Jake and Holly discussed a drive to “the bush”, the Ndop Plains. I detest car rides and knew it would be crowded. Holly insisted I go. Jake, his son Josh, four HHCH houseparents and I headed to investigate a call about a potential addition to HHCH. A Pastor doing outreach in the village of Bafanji heard about a mother who died days previously, leaving behind a newborn. Since dad and other family members were taking care of the baby we knew we would not be bringing her to HHCH. It is best for children to stay with families. After driving through stunning jungle, mountain and rolling plains, we arrived at Bafanji. Several family members awaited our arrival outside their mud block home. We discussed the child, the cause of the mother’s death, family’s involvement with the baby and why they felt they were incapable of caring for her. The family was capable of caring for the baby but saw the opportunity with HHCH so they insisted they could not provide care for her. We were conflicted about the circumstances but agreed the best decision was to take her. She was tiny and dehydrated. Good care at this point is imperative to her survival. If we heard she did not survive, we would never forgive ourselves for not helping.
(Below – the family home, HHCH staff on left, baby’s family on right)
After we made it explicitly clear we were not raising the baby to become a healthy farmhand for the family in the future, I obtained signatures from the maternal grandmother and father. The village’s custom is for children to go to the maternal family rather than the father if the mother passes. Strange when dad is totally capable. Great example of stark cultural differences. While the father was grieving the loss his wife and the loss of his child to a stranger’s care, he was convinced this was ideal for the baby.
(Below – Dad signing release of custody for the baby to HHCH)
I had to remind myself grief was silently sitting among us. The mother who was a mother to four, wife, sister and daughter, was now gone. The baby, the most recent link to the mother, was leaving. Yet nobody showed emotion. In a moment alone with the sister of the baby’s mother, I quietly told her I was sorry for her loss. She looked at me like it was a guilty indulgence to allow herself to feel the pain of it, said thank you and explained matter-of-factly how the mourning ceremony would proceed.
(Below – the grandmother holding the baby, the aunt of the baby on the right)
One important detail pushing us over the edge to keep the baby was that to this point, nine days after her birth, she did not have a name. This plainly expressed their level of optimism raising the baby girl – they did not name her. Fairly common in villages. We asked them to give her a village name. The grandfather gave her one meaning “tears from the eyes”. Mama Francisca, one of the HHCH staff threw her hands up in the air and adamantly told the man in Pidgin English that would NOT be her name because tears were OVER! The uncle then proclaimed “Mda’ mbou’ mbi” meaning “Except God” or “His promise of hope”. We are keeping a Promise.
(Below – the only family photo Promise may ever have. Definitely something I take for granted.)
The most amazing part of this day was in closing, Pastor Njeru shared the gospel with the family in Pidgin. I could gather the basics of what he said. This guy was not passing an opportunity to leave the family with hope. I never thought I would be witness to an adoption. I know in mine, I am continually grateful and proud my mother made the choice she did. I am grateful I have such wonderful parents who in large part are why I am in Cameroon now. Mostly, I am grateful Jesus died and rose again for my sins so I could be adopted into the family of God. The ultimate Promise kept is knowing that truth. I am excited baby Promise will be raised in that truth at Helping Hands Childrens Home. Meanwhile I will love on her while she stays at our house to get her weight up! For those of you hoping I will change, trust me, I am only good until a diaper needs changed!
(Below, baby Promise weighing in at 2kg = 4.4lbs!)
I get one brag, right? She is so tiny she needed a new stocking cap – I crocheted this myself! I am bit fond of this little baby. She has 30 brothers and sisters anxiously awaiting her arrival. Please pray for her health and steady growth! Check out Helping Hands Childrens Home on Facebook for more updates!