Sunday, November 30, 2014

Miracle Baby Update & Preparations for Return to US

November 30, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all our friends and family!  We are thankful for and value our relationship with you.  We had a wonderful meal of chicken and all the fixings, fresh vegetables from the fields, and pumpkin pie with our small missionary community of Nyankunde.  We recounted the history of Thanksgiving, took turns sharing what we are thankful for, and sang songs of thanks to God.  We remembered the many people who suffer from the lack of good nutrition on this great continent.

An Update on Miracle Baby

Thanks to those of you who have shown interest and prayed for the baby girl Warren wrote about
in our last blog.  This story has received a lot of attention.  In brief, a pregnant woman came to the hospital by motorcycle with her husband and lost her vital signs on arrival to maternity.  She was whisked off to the ICU/operating theatre to find additional help.  In transit her heart stopped.  Staff could see her abdomen moving and that the baby was alive.  Warren did a post-mortum c-section pulling out a struggling baby who began breathing on her own after 5 minutes.

Well it seems that much of the village and hospital also heard about this miracle baby.  Everyone knows everything in a village and this is no exception!  Other details about her family have surfaced since she was born, pointing to God’s hand of protection.  One of the pharmacy students intercepted the motorcycle with the distressed mother on the blocked road and directed them towards the hospital.  He recognized that this was an emergency and gave timely directions.  If this student had not given directions perhaps they would not have arrived to the hospital in time to save the baby’s life. 

The baby girl is growing and doing well medically, thanks be to God!  She is four weeks old this week.  Ironically she was about Emmanuel's birthweight and is gaining weight steadily.  The baby has been on formula and has been cared for by an aunt.  The father has returned home and does not seem receptive to adoption by a willing Congolese family.  At present there is not a clear plan in place for the care of this baby.  In this culture babies really need a mother to nurse them as it is vital to survival and health.  She needs a special name to reflect how God has cared for and protected her life.  Most of all she needs a loving family to take her home.  

I had an earthly home as a child, a father and mother, yet part of me longs to know where I come from.  Why is this?  We are all adopted children in God’s family and we all long for our forever home.  Where do I come from?  Who do I belong to?  Who will love me unconditionally?  I will always be a foreigner, a vagabond, to this world.  Only God can love me without condition.  I am His adopted child.   I am like this little girl in many ways. 

It is hard for me to fathom that someone could love with a stronger love than I have for my own son, but this is true of God’s love.  It is perfect and without condition.  It does not depend on what I do or fail to do.  I want to love my son with this kind of love, yet I know that it is only by His grace that I can approach this.  It is my job as a parent to point Emmanuel to the love of his heavenly Father which is perfect.

It is our prayer for this little girl that she will experience God’s tender love for her and that He will provide a family to care for her and point her to God’s love.

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”  Romans 8: 22-23

Home with Emmanuel

I am enjoying my time at home with Emmanuel so much!   He is already three+ months old and outgrowing all his clothes.  He smiles and laughs and coos.  A few weeks ago he grasped his rattle for the first
time.  Some days I just marvel that he is ours.  We like to visit Dad and his Congolese “aunties and uncles” in the hospital.  Everyone thinks he looks like his dad, but I think he has many of my facial features.  I have yet to  decide when to resume part-time work at the hospital.  Right now it seems right to be at home.  Each day is meant to be treasured.  This is a truth I knew before having a baby, but as I watch my child outgrowing his shoes I realize that he will grow up before I know it.  It makes me want to capture his footprint everyday to cherish.

This is the essence of, "This is the day the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24).  May this truth of Scripture find a home in your heart as well.

The missionary ladies here at Nyankunde gave Emmanuel a little party early this month.  He received some new clothes, books, and toys.  He was on his best behavior and slept through much of it.  They talked about the Biblical significance of his name, “God with us” and gave me wise counsel to make the most of each moment.  Thank you ladies of Nyankunde for celebrating us!

