Friday, March 30, 2012

Baby in the Bush

Our second day in the village of Asikuma was filled to the brim and I found myself spent by the time the sun set. I was hot, sweaty and dirty and my picky stomach was asking for something other than the usual hot rice and chicken waiting for dinner. So I decided instead to spend some time in our room, packing up all of our bags with what we would need for the next two days that would take us on long road trips to Kwahu and then to Larteh. I filled my tummy up on beef jerky and Doritos, took a faucet shower, and wrote in my journal. JJ wandered in the room with his eyes barely open, so before he crashed I gave him a bucket shower of which he giggled out loud the entire time and proclaimed “This is the awesomest shower I’ve ever had!” Once he was in his cozy pajamas he snuggled under his Oregon Ducks blanket right beneath the ice cold breeze coming from the air conditioner. And he was out for the count. Since I had finished up my packing and writing, but wasn’t sleepy tired yet, I decided to grab our deck of cards and head out to the gazebo to see if Jake was up for a game of rummy 500. I actually wrestled with myself a bit at this point, thinking that it was not very mindful for me to be going and playing a game of cards when I was here on this trip to be purposeful for the Kingdom of God. But I ended up deciding that the day was pretty much over, and that it was ok to relax for a few moments and enjoy the company of the love of my life. Little did we know, that God had ordained these very moments of Jake and I being in just the right place, at just the right time…..

As Jake and I were into about our 3rd hand of rummy, the hotel supervisor, ‘D’, and hotel owner’s wife, ‘M’, called Jake over to their table where they had been going over the accounting from the day. For 10 minutes they conversed over what seemed like something quite serious, and I wondered what was going on. Eventually the conversation was over and Jake returned to his seat. He looked at me and said, “You’re never going to believe what that was about.” He went on to describe that last night one of M’s friends was walking home in Asikuma after work when she heard a bunch of dogs barking and the unmistakable sound of a crying baby coming from the ‘bush’. [Here in Ghana, the ‘bush’ refers to remote areas of tall grasses/trees – kind of like a forest or wooded area would be in the U.S.] M’s friend followed the crying and found a newborn baby all bloody and a mess that had been abandoned in the grass. M’s friend followed the trail of blood and path of bent down weeds that led her back to a mud hut. Inside she found the mother of the newborn, who had given birth to the child. The mother said that she had abandoned the infant in the bush because she could not care for the child. M's friend then gave the newborn back to the mother. After M had explained all these details to Jake, she said, “Can your group help?”

In the orchestrating of events that only God could fashion, it just so happened that our in-country adoption social worker, Kofi, was going to be picking our group up at the hotel in the morning to take us to Kwahu. Jake had decided that it would be best if the birthmother of the infant could come to our hotel in the morning and meet with Kofi and M agreed.

I went to bed thinking of all the things that needed to fall into place for that meeting to happen. It was already late, and somehow someone needed to get word to the birthmother to come in the morning. And then of course, perhaps the bigger obstacle was that the birthmother actually needed to come to the meeting. My heart was in a spin of emotion as I wondered how often this happened here. At the same time I was rejoicing in my Savior who hears the cries of the afflicted and literally reaches out to save us - all of us – the Only One who has, and will continue to defeat and conquer death. I was in awe of how God so orchestrated all these details so that we would be here in Ghana, sitting out at that table in the restaurant, at the exact time that M was also there with the situation on her mind. I marveled at how God must have pulled at M’s heart to approach us and see if we could help. I closed my eyes, thanking God that we could help, and prayed that the birthmother would come in the morning.

The next day….

Our morning started early. At 6:30am we woke to a knock on the door and the hotel supervisor’s urgent voice, “Mr. Jake!” I rolled out of bed and opened the door to see D. “The woman we spoke of with the baby – she is here,” he said.

“Okay, someone will be right out,” I replied.

Jake flew out of bed, splashed some water on his face and was out the door. In about 10 minutes he was back. He said the mother had come with her newborn, along with the mother’s aunt. “The birthmother can’t be but 16 or 17 years old,” he said. The aunt had told Jake via a translator that she was furious that her niece had gotten pregnant again, as she – the aunt – was already taking care of her niece’s other son – a 2 year old boy who had also come with them. The aunt explained to Jake that they could not possibly care for the new baby long-term. My heart dropped as the details started to fit together. Jake asked them to come back at 9am when Kofi would be arriving, since Kofi would know how to handle the situation legally.

Two hours later I found myself sitting in our hotel lobby holding evidence of a God who is MIGHTY to save.

The room was quiet. Kofi sat on the couch in between the birthmother and the aunt. M was there, along with another woman on the hotel staff. They were there to help translate what Kofi said in the Twi language to Ewe which was the language that the birthmother and aunt knew better.

The very young birthmother could not look at any of us. She sat still and quiet, with her head down, enveloped in shame, and my heart ached for her.

