December 21 here in the Phils. I am in the midst of raising the LAST set of clinic fees due February 1. Pray about being one of the 196 people I need to donate just $25 each.
I wrote the following short story for a short module class we had a few months ago. It is based on my experience in the Philippines back in the summer of 2010--and it is the reason I am here today, doing what I am doing. Hope you enjoy looking at the faithfulness of Christ in my life! I know it was such a sweet reminder for my heart, too. (Names and some little details were changed a bit for the sake of my class assignment.)
Hot. Sweaty. Exhausted. The Philippine heat had no mercy on its prey, especially after a 5-kilometer hike in the mountains. At last, they arrived. After climbing the rickety stairs to a villager’s home, each wisely selected a place to sit, praying that the weak bamboo slates would not break beneath the weight of their comparably large Westerner bodies. The three needed some time to cool-off. Lucky for them, culture is kind to afford many resting periods throughout the day, as well as frequent visits to the small sari-sari stores for something cold. Sure enough, within ten minutes, cold orange soda and Skyflake saltine crackers were served.
Words were exchanged between the family and the group’s translator. They had come to do a Bible study. These people were new believers. The two young foreigners nodded and smiled politely, completely oblivious to the conversation. One of the foreigners, Carl, signaled to the translator that it was time to begin the lesson. As the family gathered, a little girl came running to the porch, shouting frantically. The cry was translated to the two foreigners. A woman in a nearby home was in labor and she needed help. In a split second, the whole group, including a large group of neighborhood kids, had vacated the porch, quickly slipped on their shoes, and were running a kilometer down the rocky road to the laboring woman’s home. Hot and sweaty again, the group arrived, with both foreigners bringing up the rear. Shoes were quickly slipped off again and they entered into the home, this time with a little less caution than before. As they came into the small home, which was a small open room, they saw a sheet hung from one wall to the other, behind it which laid the laboring woman. Carl was quickly shooed outside on the porch, leaving the American girl--Ruth, her translator, and the woman from their Bible study to attend to the need. They approached the curtain, and slipped behind it. Immediately they fell to their knees, as they saw the baby lying on the risen bamboo floor, with a tightly wrapped umbilical cord around its neck. There was no time to think of the bag of supplies left at the first house. The Filipina translator reached down, swooped the baby into her arms, and unraveled the cord. Without delay, the baby began to cry. The girls breathed sighs of relief. Crying was a good sign. The mother seemed to be doing all right. She was conscious and talking, curious if her baby was okay. They girls looked around, noticing that the afterbirth had already been expelled and was attached to the other end of that raveled cord. “What in the world do we do with this?” thought the young American girl. She scooted closer to her translator, hoping for some kind of instructions for what came next. “We need to cut the cord,” she said, understanding the lost look in her companion’s eyes. “Do you have scissors?”
From the shadows stepped the father of the baby. He replied a short sentence in the local language and immediately sent the herd of children from the outside porch to a neighbor’s for some scissors. Meanwhile, the father was instructed to boil water in preparation for cleaning the scissors and for a bath for the baby.
As the group waited for supplies to come, Ruth became squeamishly aware that her bare hands had been exposed to blood—a huge ‘no-no’ in any medical situation. Seemingly unaware of the potential hazard, the Filipina translator picked up the placenta, cupped it in both her hands, and motioned for Ruth to examine it. “See how the bloody patches just rip apart? That means the placenta isn’t so healthy.” She went on to point out small white lumps present amidst the fleshy tissue.
“How do you know all of these things?” Ruth whispered
“I took first Sem in midwifery,” she replied matter-of-factly.
“Well at least that is one semester of something useful,” Ruth pondered, as she thought of her own courses in basic university studies.
Noise from approaching children could now be heard. Scissors and hopefully some more help would be arriving. In came an older lady from a nearby house, followed by one of the baby’s older siblings, waving a pair of yellow-handled school scissors. Her father grabbed the scissors quickly and stuck them in the plastic basin full of boiling water. They remained there for a few minutes, as chatter got louder and louder with the foreign conversation of the new woman, the team’s translator, and the woman who had just given birth.
Everything was immediately so foreign. “Is this really happening?” thought Ruth. “My hands are covered in blood, I’m holding a newborn baby, and I can’t interpret any of the talking ringing in my ears.”
Now the women were motioning for Ruth to cut the cord with the clean scissors. A woman tied a boiled string tight around the cord, and Ruth cut her first umbilical cord. With this sudden boost of confidence, she followed each motioned instruction to care for the baby, giving him (Yes it was a boy!) a bath, putting his clothes on, and wrapping him in white blankets made from old flour sacks. Once she looked back, the new mom was sitting up, with a considerable amount of baby powder on her face as a measure to absorb sweat. Ruth passed the baby to his mother. The two made a wonderful pair.
The afternoon carried on as normal in that village nested high in the mountains. But for Ruth, nothing would be normal for her again. It was the beginning of something very abnormal, but very wonderful. She thought often of that day. She hadn’t had any training. She hadn’t even had a clue what she had just done. But to everyone there, she had been a great help. She had been an assistant to her Filipina companion. She had been there for the baby. She had been there ‘with-woman.’