Babies Without Milk was started by a woman named Estel who saw babies dying after their mothers had died because they had no source of healthy nutrition. If you have a baby in Guinea you are 20 times more likely to die in childbirth than if you have a baby in the United States. That number is staggering to me. The result of that statistic is hundreds of babies who are left without a mother and, in most cases, without good nutrition. It is no wonder, then, that almost 6 out of 100 babies die in this country as so many babies are left without proper nutrition and care.
But Estel saw that need and with the Lord’s blessing created a ministry. She now has around 200 babies who come to this courtyard compound every 2 weeks to receive formula. They are brought by siblings, aunts, grandmothers, neighbors, or whoever has decided to take on the duty of caring for them after their mothers have died. It broke my heart to see all these babies and know that they would never know their mothers but also so thankful that they will, hopefully, avoid that second statistic thanks to their caregivers and this ministry.
Driving the 45km to get to the distribution site (the furthest I’ve been away from the ship) proved a bit more difficult than we anticipated since all the lanes of traffic go the other direction in the morning. But after 2 hours of traffic, wrong turns, unhappy babies, puking and wonderful policemen helping us with directions, we made it. We walked into a courtyard filled with women and babies and immediately our three babies were snatched up by the women and tiny African babies placed in our hands. To say the difficult journey was worth it would be an enormous understatement.
We stayed in that courtyard for a couple hours passing around sweet babies and allowing our babies to be passed around. It was beautiful. Cora, I will say, gets baby of the year award for being a total trooper the entire day. She loved the attention and was happy to be with whoever wanted her.
While Cora was happily distracted I went searching for Alseny. I needed to get my hands on him again. He slept peacefully in my arms for quite a while and I was amazed that this tiny baby has had such an enormous impact on us and so many others in such a short time. As he began to awaken looking for food I was again blessed by the opportunity to nurse him again, this time amongst a sea of curious African women. My prayer is that God will use this act to open their hearts a little towards changing perceptions in their own culture about nursing orphaned babies.
Slowly the women and babies trickled away and we were treated to an amazing African meal. With bellies and hearts filled to bursting, we packed back into the Land Rover for the ride home.
Becca is on the left and her daughter Hailey is in green. Ali and Zoe are in the front.
Thankfully it was not nearly as traumatic as the journey there. As we arrived back at the ship I got the sense that we all couldn’t believe how blessed we felt to have experienced the Lord’s work so intimately.
Sometimes it is so easy to get overwhelmed by the need here in Guinea. We have seen and been privileged to be a part of ministries doing amazing things in this country but there are still thousands of people with illnesses we can’t treat. There are patients who have surgeries that aren’t successful. People still die. Sometimes you wonder if we are even making a difference, but then you spend time holding babies that are most likely alive because of one woman who saw a need and reached out. We cannot possibly help everyone we come in contact with but we can continue to touch each person that enters our life and show them the Love of Jesus.
Many have asked if Alseny may someday become a permanent part of our family. John and I love this little guy but I don’t think either of us feels strongly that we are truly supposed to adopt him, if that was even possible. But we do plan on being a part of his life while we are here and we hope that we can be a part of his life in some capacity after we leave. Our Chief surgeon Gary Parker says, “We cannot change the whole world, but we can change the whole world for one person.” If we allow God’s love to flow through us to others we can be a part of changing the world for someone and in the end we might just realize that along the way our own world has been changed more than we ever thought possible.
You must also go read Ali’s blog account of the day here as she has an amazing gift of painting pictures with words.
Thanks to Chelle for all the amazing pictures!