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Monday, November 9, 2009

Blinded by the Dark

My oldest daughter, Jennifer, recently submitted the article below as one of her English papers. I warn you--it made me cry. I knew she had struggled during this time but I didn't know to what extent or the impact that it was still making on her. It's long but worth reading.

I want to make Mondays Missionary Mondays to help highlight some of the challenges missionaries face and ways you can pray for them.

Blinded by the Dark

It was late on a weeknight, and every one of my siblings had already gone to bed. I had agreed to stay up with Jennifer during the night to watch over and feed her. Jennifer, or Baby Jennifer as we liked to call her, had come to stay at our orphanage when she was just two weeks old. At five weeks old, Baby Jennifer was still very sick, and slept fitfully in my arms. The slightest twitch on my part would cause her to grimace and then whimper miserably. I tried to gently rock her to sleep, but that did not work. Growing desperate, I began rocking her a little faster. I was so very tired. How could she not be? Eventually, she stopped crying.


I started drifting off to sleep, sitting up against the couch. It felt so good to close my eyes there in the dark silence. Just as I was starting to relax, Baby Jennifer woke up and wailed mournfully once again. I reached over for her bottle of formula and put it to her lips. She sucked twice, and then frowned and shook her head, so that I could not feed her anymore. How different from when I first met her, just a few weeks ago! Since her grandparents had only been feeding her porridge twice a week, Baby Jennifer had eagerly drunk every bottle of formula I had offered her. Now I was lucky to get her to drink half a bottle. I tossed the unwanted bottle aside. I moved Baby Jennifer until she was leaning on my shoulder, painfully aware of her scrawny body. She cried relentlessly, so I began to sing her a lullaby. After singing the same chorus four times, my voice cracked and I could not go on. The corners of my eyes burned, and soon I could no longer see clearly. I told myself I would not cry. I was stronger than this! But the tears came anyway.


I cradled Baby Jennifer in both of my arms so I could look at her dark face. Her tears of self-pity now seemed to me tears of bitterness. I knew she blamed me for how sick and in pain she was. She looked up at me, and I saw anger in her eyes. I did not even consider that maybe behind the mask of rage lay the fighting spirit she needed to survive. To me, every choked screech of hers said that she was hurting and that it was all my fault. I felt utterly helpless.


“I don’t know what to do. I can’t fix you.” I whispered to her. My desperation grew with every passing second. My eyes rapidly shot from the baby to the floor to the ceiling—anywhere—for a way out. All the while, I was crying out: I’m only seventeen! I shouldn’t have to deal with a sick baby. It isn’t fair!


I wished with all of my heart that the nannies we hired from the African village could have looked after Baby Jennifer, but I did not trust them to care about her best interests when unsupervised. I had good cause, too: the nannies would consistently forget to feed the orphaned babies through the night. I hated them for that. At that time I did not take into account that the local women’s reason for putting their needs before those of the children might just be a desensitized, human reaction to the death that was all around them.


Then a single thought broke into my turbulent mind: Call Dad. I momentarily stopped rocking the baby. I should not have to suffer alone. I crept toward my dad’s bedroom, adjacent to the living room, and pushed the door quietly aside. I stood silently in front of his bed, debating whether I should wake him up or not. Then the baby began to cry again. I flew to my dad’s bedside and shook him awake.
Dad rolled to a sitting position, breathed deeply, and then after being bombarded by my frenzied cries, he said, “It’s going to be okay. Would you like to call Mom?”


I just nodded while he dialed the numbers. The next thing I heard was my mother’s voice on the other line. “Are you okay, Jennifer?”
“No, I’m not,” I blubbered hysterically into the phone. “I need you to help me. I don’t know what to do. I need you to come make it all better!”


Mom replied patiently, “I’m so sorry, Jennifer. I wish I could be there to help you, but I can’t. Now what I want you to do is be brave. Just hold on. I’ll come home as soon as I can.”


I wanted to yell bitterly that she and I both knew she would not be coming back for another month—that she would be able to hang up the phone and go back to her calm world without angry, screaming babies. What I actually told my mom was, “Alright. Thanks, Mom. Love you. ‘Bye.” It never crossed my mind that she might be exhausted, herself, from all of her speaking engagements, there in the United States.


The rest of the night was a self-pitying blur. I was so angry at both my mom and my dad, for not suffering with me. In my distress, I forgot that my mother and father had both been in my situation before. They were young newlyweds when my twin sister and I were born sick, premature babies. Eventually, 6 ‘o clock rolled around and I was able to hand Baby Jennifer over to the morning nanny. It was all over and I could sleep. I crawled into my bed, not caring that other people were just starting their day, regardless of what happened to them in the night.


I cannot think about that dark night or the others like it without shame. I was so consumed by my own pain that I became blinded to everything else around me.

I felt terrible after reading this and like I had let my daughter down in some way by putting her in a situation where she had to carry such a heavy burden. Praying about it for a few days helped me to see that she is a much stronger girl because of her experiences and God's promise to not give us more than we can handle applies to our children as well.

It is difficult to not be able to give her a hug right now. She and her sister are doing really well though and thanks to technology we can talk frequently. God has also put great people around them, friends and family, to look after and help mentor them. I feel so blessed.

Today, and every day, pray for missionaries who struggle with knowing if they're meeting all the needs of their children. Pray for those who are now separated from their children by long distances so they can get the education and experience they need.

P.S Jennifer has her own blog. Check it out here

1 comment:

  1. Although we know that God uses our suffering to sanctify us and make us grow, it's very hard to see our children in pain, isn't it. And it is very, very hard to be separated from them by long distances. I admire her honesty and enjoyed reading her blog.

    ReplyDelete

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