One of our African partners in Zambia operates among other projects The House of Moses Crisis Nursery. It was first opened under stressful and perilous circumstances in 1998, at a time when they had no idea (other than Faith in God) how in the world they were going to expand their vision to care for children in crisis, especially tiny, premature infants. One afternoon in June, a phone call came in from the nurse in charge of the neo-natal unit of the University Teaching Hospital. The hospital had been described by international media as a scene out of hell with the cross infection rate at nearly 50%. Posted signs even warned visitors to beware! “We have four babies at the hospital to send to the House of Martha Crisis Nursery” our Director was told. “You must pick them up at the hospital today or they may die here from infection.”
The largest of the babies was a boy who had been found wrapped in a plastic bag at the bus station, weighing less than 4 pounds. The three little girls were barely half that size. “You must take them,” pleaded the nurse. “The only other ward is for infectious cases; if we are forced to put them there, they will not survive.” The existing children’s home at that time was The House of Martha Crisis Nursery but it was not equipped for the intensive care these infants required, but they could not be left to die, so with grave concerns, the babies were received.
Now June in Zambia is very cold. As a precaution, the babies were bundled up in warm blankets and placed into the office of the house mother at the House of Martha to keep them together. Then, without warning, the electricity went off, and the engineers reported that it would take more than a month to repair. Charcoal braziers were started to keep the babies warm, but it was not enough. Two weeks later, the little boy was suffering from pneumonia and one of the girls was very dehydrated and had to be readmitted to the hospital. With no other place to care for the other two babies, one of the two tiny bedrooms of the mission home was converted into an intensive nursery. 24-hour help was found at local churches to help care for the infants. The two little girls began to improve. Sadly, the two that had to return to the hospital did not. The little boy was the first to go, followed by the girl just days later.
Then we received word of another child in danger. A cardboard box, carefully lined with foam rubber was found two blocks from the mission home at the Mother Teresa hospital. The box, left in the middle of the night was found by the Sisters early the next cold morning. The box had baby clothes carefully folded beside a baby boy. The Sisters took him to the University Teaching Hospital and the nurses named him “Moses” because of the “basket” in which he had been placed.
Because baby Moses was not “sick” he was admitted to the orthopedic ward. We visited Moses the next day and were impressed by his health and his dimples. As long as we held him we were rewarded with smiles and coos. He protested loudly when we left. Surely, we would be bringing this baby home very soon. But tragically, a week later, Moses died. Within three weeks, three babies had been buried, but two others who had been close to the same fate were living. We felt God say, “We must not despair those who die, but celebrate those who are able to live” and knew we had to “prepare room” for others like them.
Less than six months later, a generous grant was received to establish a home for premature and high risk infants in need of critical care. In honor of the children who live only days, and in celebration of those who will have a full life we dedicated House of Moses in memory of our little Moses with the dimples and big smile. Sixteen years later these two crisis homes (House of Martha and House of Moses) remain to stand in the gap for these vulnerable and helpless children in Zambia. These years of experience have taught many lessons, the most basic of which include these two facts;
- An orphaned or abandoned infant may have only hours to live.
- An orphaned or abandoned child can easily become a street child.
In both cases, immediate and competent intervention is critical. A wide variety of care and service have grown up out of these early to children attempts to help. Today, in addition to schools and feeding programs, children are cared for in temporary homes until they can be placed within the extended family, adopted or fostered. Through an alliance with dedicated local churches the programs have grown to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of children from birth through twelve years of age who are orphaned, abandoned or victims of family violence.
Once a child is accepted, no child is “aged out” and like an extended family member they continue to provide for that child until a home and family can be found or until they have reached adulthood and are thoroughly prepared to support themselves. In addition to love and prayer, a warm bed, three nutritious meals each day, and clothing the children in our Crisis Nurseries receive medical and developmental services and their parents and extended families are given the Gospel, Christian counseling, parenting education, family support and assistance with micro-loans to enable them to care for their children.
It is an ongoing challenge to find a team of qualified and dependable care providers in the undeveloped world. Our donors need the assurance that the resources they commit to us is being invested where the greatest difference can be realized for abandoned children. We are very impressed by the remarkable work our project partners in Zambia have provided through the years and take comfort from the faces and smiles we see on the faces of these deserving children.