"Look Mom, I'm Tiger"

The "parrot photobomb"

We recently went on our first hike up the mountain since before Emmanuel was born.  It felt great to exert myself again.  I am regaining my endurance since the c-section.  I have braved running.  Here are photos from our recent hike.

New Arrivees
We have welcomed a young Dutch couple, Joanna and Willem Folmer, to work with us at Nyankunde Hospital.  Joanna just completed her training in ob/gyn and Willem in tropical medicine/surgery.  This is their first longer-term assignment as a couple and there is a lot to learn.  Pray for them as they adjust culturally and to the medical milieu here.  The obstetrics department needs support and certain improvements.  We wish to be known as a hospital where one can get excellent obstetrical care.

We are thankful for our friends the Bartholemews who have been serving with us this past month.  Dr. Tim, an oromaxillofacial surgeon did a couple of cleft lips/palates and repaired a few jaw fractures.  He also did some teaching with the Congolese doctors.  Huyen worked with the obstetrics team and helped Joanna get started working here.  I had several fun days with their daughter Alex at home making make-believe cakes outside made out of flowers and leaves.

Home for the Holidays

We are headed to the United States and Switzerland for the holidays to see friends and family for about 7 weeks!  It has already been two years that we have been at Nyankunde.  We look forward to introducing our son to our family.  There is much to celebrate and catch up on.  We will reconnect with our stateside Samaritan’s Purse family. 

There are a few upcoming changes to our ministry support here in Congo.  On our return to Nyankunde in February 2015, I (Lindsey) will be serving with Christian Health Service Corps (CHSC) and Warren will continue to work for Samaritan’s Purse.   We will continue to do fundraising through Christian Health Service Corps for our ministry to the hospital (ongoing support of the malnutrition program), daily living, and professional (licensing, continuing medical education) expenses.  If you have supported us financially or through prayer these last two years, we are so grateful.   Some of you have encouraged our spirits by visiting us at Nyankunde and some by serving by our side.  Thank you!  We hope you will continue to partner with us through CHSC.  If you are interested in supporting us for the first-time this would be a huge encouragement.  Details about our involvement with CHSC can be found at the following link:

Blessings and love,

Lindsey, Warren, and Emmanuel

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Post-mortem C/S

It was a first for me.  I was walking into OR#2 to do a skin graft when they wheeled the lady down the hall.  There was some commotion, more than usual.   

"What's going on?" I asked.
"This woman is dead.  She has no heartbeat but she's pregnant and the baby is still alive.  We felt it moving."

I pulled up her shirt and asked for a scalpel.  There were no scalpel handles around, so they gave me a bare #22 blade.  There were no gloves in the vicinity.  Sterile technique seemed less important at that particular moment.   Speed was the key.  I took the blade in my bare hands and cut.  In one cut I was through the skin, subcutaneous tissue and fascia.  One more cut though the uterus and I scooped out the baby.  The whole procedure probably took about 15 seconds.  It was a little girl, alive but floppy.  I spent the next five minutes resuscitating the baby, while my assistant sewed up her dead mother.  After a couple minutes of ventilating with a bag, the baby actually started breathing on her own.  After about ten minutes she was howling.

I don't know when the mother died.  She had been transferred from Irumu, a small town about 15 km down a bumpy road.  She probably died around the time they arrived at the hospital.  She was still warm.  I don't think the baby could have survived if it had been much longer.  

Apparently this woman arrived with only her husband.  I don't know whether or not there is anyone in the family who might nurse this baby.  I don't know whether this little girl will survive.  I don't know if there is anyone who will love or care for her.  Recent experience has taught me that this is a pretty demanding task.  

So, there you have it.  Tragedy and miracle, weeping and rejoicing all rolled into one.  So it goes here in Congo.  What I do know is that the urge to live is powerfully strong.  This little creature wanted to live.  

