So what is happening with Mapendo?
Mapendo is a strong and stable young woman. She works really hard. But lately she has been wondering where her family's next meal will come from. It is not one thing that went wrong. It is a thousand little things. One after another. The waves keep crashing.
It started in the fall. You may remember how Mapendo was traveling with her 2 young nieces and they got lost. For 2 weeks she searched for them. She couldn't sleep, could barely breathe, fearing the worst. And thankfully they were found. But not before she spent all her money looking for them. And then she had to pay what amounted to a ransom fee to set them free. But still, they were safe.
Around that time, people started telling Mapendo that she looked pale. Something wasn't right. She went to the clinic in the refugee camp and they told her she was pregnant. She refused to believe it. She was living in a refugee camp with her husband, her 2 nieces and her 1 year old son. She was not ready for another child.
For months she had been trying to get on birth control. But the doctors in the refugee camp refused to give her birth control until she got her first period back.
Suffice it to say that first period had never come. So here she was pregnant again.
The refugee camp had very poor medical care, so she went to the local Burundi hospital where Argentine had given birth the year before. It had an excellent maternal health program and Argentine had a very good experience there. But Mapendo was no longer welcome there. The doctors said the prices had been raised and Mapendo would never be able to pay. They advised her to go home to Congo.
You see in Congo a peace deal had been signed with the rebels, and there was increasing pressure in Burundi for the refugees to go home.
So Mapendo used all her money to get back to Congo as quickly as she could, before her pregnancy made it impossible to travel.
Thankfully she made it back to Congo. But immediately her son became sick, and she spent a week in the hospital with him. And then her husband got sick, and he was in the hospital for a week.
None of these hospitals are free. You pay for the bed, you pay for the medicine, you pay for the doctor.
And Mapendo began eyeing her situation warily. How could she sew enough to save some money for the new baby's arrival? She had only 2 months until the baby was due.
And then the doctor declared that she wasn't 6 and a half months along, as he had thought. In fact she was 8 and a half months along. The baby could come any time. And Mapendo sewed madly. Trying to save up what little money she could.
That money went for the entrance fee to the hospital. And there she was in the hospital, with a new baby in her arms, and a lot of pain from a difficult c-section. And no money to pay the remaining hospital bill. If you don't pay your hospital bill they don't let you leave the hospital in Congo. They hold you there until you pay. But each day they hold you, the bill goes up, another night is added to the stay.
So her bill kept going up and meanwhile her first born, Jonathan, who was at home with his father, developed a hernia. He cries a lot and can't sit down. And Mapendo couldn't even comfort him because she couldn't get out of the hospital.
SHONA loaned Mapendo the money to get out of the hospital. SO now she is home. And she desperately wants to get back to sewing. It is the only way she can keep food on the table. And still her son needs the hernia operation, and her newborn is only a few weeks old. And she is still healing from a 2nd c-section. And her metal leg brace has broken so she can no longer stand.
The challenges of poverty, of disability, and of war, are huge. In the midst of all this, it can seem impossible to change the tide. Indeed, what human hands can change the tide? But sometimes all any of us needs is that first unexpected reprieve. One time where we eye the coming wave, and hold our breathe, only to find that it didn't touch us. One wave falling short, reminds us that the tide can change. It does change.
So that's why I want to give Mapendo an unexpected gift. A piece of grace. And the hope that the tide will change.