I've struggled with how to even begin to write this post. I just returned from two months of leading teams in Ethiopia and spending some of the sweetest time with my entire family there together. I have many amazing, life changing, blog posts to write but there is this day, along a roadside in Ethiopia, that has weighed on my heart and in my mind more than anything else.
It is an experience that I will never forget!
There is simply only one word.
We drove up on it and looked it in the face and on the faces of all those that were around us.
Myself, my son, and the director of KVI (Kingdom Vision International), and a nanny and 3 orphaned babies were about 5 hours into the countryside of Ethiopia. I was super excited to be joining alongside KVI to help them launch a foster care program in my son's village in the south! Never before have we seen such an interest in a local church to step up for orphans through foster care. 42 families from one local church deep in the south were getting ready to come to our meeting for more info on how to care for orphans in their own community. This small church put some of our American churches to shame. We were returning 3 orphaned babies back to their home village as some of the first to be placed into these homes.
Anyway, this is another entire blog post to come about this new program.
We were driving down the long, endless, bumpy road, almost to the city, when I started noticing many people in the street just running in front of us!
They were all running to the same location which ended in a large pool of people that we drove right in the middle of and had to stop because they were blocking the road.
I was overcome by the loud wailing and moaning that was coming from this group of people. I immediately sensed that something was terribly wrong right about the time that, Eyob, the director, said, "this is not good."
People were laying in the road sobbing, crying, waving their hands up and down, burying their hands in their faces. I had never seen anything like it.
I was so scared to know what had happened. I sensed the worst.
Before I even knew what was going on, our car was suddenly surrounded by the villagers. Eyob got out of the car and they all surrounded him talking a million miles an hour in Amharic. I had no clue what to expect as Eyob disappeared in the crowd. My son got out and talked to some people and translated that there was a child that had been hit by a car and they were asking us to take her to the hospital. What??
Some were arguing that she was dead and there was no point to take her and some were yelling that she was alive and that we HAD to take her! My heart was racing and sick as I suddenly realized there was a hurt child in the sea of all those people!
Eyob came over to my window and told me that they wanted us to take her. I immediately reached in the back that was crammed to the ceiling with stuff and grabbed this blanket that we had brought.
You see, before we left on our journey, my son came down with a giant blanket and pillows for the roadtrip. I told him that we probably didn't need that big blanket because it would take up so much room but he insisted that we would need it for sleeping later so I agreed and he brought it.
I handed the blanket out the window and all three babies to the nanny in the front seat because there was nowhere else to put them.
I was alone for a split second in the backseat. It seemed as fast as I had handed the blanket out the window, the next thing I knew was they were handing me this blanket with a body wrapped in it and placed it on my lap. My mind was a little freaked out about what I was about to witness. As soon as I took the child, the mother, who was hysterical, climbed in right beside me and then the mother's father (the child's grandfather) sat beside her. There was no room left for my son to fit in the backseat and we needed to leave so I opened my door and raised up enough for him to sit under me and I sat on his lap with the child laid across me and the mother.
With all three babies and the nanny and director in the front and all 5 of us in the back we drove away from that awful scene, leaving all these many heartsick people, watching us and crying in the distance.
What I experienced next is what I can't erase from my mind.
As I pulled the blanket back I saw the MOST beautiful little girl that looked to be about 5 or 6 years old. I immediately noticed that she was gasping for breath so I turned her on her side and patted her back. It at least gave me hope that she was still alive. She had a gash in her head unlike anything I had ever seen so I pulled her head wrap across it and tried to apply pressure to slow the bleeding. In the meantime I am trying to comfort the mother who just keeps crying and repeating things in her language. The father just sits silent, occasionally looking at the child. The mother pulled back the blanket to look at the child and then just silently pulled the head wrap further over the wound in an attempt to cover it.
This was the most god-awful experience and I had no clue what to do except just pray for this little girl repeatedly without ceasing until we reached the hospital. All I could even pray was just
"Jesus be her breath, Jesus be her life right now....just be with her....PLEASE!"
I looked at this mother and could not imagine what she was going through in that moment. I know people who have lost a child in this way and I have heard about others but to be this close to it and try to imagine what this mother was feeling was just too much for my heart!
I kept putting my hand in front of the little girl's mouth and felt that she was still breathing. I just kept telling them to "hurry, she is still breathing!"
We arrived at a christian hospital and immediately took her into the emergency side. We were greeted by a Dr that Eyob happened to know and they took the child and laid her and the blanket on the table. I was again thankful for that blanket in that moment because I didn't want her little body to lay on that cold, hard table. I was never so thankful to see Dr's in my life. Although the equipment that they were hooking her up to looked like a standard helium tank, it started beeping and showing signs that she was alive.
The mother and her father just stood helpless beside the bed and watched....
We all just watched....and prayed.
When we knew that she was in good hands we decided it was time to leave. At that time they were doing an ultrasound and talking about having to take her for surgery.
My heart was so heavy! I will never forget being so close, holding her sweet face in my hands as I felt her breath brush across my fingers, thanking God for each warm breath, and praying they would continue.
I walked over and hugged the mother and had them tell her I would be praying for them all. Even in her grief, she was very appreciative of our help. She told us that the little girl's name was Tseganesh, which means "Mercy". All I could think was how bad she needed God's mercy in this moment.
And that was it! We just had to leave!
As I went to open the car door I looked down and noticed the blood that was on my hands and arms, and my shirt. The nanny handed me the baby wipes from inside the car and I just cried as I wiped it all off of me. I just kept thinking, "What in the world just happened?" It was such a whirlwind.
We returned two days later to check on sweet little Mercy and we walked all through the halls asking everyone where she was and no one knew. My heart was sinking.
We finally found someone who told us that she did not make it. Little Mercy had passed away.
I just couldn't believe it! I just knew that God would spare her life and that the reason we found her was to save her life. But that wasn't the case.
I'm still puzzled by all of it.
All I know is that sometimes we are simply called to be the hands and feet of God to show love and support in that very moment, regardless of the outcome. I feel this way often in Africa when I walk into situations that seem too much to fix and all I can do is just show love and pray.
You see, God did ultimately heal her, but just not the way that we expected. God knew the extent of her injuries and what she would have had to endure so he called that sweet little Mercy home to be with Him.
All I can do is trust His plan and know that He did use us that day. We were driving on another route and last minute turned down that road to take a short cut. He put us there in that moment to show up to help in a situation that must have seemed helpless for this mother who was watching her child that was laying, bleeding on the concrete. We picked her up, wrapped her in a warm blanket, showed comfort, love, prayers, and support, for her and her sweet child in some of her last moments. Although I don't feel like we did much of anything that anyone else would have done in that situation, I take comfort in knowing that they didn't feel alone. Any of us would want that comfort of knowing that God is with us in our last moments on this earth and our greatest time of need as we cry out for Him.
He works in many mysterious ways.
The healing part is up to Him and He chose His way, not ours.
I post this definition of a hero because it has never seemed more accurate for such an ordinary person on a day's journey. I was riding along on an Ordinary Hero mission with 3 babies to try to place them in foster care in the countryside of Ethiopia.
I found myself at the blink of an eye facing overwhelming obstacles.
All you can do is find strength from God....
in spite of it!
That doesn't make me a hero.
It makes me ordinary.
There is one Hero in this story.
Her name is Mercy!
She has faced her overwhelming obstacles...
She persevered and endured...
and now has found NEW STRENGTH, as all of heaven rejoices at her homecoming!
What a sweet angel that I had the privilege of praying for!