Thursday, March 15, 2012

Food for Thought

Our translator, Philip, informed me today that people are down to eating one meal per day. This is probably not true for all families in Timu, but it is true for some. We are in the middle of dry season and the stores of food are running low. The beans are long gone, the pumpkins are gone, everything fresh from the gardens is gone...and even the wild plants are dead and dying. So what are the Ik eating? Maize...lots and lots of maize. Imagine if that was the only food in your diet. For those who eat breakfast, they grind the dry maize the night before to make a maize flour. The next morning, they make porridge with this flour. Some Ik have salt, most do not. Maize and water. That's it. There is no lunch except for the children at the school. Guess what they get? Maize! For all you mom's out there...when your children complain about what they have to eat for lunch...just show them this picture and remind them of all they have to be thankful for. Dry season will hang around for a few more months and when rainy season begins, the produce won't be ready for a few more months after that. Until then, it's maize. Philip also told me today that people wouldn't be able to live on this land if it weren't for the World Food Program (WFP) distributing bags of maize to them. The land just cannot sustain people for 365 days. What would they do if they weren't getting food distributions? They would move and find land that could sustain them or settle where NGO's would feed them regularly. Is it any wonder that Africa is so dependent on the western world? We give them solutions that are not sustainable for the long-run and that only save them for a day, not a lifetime.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

It's a girl!

So there I was, sitting in our new office building at 10am. Many Ik had come for medicine this morning. I was in the middle of changing a dressing on the wounded arm of a 10-year old girl. My translator had just told me 10 minutes prior that a woman was complaining of pain outside. I handed him 2 Tylenol and said I'd see her as soon as her number came up (we see patients on a number system). I had walked past this woman a little earlier and noticed that her head was down as if uncomfortable but she was not writhing or screaming in pain so I thought she'd be fine. Now it's 10am and I hear activity outside my window. My translator tells me to come quickly. I get outside in time to see a baby being delivered. It's tiny body had just been caught by a neighbor and friend of the woman and the woman was pushing the placenta out. I ran inside to get a scissors to cut the cord and a string to tie it. We got a basin of water and soap so that the baby and mother could be washed. The mother never uttered a cry as she calmly and quickly delivered this baby. My translator did not even know she was pregnant. He thought she looked 'satisfied' as if she'd just eaten a big meal. Minutes later, out comes a perfect 5 lb. baby. I cut and tied the cord while the child was wrapped in a dirty piece of cloth. (I'll have to remember to keep some spare clean towels on hand in the clinic in case this happens again.) One new ritual I noticed was that after the cord was cut, a neighbor dipped her finger in the cord blood and dabbed the blood on both the temples of the child and the temples of the mother. I don't know the significance of this act yet but I will ask our translator it's meaning soon. I went inside to get some fresh water for the mother and by the time I'd come out, the placenta was safely buried by neighbors and all evidence that a birth had taken place was covered up by fresh dirt. They didn't leave a trace of what had happened at that very spot. This was the first child born at the clinic. A healthy baby girl.

As Terrill & I walked home this afternoon, we contemplated why giving birth in the U.S. is so much more dramatic and traumatic. We don't ever hear birth stories where the mother calmly delivers on the side of the road, cleans herself up and walks home. Do we westerners have a lower tolerance for pain? Or do these people have a higher tolerance? Are our bodies made differently somehow? Why does it seem so natural for some and so difficult for others? Is culture involved? I have no answers. But I do thank God that many Ik have no problem giving birth and can bounce right back from the experience. It seems like it's a gift to them from God since they don't have the same opportunities for health care and sanitation that we have in the west.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Fencing is not a sport

At least not the type of fencing that we're doing.

As many of you know, we've undertaken to renovate this old health center (below) in order to turn it into offices for ourselves. The clinic will operate out of the left side and the translation offices will operate out of the right side. When my parents visited in December, they helped us to start the tedious process of painting the entire building, inside and out. We painted enough in the translation offices so that we'd be able to use them even now. In a few weeks, a work team from one of our supporting churches in Atmore, Alabama will come to help us finish up the renovations, Lord-willing. In preparation for this time, we've been buying supplies and transporting them to Timu. One of the tasks we would like to accomplish this month is getting a security fence in place around the health center. Terrill wrote a few weeks ago about what it took to get poles from eucalyptus forest a couple hours' drive away. Below the poles are being unloaded at the office site.
Next the poles got varnished in hopes of protecting them from the elements.
And then Terrill did the tedious work of walking around the fence parameter and marking the ground where each of the 72 poles would go. Below is the very first pole to be put in place. Before putting it in the ground, we had to cover the end with old motor oil to help protect the wood from Timu's small termite population.
Terrill tried to line up the poles as best he could considering where we live and what resources we have available. His faithful companion, Luka, was at his side holding the tape measure. Every ten feet he'd mark the place for the next hole.
Once the ground was marked, several other Ik would follow behind and dig a two foot hole where the marker had been. They dig with pick-axes and metal rods as opposed to shovels. Since we've had no rain for a number of months, the ground is very hard.
Just yesterday, all the holes had been dug and the poles were set in place. We still need to go around and 'termite-proof' the poles before putting them permanently in the holes. The next step will be to attach the barbed-wire. This will be a job for the team. Please pray for the time we have with this work team. Pray for fellowship, fruitful activity and for blessings to flow not just into the building...but into the Ik community as well.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


It seems like every year we've lived in Timu (since fall of 2009), I've written about the fires. I hate to sound like a broken record, but fire has become such a huge part of life here. I mean, they start burning the grass during dry season and this burning can continue for weeks. Even as I type, a fire is blazing just 30 feet outside our fence. The Ik burn for many reasons, like to clean up their gardens or to trap wild animals, but the most important is to save their villages from out-of-control fires. If they can make a firebreak between their homes and any other fires that might start blowing their way, they will save their homes.

What is it like to live with fires all around us and people burning the land every day? The air is thick with the acrid smell of smoke. Plumes of white go up from the land in all directions, sometimes turning the sky a hazy yellow color. Pieces of ash float upon the breeze, settling all over our things. It's in my hair, on my clothes and being blown out of my sinuses on a regular basis. The crackling sound of the fire gets louder and softer with the strength of the wind blowing the fire in different directions. The cries of the Ik also get louder and softer as they fight the fires and try to maintain control over them. So far, they've done well and have proved to be excellent firefighters. There are times when a fire will get out of control and kill a person. When that happens, the guilty party will pay some sort of fine according to the will of the community.
And when the fires have died down, we walk our normal paths, and our feet get covered with blackness. To illustrate, here's a picture of Terrill's feet covered in soot after walking through the 'bush' with some friends while hunting.
When it's all said and done, the land is burnt and blackened. Although it seems like a morbid process, we know this is necessary for the new life that will surely emerge. It's the cycle of life, after all. Harsh at times, but beautiful.