Lindsey asked me later if having my own child gave me a different appreciation for babies in general.  I wasn't sure what to say.  It's not as if I were previously against babies or anything like that.  I feel like I've always done my best to fight for their right to live.  Maybe what I didn't understand what the intensity with which you can love a little helpless being who does nothing useful for you.  It eats, sleeps, cries, poops, keeps you up at night.  It frustrates you.  It drives you mad!  Still, you would do anything you could for it.  You would die for it.  Maybe that's as close to pure love as we can approach.  Maybe it helps us understand God's irrational love for us.  Having my own child has brought it all a bit closer to home.  Seeing this little baby start breathing touched me.  

So, that's my little story for the day.  Pray for this little baby girl.  She is premature.  She doesn't have a name.  She doesn't have a mother.  It'll be a miracle if she survives...but who knows?  Maybe it's all part of Gods plan.

Warren Cooper

Monday, October 20, 2014

Trips & Chickens

October 20, 2014

It is a typical day for me in mid-October and I am cherishing my time at home as a mom.  Emmanuel gives me lots of joy.  It enjoy just watching him wiggle and exercise his legs after feeding.  He is so observant listening to bird calls and the nighttime insects and seems to always keep tabs on where his Mommy is.  He absolutely loves to eat and we are amazed at how much he has grown in just 8 weeks!  As of this week he has officially doubled his birthweight and grown 2.5inches.  His head is even larger.  I have never seen anything like it!  He seems to need less sleep
which results in a baby that goes on sleeping sprees every few days. This too will pass as he gets older. We are so thankful that he is healthy and growing!  I can't wait until he starts talking to us.

Warren and I took a big trip to Kinshasa two weeks ago to apply for Emmanuel's proof of birth, passport, and Congolese VISA.  This was a BIG trip for a little guy but we really needed to start the process in order to have the needed documents to travel back to the USA for Christmas.  We were successful and hope to receive everything in the next couple of weeks.  We had the pleasure of staying with a Congolese family, the Mobulas. 
They were so welcoming and helped to orient us to Kinshasa.  It is hard to believe that Kinshasa is in the same country where we reside....such a modern and populated city compared to dirt roads, earthen homes, little access to imported goods, no stoplights, no mail system, a more temperate climate with farmfields all around, and children wandering around everywhere.  Kinshasa has 4 lane boulevards, robots controlling traffic, banks/ATMs, a mail system, restaurants, embassies, and of course lots of outdoor cafes and markets. 

We found that everyone we met was shocked to see such a young infant in public and everyone had comments on his age and parenting advice.  We heard: "he's too young to travel, you should cover him much more (nevermind that it is 100 degrees outside), you should hold him like this, etc.....". It's funny because culturally Americans would never do this and see it as an encroachment on our personal lives.  Congolese on the other hand have plenty of advice on parenting that they will share with you. 

Our house is turning into a small farmette.  So far we have received 4 chickens (make that 5, I just received another while writing this) and a goat as gifts for Emmanuel's birth.  It is very traditional to give chickens to families of new babies.  People say that the women give nutrients to her newborn through breastmilk for a week after eating chicken.  I'm not sure, but there is probably a gram of truth in it.  Ah yes, we are definitely living village life at its' best.  Several of our Congolese friends have recently had babies, so they have been stopping by to visit with their little ones.  It's good to know that our little guy will have lots of friends.
Richard and Mapenzi with Gabriella
Florence and baby Favordi

A new, baby African grey parrot named Jorp has joined our household.  He was delivered to our house the day Emmanuel was born.  Two babies joined our family at the same time.  Jorp and Emmanuel will grow up together...African greys have the same lifespan as humans!  Over the last 8 weeks Jorp has lost his downy and grown beautiful flight feathers!  He can literally fly down the hallway the

length of the house and into one of the rooms, landing on an extended hand. In the morning if I can't find which curtain rod he is perched on I just call his name and he chirps back at me. 
A little boy and his parrot

We are looking forward to some visiting medical staff these next two months.  Dr. Bartholomew, a maxillofacial surgeon, and his wife Huyen who is a family practice doctor.  He is hoping to do some cleft lip and facial tumor cases.  Also wewelcome Dr.Ron Johanssen, cardiologist from the University of Minnesota, and his lovely wife a cardiac nurse.  We have an abundance of cardiac problems from hypertension to inherited cardiac conditions to valvular problems due to rheumatic heart disease.  We are looking forward to having our friends here with us.  Then in no time we are back to the USA and Switzerland in December/January to see family.  We know this time will just fly by, but we will cherish the days to visit and opportunity to introduce Emmanuel to everyone. 