I know that many people would point an accusing finger at this young mother, shake their head, and ask how she could abandon her child to his probable death. But let us not forget this: each and every day we are in a battle of all-out good vs. evil. The Bible says that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). And that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12). We have an enemy waging war on our souls, deceiving us and whispering lies into our ear no different than he did with Eve in the garden. Add in a situation of extreme poverty that none of us in America could ever fathom, and you can sense the voices that must have gone on in the birthmother's mind leading her to act on what she probably had irrationally concluded was her only choice.

“Look at what you’ve done – gone and gotten yourself pregnant again. You can’t care for this child, and there is no one who will help you. You’re all alone. If you keep this child you will all suffer even more than you are now. You are better off to do away with this mistake. Hide and cover up so that you will not have to endure the opinions of those around you and add to their suffering and yours. ”

What makes a young woman in America walk into an abortion clinic and ask a doctor to scrape a living, breathing child out of her womb? The same voice of lies.

Satan passes himself off as being concerned for us in a clever mix of truth and error. He tells us ‘it will go better for us if….’ and then we believe his lies and act on them. We expect to find relief, a quick solution to our problems, a cover up, and fulfillment in the pleasures of this world. But after Satan gets his way with us, he leaves us in a mess (whether this is days or years later) and he doesn’t hang around to help us pick up the pieces. What was supposed to make everything better actually winds us up empty, guilty, broken, and chained and enslaved to his empty, worldly logic even more.

That is until God intervenes.

In that hotel lobby, on this day, as the burden of condemnation threatened to swallow this mother up, I watched God go to work.

As Kofi explained adoption there was not a trace of accusation in his voice. No finger pointing, no “how could you’s”. Only gentleness, and a soft voice conveying compassion and eagerness to make right a situation that could have ended in tragedy - but didn’t – because God intervened.

As Kofi educated this family on the option of adoption, M rose to her feet and disappeared in the adjacent room. In a few moments she came back into the lobby with a pile of fresh cloths. Here in Ghana they can’t afford diapers. So infants are always wrapped in lightweight cloths, and once the cloths are soiled they are switched out with fresh ones and the baby is re-wrapped. M walked over to me and we switched out the newborn’s soiled blanket for fresh, white and crisp hotel linens. Then M packed up a grocery bag full of about 10 folded and clean cloths and gave it to the birthmother. M, a mother herself who's baby was also in the lobby with us, could have acted all self-righteous and indignant, and made this birthmother feel very small. But instead, in this scene with the cloths, God’s grace went on display right before my very eyes. It was such an example of how God deals with us, in our broken state from our sinful choices. There we sit on the couch, no different than the birthmother, ashamed and confronted with the reality of what we’ve done….

….she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked (Genesis 3:6-7)…

Wanting so badly to hide and disappear under the shawl that covers our shoulders…..

….so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Genesis 3:7-8)….

We’re sure we’ve really done it now. Gone too far. Outside of God’s love, outside of His reach. Despicable, dishonorable, detestable. That’s what we are. And God does grieve. He grieves over what we’ve done, knowing that we’ve just chosen to drive a wedge in our relationship with Him. Our relationship is now broken, and the impending consequence looms: death. He knows it will take a great cost, a great sacrifice, to repair what we've done. And just when we convince ourselves that God will never be able to look at us again….

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them (Genesis 3:21).

We find He does not treat us as our sins deserve. His grace and His mercy meet us in our brokenness, and point us toward something greater...

But He was pierced for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him,
and by His wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to His own way;
and the Lord has laid on Him
the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:5-6).

God, the Maker of heaven and earth, so loves us – yes even us who have turned our backs to Him and gone our own way - that He would choose to take all of our sin, and disobedience, and junk, and yuck, and place it on His Son, for Him to bear the guilt and shame and scorn in our place. In a beautiful display of grace, He penetrates our sin in His Son’s blood until we come out white as snow. And He goes yet a step further, offering us forgiveness, new life, a second chance, and an eternity to praise Him for the great lengths He has gone to in order to reconcile us to Him.

I don’t know how this story will end. I don’t yet know if adoption will be chosen for this newborn boy, or if this will be a wake up call to the aunt of the seriousness of her deserting her niece in her need. Perhaps she will now support her niece in parenting the child now that God has made it clear that death was not in the plan.

But I do know this: as my life was unexpectedly intertwined with this birthmother and her son on this day, I saw Jesus. Redemption shouted at the top of its lungs in this room, in more lives than one. And as we gathered around this birthmother, gently lay our hands on her, and prayed over her, whisperings of God’s truths drowned out the lies of the enemy. You’re not alone. I’m here. I love you so wide, and so long, and so high, and so deep that I would deliver you from a life of regretful death-stains on your hands, and offer you this undeserved chance to start over. There is no circumstance too big or too complicated for Me to handle on your behalf. Call upon Me in the day of trouble and I will answer you...


Angie said...

Ooooooh Janel...I am so amazed by this post. And the baby--he is so beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

Steph said...

AMAZING! Praise God.

Reicharts said...

Absolutely incredible. We know this can happen and it was going to happen to our son. How amazing you were chosen to be part this experience and this child's life. Oh man incredible!!!!

Steph said...

What an amazing story, Janel. Thank you for sharing it with us!! And I agree with Angie - what an absolutely beautiful baby!!