It is twelve long hours in the car to drive to Gimbie. Gimbie is nestled in western Ethiopia close to the Sudan border and it is tropical foliage and quite hot this time of the year. We passed by many small villages whose way of life has not changed for centuries. The farmers were out ploughing with oxen and the older children herded the goats or cows. As we passed a stream, I saw women washing clothes and further down others filling their water containers. Those that are more affluent ride horses or have horse drawn carts …. but the majority of people just walk. It is life lived close to the land. Black and white monkeys capered in the trees and we saw many baboons and exotic birds.
We were welcomed to Gimbie by an American couple who are working as missionaries at Gimbie Adventist Hospital and it was their invitation that motivated this trip. Scott is the head nurse of the hospital and they have been taking care of three babies that, through various circumstances, were placed in their path. They are adopting two of them and wanted YWAM to facilitate the adoption of the third. The Barlows see firsthand the need for someone to work with unmarried women who have an unplanned pregnancy. In this culture, it is shameful to have a baby before marriage and having a baby greatly damages your chances of finding a husband. Abortions are regularly being performed with a stick or umbrella, and many of them end up at the hospital with catastrophic consequences.
Take Tigist for example. She is a beautiful 17-year-old who tried to abort her baby with a stick. She came to the hospital in acute distress. The stick had perforated her uterus and bowel and the midwife delivered a preemie baby and the stick. There was nothing to do but to perform a complete hysterectomy. Amazingly, the premature baby was okay. He is one month old now and doing well, but Tigist wants to finish her schooling and is not ready to settle down and take care of her baby. She wanted to leave the baby at the hospital, but was encouraged to take the child home and try parenting simply because there was no place for the baby nor was there anyone at the hospital who could care for him. We walked to her house (which was an adventure all in itself … it was remote and down an extremely steep, rocky path) and ducked in the doorway of her mud hut. We found Tigist and the baby and they both looked quite well. The baby’s cheeks were full and he was alert and looking all around. We visited for a time and Tigist reiterated her dream of finishing school and once again asked that someone else raise her baby boy. We set an appointment to come to the hospital that evening to meet with the interpreter and social worker to begin the necessary paperwork.
In all of Gimbie area there is no one working with children or pregnant unmarried women. The need is acute, and before we left we accepted two babies and a little 7-year-old darling girl into our program, hired a social worker who is also a nurse and left instructions to find a building with painted walls, a cement floor and with running water and electricity that we can rent for a drop-in center for children age five and under. We know there could be, and probably will be, a flood of babies. For now, we will keep the babies/children at our Gimbie center and then transfer them to our established orphanage in Nazaret (Adama). The Adventist Hospital has offered to build an orphanage for us on their hospital property and perhaps even a place to care for pregnant women. We were amazed at how many doors were open for ministry and how enthusiastic the hospital staff was to have us partner with them in this vital service. One afternoon I gave a training to some of the hospital staff about adoption and we wrote policies and procedures for the hospital so they could know exactly the steps to take when a baby needed services. The Social Affairs office was contacted (which loosely might be the equivalent to our country’s Department of Social and Health Services) and they were ecstatic to have us come and help. We also contacted the police chief and received a very warm, helpful welcome from him and his staff.
Yesterday Mark, Abebe and I left Gimbie amazed and a little overwhelmed at what transpired in just 24 hours! Gimbie is so remote that it seems the government and most everybody else has forgotten about them. We found a warm, delightful society and a hospital who is delivering up to 160 babies a month …. and they only get the traumatic cases as most babies are delivered naturally at home! Scott gave us a tour of the hospital and when we stopped by the delivery room, Scott pointed to a tiny cardboard box by the door. It contained a dead baby. He said they bury from 2 to 4 babies a day. Mothers labor at home far too long before coming in, and many times their babies have already died or die shortly after delivery. They are going out into the villages to give training to the women about delivery and encouraging them with coupons to pay for medical care so they will come to the hospital much, much earlier when they have trouble.
I must get ready for the day. Once again, we have much to do here in Addis this morning and will travel back to Nazaret this afternoon. I slept like a log last night after three exhausting days going to and coming from Gimbie. I marvel at God’s hand in all this and timing of our coming. My worry is we won’t have enough families to adopt all these precious little ones!
Love , Joy