I thought you might enjoy some of these photos of typical life in the village of Nyankunde, thanks to
Elise Cegielski (intern with Samaritan's Purse).  She visited our village this last week to capture some of the maternal-child health work going on and to learn more about our work at the hospital.  I think you'll agree that she captures the vibrant colors of the women's clothing and a bit oftheir daily lives.  The women love participating in care group activities which they consider as their "school." Women work very hard in this culture from child rearing to cooking, fetching water, working in the fields.  Life can be rather serious which is captured in many of their facial expressions.
Life is a bit serious for these children

Thank you for so many of your prayers for my health (Lindsey) and our adjustment as a couple to life with a newborn.


Lindsey & Warren & Emmanuel
Aren't the colors striking?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Emmanuel's Welcoming Party

September 24, 2014

This past week the hospital hosted a little party to celebrate Emmanuel’s birth.  Originally it was going to be only the operating room and intensive care unit staff, but as you can imagine everyone
came.  Many of the staff have been praying and concerned for my health, so it was good for them to see us coming out. 

One of the pastors gave a dedication and blessing over Emmanuel from Psalm 127:3-4: “Sons are a
Pastor Remy prays for us
heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth.”  Then various staff members took turns giving words of blessing and thanksgiving.  We sang a hymn in Swahili.  Warren was given an opportunity to introduce Emmanuel to everyone and explain the significance of his name.  He said just like the meaning of our son’s name, God promises to be with us in difficult and joyous times.  Oftentimes joy and sorrow are experienced together.  He thanked everyone for praying for and supporting us.  He explained that we gave Emmanuel his father’s name “James” as a middle name.  His grandfather was a missionary who has given his life for the spread of the Gospel.  It is our hope that Emmanuel will follow in his footsteps.  Many people affirmed that they hoped our boy would be a missionary.

Dr. Mike, the physician who is responsible for helping to rebuild Nyankunde Hospital after the war, asked to say a few words.  He thanked us for coming to live and work with them, saying that this brought them honor.  He said it was an even greater honor that we had decided to give birth to our child here.  This has been our prayer that people would feel honored and valued and that we want to share life with them.  It was special to look around the room at people who cared
Dr. Mike Upio and staff
for me in the hospital and helped us in various ways.  Our Congolese colleagues have become like family.

Dr. Remy, the head of our health district, said that Emmanuel would always have Congo in his
Dr. Remy

blood.  Dr. Remy said that he will always be able to say, “I was born in Congo” and would belong to this village of Nyankunde.  I think birthplace has a much deeper significance here in Africa than it does for an American.  For the average American, birthplace is just a detail to complete on official documents like passports.

Gifts were then exchanged.  We should have anticipated our gift, given all the noise outside the We also received a wall hanging with Psalm 127:3-4 inscribed in seeds and “Centre Medicale Evangelique” t-shirts.  We were told that after an animal is gifted, extended family and friends are then allowed to hold the baby.  At
Mr. Hairy the goat
conference room window.  Yes, indeed Emmanuel received his first goat!  His name is Mr. Hairy who now lives in our front yard and loves eating my flowers! 
Mama Ruth and Emmanuel
this point Emmanuel was passed around and photos were taken with him.

