over ten pounds. Her eyes seemed to bulge and I thought she could not focus her eyes very well.

The rains were coming to an end and I was due a few days off. We decided to travel into Zimbabwe and spend a weekend at a motel that serves families on missionary service. We arrived at the motel, after an hour at the border. The girls wanted to go swimming so we put on our swimsuits and walked to the pool. Donna had a tiny red striped bikini that she put on Ana. Well, we went swimming and all of my defenses crumbled as I held on to Ana and played in the water with her. In fact, I sensed a great love for the little fragile life I was holding in my arms.

Friday, August 20, 2010

God's Gift of Hope

The first time I saw Ana she was about one month old. I could hold her in one hand and she weighed about six pounds. My first impression was one of sorrow, sorrow for the conditions that so many thousands lived in. My next thoughts were those of pain. Pain that Donna and Hilary would face when little Ana died. How much pain would they be able to deal with as they loved the little lives struggling to stay alive. Each day the moaning and sorrow songs could be heard across the mission station.

With the rainy season approaching I was very busy, usually only home in the evening. Each evening Donna or Hilary would bring me up to date about Ana. Some evenings the update was good and other times it was troublesome. The diagnosis from the doctors pretty much stayed the same. If she survived she would face multiple problems. As the rains came my time at home was even less. My responsibilities were such that during the rainy season I was working pretty much 24-7 .

During the first rainy season Donna faced her darkest hours with Ana. For a period of hours Ana was suffering from seizures. In the rain Donna walked up to the hospital with Ana to talk with her Dutch friend. Dr. Analeese told Donna just to take her home and love her because she would probably not survive the night. When Donna got back home the seizures grew stronger and more frequent. Donna spent a couple of hours singing to and holding Ana. She said that as she sang and rocked little Ana she gave her back to God. She fell asleep in the chair not knowing if Ana would be alive in the morning.

I came in about three in the morning and found Donna asleep in the chair. Ana was cradled with her face in the crook of her arm. As I came close to Donna she awoke with a start and almost jumped from the chair. In an instant she tried to hand Ana to me. And when she did Ana began to stir and then cry. With tears streaming down her face Donna kept telling me, "She's alive, she's alive. That night was a turning point in the life of Ana Syoma, "God's Gift of Hope". Later Donna would tell me of the nights travails.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

God's Gift of Hope

When Ana arrived at the hospital she weighed less than four pounds. She really struggled the first days in the hospital and the doctors kept telling Donna that the baby will not live. Now, the doctors were not cruel or faithless. No, It is just that they had seen this situation hundreds of times and expected this time to be no different. Donna told Hilary of the new baby and Hilary began helping in Ana's care. Ana held on for the first week even though she was still very weak.

One of our friends, a doctor from Holland, did a very complete assessment of Ana. Her report was not very encouraging. The parasites were in her digestive system and unless they were killed they would multiply and kill her. A very strong medication would be given, when she was able to handle its potency. The malnutrition that killed her mother had left Ana with some serious difficulties. She faced the possibility of mental and learning impairments. Another issue would be her physical development. Most babies in Ana's condition suffer bone and muscle difficulties. All in all the report was troublesome. But, Donna and Hilary had decided that the little Tonga baby was going to live.

Donna loved taking care of the orphan babies. One baby, Baby Irene, that is what they called her, was dying of AIDS. She was six months old and weighed only about ten pounds. Donna knew that Baby Irene was nearing her end of earthly time and wanted to do something special for her. She brought her to the house for the weekend and she and Hilary spent time just holding her and singing and talking. On Sunday Hilary put a little green dress on her, the dress one of her favorite dolls wore. Baby Irene went to church looking like a princess. After church they took her back to the hospital. On Tuesday Baby Irene left her disease behind. Hilary gave her that little green dress to go to heaven in.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

God's Gift of Hope

Today Ana Syoma Galloway heads to Tanzania to encounter what could only be described as a "life change". Donna and I have prayed and waited for this day to come and though we can't be with her, we are.

Ana was never supposed to live. Her birth mother died during delivery of hemorrhaging, due to malnutrition. Ana was placed on the stomach of her deceased mother, to be buried with her. The Tonga people believe that a child that brings about the death of their mother must be evil and be buried as well. During the time the grave was being dug Ana's uncle came to the village, the moaning and sorrow songs drew him. Believing Ana to be a powerful spirit he wanted to keep the village safe from spirit troubles so he carried her for two days to the hospital where Donna was.

Arriving at the hospital he placed her into Donna's arms and told her the family last name and that the mother was dead. Ana was near death as having no water but a few dribbles of stagnant water. Her skin was turning ashen and death was coming. The attending doctor told Donna to set her aside and let "her slip away". Donna was not about to let any baby just slip away.

Very lovingly, like only a mother can do, Donna bathed Ana and put a clean diaper on her. The birth rag was the only covering she arrived in. Ana survived that first day though she seemed to get worse as the parasites in the water began to weaken her already fragile struggle to live.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tears in the Rain

As she stands close to me her face is wet and I can't tell the difference between the rain that has steadily fallen or the tears that have kept pace with emptied clouds.
Empty clouds, Empty, that is how I know she is feeling right now.
An empty vessel just waiting to be discarded, thrown into the dumpster as valueless as the belongings that are already in the landfill bound container.
She has tried to keep herself together now for three months, three months since the man she loved and pledged her life too left.
Left, with no talking, no discussion, no big fight, just arranged to have their children secreted away after all of us watched them play in their baseball game.
In the dumpster she pulls out a baby blanket, small and wet,
filled with memories of a newborn fast asleep.
She wishes she could cover her humiliation, she feels naked and exposed as neighbors
and passing cars take notice, some even colder than the rain,
asking if they can have some discarded item, an old dog kennel.
Children's school work, pictures from art class, more priceless than any
DaVinci or Rembrandt to this aching mother's heart.
She gathers them up and hugs them close to her breast, nobody but her father and sister can see her splintered and bleeding heart.
Garbage bag after garbage bag is thrown out to the road
as she watches it's seems like her life is tumbling like the thrown bags.
The truck is loaded with the gathered jewels of marriage and family,
wet, some ruined, we drive away so we can come back for more as the humiliation parade continues.
Finally, a man sworn to honesty and fairness arrives, reads a document,
the cold and deceitful heart is stopped, for a while.
When this day changes to the next everything she holds dear must be gone.
Gone, like her husband, her life, no, just moved to a place where she will begin again.
Begin again, she will, she comes from a family of strength and faith.
She will fight, will cry, again, again, until she thinks she has no tears
and then cry again.
As I stand next to her I see a beauty deep within that I never noticed
before the tears and the rain.