Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Abundant grain on the hilltops

April 8, 2013
Nyankunde Mountain

On top of Nyankunde mountain looking down at the village

“May there be abundant grain throughout the land, flourishing even on the hilltops.  May the fruit trees flourish like the trees of Lebanon, and may the people thrive like grass in a field.  May the king’s name endure forever; may it continue as long as the sun shines.” Psalm 72:16

It is planting season here at Nyankunde.  I have been marveling at the hillsides and how much of the land on the hillsides has been cultivated this year.  Compared to last year I would say that much more of the land is being farmed.  I believe this is a sign of community development and prosperity.  I also think it is a sign that this is a sign of security, of people feeling that this is their home once again.  After the many lives that were lost here in such a tragic way, it is a beautiful thing to see.  New life has come to Nyankunde.

In the evening it is a common scene to see people climbing the hillsides to their fields with sickle in hand to work/harvest grain in the fields.  You can’t help but see the dependence of people on the land “May there be abundant grain throughout the land.”  Every time it rains I feel thankful.  We have a medium-sized vegetable garden and a large plot of beans/peanuts, so I only experience “dependence” on the land in a small way.  We are certainly not eating only what we grow, unlike many of the people here.
Planting rows

Re-feeding a child
I think Congolese people understand many things as it relates to the soil and agriculture.  I have started to use the analogy of a seed growing up to be a small seedling to a child’s progress in the feeding program.  Progress is slow and lots of work in the beginning.  The kids refuse food over and over.  They have no appetite, no energy whatsoever.  All they do is sleep and eat, eat then sleep.  It seems like nothing is happening.  The beginning of re-feeding is like placing a seed in the ground and then waiting over it…is there enough sun?  Are the conditions right, enough fertilizer, enough rain?  This is when parent’s get discouraged and it is really important that they understand this process and to get support of the extended families (especially the fathers).  We don’t focus very much on weight, rather on behavior and frequent feedings.  So the child refuses again….not to worry.  Try hard not to show frustration…offer the same thing again in a hour.

Then parents start to notice small changes such as the child asking for food, or waking up to eat.  They
A recent graduate of the nutrition program
may be less clingy and fearful and generally happier.  This is when we can introduce new foods.  This can be likened to the small sprout beginning to appear.  It is fun to watch!  This is usually the sign that we will succeed, even if progress is slow.  Now we start talking more about weight and developmental goals.

The last thing we notice is a child’s activity picks up.  He curiously explores his environment again and maybe starts standing and walking again (or for the first time).  This is the flowering/fruit stage.   

Some children progress through these stages rapidly, but for many it takes literally weeks.  Some succumb to infection and complications of their energy deficits, but most succeed.  I would say it is the most rewarding thing I get to witness.  Generally parents are thankful for the time to recover in the hospital. 

I have one little 12year-old boy with cerebral palsy who came in to the hospital completely emaciated with signs of both protein and calorie malnutrition.  He weighed 8kg, what you would expect a 1year-old to weigh.  During the initial few weeks he slept a lot and lost his edema (a normal process), decreasing his weight to 6kg (his real weight).  Now he is on the rebound and is approaching 8kg once again.  We have placed a g-tube and are using this for therapeutic milk and protein-rich porridge, while he takes many of his calories by mouth.  A 20% increase in body mass is substantial over a period of 6weeks!  He remains very developmentally delayed and non-verbal, but he is genuinely happy and smiles most of the time.  Will his life ever be truly normal?  No, but he is greatly loved by his family and gives them much encouragement.  This is often the case with children who have special needs.  Perhaps some day we will have him up in a wheelchair and able to explore his world.  It is a blessing to be part of his recovery.

Who are the Poor and Needy?
As Warren and I were reading through Scripture and praying last week, I started to weep over the passage in Psalm 72.  Warren just stared at me as my voice cracked.  Maybe it’s pregnancy making me more sensitive in general, but this Psalm describes the heart of God for those in need.  It was as if the Lord were saying to me personally, “Help him to defend the poor, to rescue the children of the needy, and to crush their oppressors” (74:4) and “Help him judge your people in the right way; let the poor always be treated fairly.”  It is the heart of God that people are treated fairly, that they have an advocate, and the opportunity to prosper.  Why?  As the Psalm says, “for their lives are precious to him” (72:14).  God wants us to have an active part in the process of caring for people, looking for those with special needs.  Most of the time you don’t have to look very far.  This is part of living out the Gospel, “true fasting” in the words of Isaiah 58:6-7:
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-when you see the naked to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood.”

The question is, who are these people in our lives?  Who are we asked to defend and treat fairly?  I don’t think this is simply charity work, but rather standing in someone’s place and advocating for them.  Is it simply about giving money?  It seems like Isaiah is telling the reader to share his own food and resources (time, energy, etc).  This Lenten season, may the Lord show you how to turn your lives outwards to embrace the needs of others.  May this be part of our sacrifice to Him.

Blessings and love,

1 comment:

  1. Well said, Lindsey. Thank you for sharing. Indeed, we should be others' advocate(s). Missing you and praying for you.