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Giving birth in a broken-down van on a dusty road in Swaziland

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Our work in Africa continually overwhelms us. The issues of life and death are so immediate there. This morning I read a report from from Tiffany Berkowitz in Swaziland that I just have to share with you. When you live in the dirt with the people as Pastor Gift and our Swazi staff do, every day i…
By Seth Barnes

Our work in Africa continually overwhelms us. The issues of life and death are so immediate there. This morning I read a report from from Tiffany Berkowitz in Swaziland that I just have to share with you. When you live in the dirt with the people as Pastor Gift and our Swazi staff do, every day is adventure. You’ll love this one:

I had just sat down on one of the mattresses in the common area of where we live to watch an episode of “The Office” with some of the girls. I had never seen it before, and thought a little mid-day bonding over popcorn and a show sounded pretty good.
Five minutes into the show, William and Matt walked in the room and asked the question… “Are there any girls who would want to go with Pastor Gift to deliver a baby?”

I think after the initial shock wore off… I jumped up faster than I ever had before. I looked at Erin who had also jumped up and started pumping my fists in the air and screaming with so much excitement. Within a few moments, six of us girls were piled into White Chocolate (the old white van we drive around) and ready to go. We picked the mother up from her home. Her name is Gamane. She was already in a lot of pain and could barely walk.

This is her story: Her mother was a prostitute, so she is a direct product of that lifestyle. Her mother was born again and now looks down upon her daughter, disowning her because of the lifestyle that SHE has now chosen… the life of a prostitute. Gamane, only 25 years old, is now pregnant with her 5th child, and has no idea who the father is. She is HIV positive, and has no money or food for the baby.

So we get her into WC (White Chocolate), and started comforting her. Erin, Kelly, Hannah, Kimi, Cori, and myself began to ask her questions to try and take her mind off of the pain. Erin suggested that I sing to her. So I sing. “You are the source of life, and I can’t be left behind… no one else will do… I will take hold of you. I need you Jesus to come to my rescue. Tell me where else can I go? There is no other name by which I am saved, you capture me with grace. I will follow you.” She was put at ease for a few moments.

The hospital was about 45 minutes away… and we were making good time.

Her contractions were getting closer and closer together. Kel started to time them, and they were about 1 minute 45 seconds apart. Kimi checked and said she wasn’t that far along, and literally 30 seconds later, I look down… and see half of the baby’s head!
Every one screamed “THE BABY IS COMING!” and hardly even 10 seconds later, the whole baby was out. It happened so fast!

Pastor Gift was yelling to us to shut the windows, and wrap the baby up. We didn’t have anything! Luckily, Hannah had decided to layer that day (so fashionable, that girl). So she took off one of her shirts and we wrapped the baby up. A girl. A beautiful, beautiful baby girl.
I was crying. Bawling. Harder than the baby. It was the most beautiful… disgusting… thing I had ever seen. Pastor Gift told us to get the baby to suck on something, so Cori stuck her finger in the babies mouth, and she began to suck on it. Everything was normal; the baby was healthy. Then Gamane’s cousin grabbed my hands and told me to help her push. We had to get everything else out of her… the umbilical cord, the amniotic sac… (I will spare the gory details for those that cannot handle it). It was insane.

We asked her what the baby’s name is going to be, and she said that she didn’t know. Then she told us that we could name it for her. We all got SO excited. We talked and prayed about it for a few minutes, and then decided on HOPE, which is Litsimba in Siswati (the language here).

The reason behind it is obvious. We believe that there is hope for her life. Hope for a NEW life, and that she is going to bring that Hope to Swaziland. Gamane loved it.

A few minutes later, we pulled over on the side of the road. There were no buildings around us, no people… just cows, a lot of mountains, and a lot of cows. We had a flat tire.

A young woman laying on the back seat of White Chocolate, fluids and blood everywhere, a baby bundled up on the blanket, six girls who have no idea what to do, and a flat tire. And a lot of cows.

Pastor Gift changed the tire… with a tire that was even more flat than the one that was on it before. We tried to flag a couple cars down, but no one would stop, so we did the only thing we could do… we drove. Welcome to Africa, friends.

From the moment we pulled out,  you could see the lines from the rim of the tire grinding into the asphalt. 15 minutes later, we arrived at the hospital and handed them over to some professional care.

She is HIV positive, so she cannot breastfeed. We walked to the store and got some milk. Gamane asked who was singing to her in the car. I told her that I was. She said that she didn’t know what was going on around her, and that all she could hear was the song, and that it helped her through everything. I cried again. We prayed over Gamane and Hope. We prayed for her little life… for God to invade her heart, then said our goodbyes. We couldn’t fix the tire, which was shredded at this point, so we hitched a ride in the back of a truck and headed home.

I was thinking about the beauty of life. The miracle that it is. And then I was thinking about the tragedy of her situation. There were so many thoughts… so many emotions. It was so beautiful, and so sad.

Pastor Gift is looking for a family to take care of the baby. They may have found a home, but I ask that you all pray for Gamane and baby Hope. God has a plan for her. And Gamane saw God’s love through us in a way she never had seen it before. I could see the glow of the spirit all over her. Pray for redemption in her life.

I don’t really understand it all. Life. Death. Struggles. Victory. Hardships. But I do know… God… is in the midst of it. Of it ALL. He was there. He is there. He sees Gamane. He sees Hope. He loves them. He has a plan. A purpose. He does for everyone. We are blessed. Because we are alive. And we have Him.

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