Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Story of Baby Joseph

This is Gogo and Khulu:

Gogo and Khulu are the Ndebele words for Grandma and Grandpa. From the first time I stepped onto their humble homestead in the village and they smiled at me with their toothless smiles, they were my family. I don't even know their first names. They told me to call them Gogo and Khulu, and that is what they are to me.

I have many fond memories of my African grandparents. The very first day I met them I helped them chase a herd of runaway goats back into their pen. I am pretty sure that watching this kiwa (whitey) clumsily chase around a bunch of wild goats was the funniest thing they had ever seen. They laughed themselves silly.

Out of the many memories I have from my visits with them there is one day that stands out in my mind ahead of all the others.

It is the day that I entered their home to find this woman, with this baby on her back, with his big black eyes staring straight through my heart.

His name was Joseph.

Tecla, Gogo, and Joseph's mom began to speak rapidly in Ndebele. After what seemed to be a serious conversation, Tecla filled me in on their story.

Joseph's mom lives deep in the bush with her 8 children. Her husband abadons her for months at a time, and will come home only long enough for her to concieve another child. He always leaves again, and each time he is gone for a longer amount of time, always leaving the family with nothing. Joseph's mother said they had been living off of weeds until a few days earlier, when Gogo gave her a job. Gogo had no money, but she did have maize and goats milk, so that is what she gave in exchange for housework.

Then she handed me Joseph. I unwrapped his blanket, and Tecla and I exchanged a glance of shock and sadness. His little bones protuded from his chest. His neck was thin and weak, and his little head wobbled like that of a newborn.

The conversation continued in Ndebele, and as I held Joseph and we gazed into eachother's eyes. As I whispered little prayers over him and told him how precious he was, he reached up and placed his hand on my cheek.

And then I fell in love.

Tecla then turned to me to fill me in on the rest of the story. When Joseph's mother found out she was pregnant, again, she knew she could not provide for another. With shame she admitted that she made several attempts to terminate Joseph's life before he was even born. She was astonished that he had survived.

She was also astonished that he had survived over three months time since he was born. The mother had been breastfeeding baby Joseph, but all she was able to produce was a watery and often times bloody liquid. Being malnourished herself, she was unable to provide Joseph with the nutrients he needed, leaving him in the state he was in.

I knew from the moment our eyes met that there was something special about Joseph, and as his story unfolded, I knew that God had big plans for this little boy's life.

Because Gogo and Khulu are good and loving people, they agreed to continue to employ Joseph's mom so their family would have a steady supply of food. Tecla and I went to the market and returned with peanut butter for the family who hadn't recieved any real protein for months.

I prayed over Joseph before I left, and I continue to do so from a distance. He is one of those children that I wanted to take home with me more than anything, but yet I know that God has big and wonderful plans for his life, and God has placed him exactly where he needs to be. God has also placed loving people in his life, like Gogo and Khulu, to help along the way.

I was able to visit with Joseph just days before I unexpectedly left Zimbabwe.

It was only about 6 weeks after that day I had fallen in love with him. He looked healthier, was holding up his head, and even smiled at moments.

Joseph is a big name to live up to. It means "Jehovah will increase and enlarge." We see the big ways God uses and enlarges the Josephs in the Bible, and I have no doubt that He can use baby Joseph in such great ways.


Melissa Irwin said...

he is so beautiful! i know you are so eager to return. me too!

Mark Langham said...

Wow. God is so good.

Rebecca said...

Melissa- Yes! Eager only begins to describe how I feel, but I know you know. How is the website coming along?

Mark- Yes, He is :)

Another thing I forgot to mention is the fact that mothers in this situation often (it seemed as though more often than not) do not name their babies, because if they think they will die soon anyways it helps with detachment. With the mother's story of trying to rid his life before his birth, I was surprised that not only did she name her son, but she gave him such a mighty name. You also often meet children with names like Trouble because of desperate situations like this.

Cathrine said...

Stories like these are so heartbreaking, but also joyful in knowing that God can use people in such awesome ways....

Priscilla said...

You know... I don't think I've EVER read a blog post that would make me tear. :)

And little Joseph is adorable.

Rebecca said...

Priscilla- Not that I want to make you cry or anything ;)...but if you liked the story of Joseph, you may like this post:

Its a story about a couple other little boys in Zimbabwe. But it is a tear jerker.

Thanks for stopping by!

ranndomized said...

Rebecca, I love the way that you wrote this post - it is very heartfelt and my heart reached out to Joseph :) Looking forward to hearing more about your next trip!

Visiting from SITS!