No party is complete without snacks…so the sodas and doughnuts (mandazis) were passed around last.  It was a special little party for us.  Meaningful to have so many people we know and care about in one room.  We felt honored that we were included in their traditions.  We were touched by everyone’s concern for my health and complete recovery.  It was wonderful to celebrate his precious life with our Congolese friends.

Stay tuned for more tales of a little boy and his family.

Blessings and love,

Lindsey and Warren
Richard and Emmanuel

Friday, September 19, 2014

An Update from the Cooper Family

September 19, 2014

“But as for me, I will sing of your power.  Each morning I will sing for joy about your unfailing love.  For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress.  O my strength, to you I sing praises, for you, O God are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love.”  Psalm 59:16-17

Here I sit almost four weeks after giving birth to our first child with a story to tell.  We have a beautiful
little boy named Emmanuel who loves to eat and is gaining weight like milk is going out of style.  We are so thankful for him.  This has also been the most difficult time of my life, and consequently my husband’s life.  Since having a caesarian-section over three weeks ago, I have been quite sick.  I have required re-interventions to drain an old abdominal bleed whose cause is unknown.  My intestines did not function for about two weeks.  There were days that I struggled physically to get out of bed.  I have experienced a lot of different kinds of pain and have become good at describing it.  I have needed help bathing and transferring.  I needed a steady arm to ambulate.  I have felt weak and wanted to do more to care for our beautiful baby.  Everyday I looked for “small victories,” but some days I struggled to find them.  Sometimes the day ended with me simply knowing that God was with me.  He knew my struggle and was able to catch my tears.  I am about 25pounds lighter (some of that is the baby!) and so thankful to be able to eat good food again for the past week.  I am thankful to be able to take over more of the care for Emmanuel.  I am on the mend, thanks be to God.

Through all of this, my husband Warren has been both an amazing new dad and husband.  He has stayed up with Emmanuel for nighttime feedings.  He has taken very good care of me, from the c-section to managing my complications with the Congolese doctors here.  He has challenged me to do
 A common event in our household
the difficult things, like moving despite the pain.  He has put in IVs and made it possible for me to be cared for at home, albeit one evening that he spent with me in the hospital.  I have been grateful for my dear nursing friend Heather who been a constant encouragement and prayer partner, faithfully taken my vital signs, cooked me good food, and helped me adjust to being a new mom.  I am grateful to Heather’s husband and mother who have also been present in a supportive role.  We have many Congolese friends and colleagues who have visited and prayed for us.  I am grateful to a missionary friend who gave me his blood when I was in need.  We have other missionary friends who have shared their food and prayed with us.  I am grateful to the doctors and nurses at CME-Nyankunde who gave me anesthesia, took my vital signs, did home visits, and delivered medications and drew labs at the house.

It has been very significant to the Congolese that Emmanuel was born here at Nyankunde.  They say “he is one of us!”  The vegetable ladies (ladies who sell vegetables in front of the hospital) have been calling him “Nyankunde.”  It used to be that many missionaries had their babies here, but it has been many years.  We want the local people to know that this village is safe now and that we believe a new day has come.  It seems funny that giving birth to a baby could help give people hope, but I believe it can.

We chose to name our baby Emmanuel which means “our God with us.”  This has been a good choice
Me and Emmanuel
of names.  There have been many times these last few weeks that I have been reminded of the simple fact that God is with us.  He is our refuge and in Him we put our trust.  Even as I received a very disorienting medication called ketamine for a procedure, when I did not know who or where I was I had our little boy’s name in my mind: “Emmanuel, our God is with us.”  I knew it was God who gave me this consolation when I needed it so desperately.  He wanted me to know that He was with me and that I did not need to be afraid.  I needed that.

Many of you have wondered how we are doing, so this is an update as we are emerging from a challenging time.  Give thanks to the Lord with us for health and recovery and for the amazing blessing of children.  We need your prayers as I (Lindsey) continue to recover.  Stay tuned as our next posting will be about the hospital's celebration of Emmanuel's birth, a really special time.  Can you guess the gift we received for giving birth in this little village?