A couple days before I left for Uganda, I was at a National Summit for work and one of our leaders told the following story. It resonated deeply with me, as Sue and I have always said that we are willing to do all of our Uganda work to save one mother, one baby and help one family grieve better in loss. This is the Starfish story:
Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions. Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?” The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves. When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.” The old man replied, “But there must be thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t be able to make a difference.” The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said politely, “It made a difference to that one!”
We have now been in Uganda for 10 days. We are past the crazy flight, the delayed luggage for 4 days and are settled in Mbale in the eastern edge of Uganda. We have spent a day with our team doing a workshop, have taught midwives, nurses and nursing students and have observed, once again, much that goes on at the hospital. If we keep our focus on the one mom, one baby, one family goal, we have much to be encouraged about. The statistics for maternal death are significantly lower this year and our audience was very aware of postpartum hemorrhage management. Sue has 5 nurses who have been doing bereavement care and helping advocate for mothers to see and hold their dying or dead babies. These are big changes from the last time we were here.
When we think about where we hoped and dreamed we might be, we get discouraged. We had hoped to teach a larger volume of nurses who were doing the direct care in the maternity areas, our teaching sessions so far have not gone as smoothly as we hoped, and the problems here are so complex (like no running water in the hospital for at least a week….can you imagine?), that it is difficult to see clear solutions. Therefore, we keep circling back to what our goal was and is, and rest in the fact that God is ultimately in charge of the results and we are to work hard, teach, evaluate, adjust, use our resources and always leave it to Him. We have proof upon proof that we are doing the right work set out for us and that is good enough.
One of the verses we share with the nurses also applies to us. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9. We are certainly not at a harvest and will leave that to Him. For now, one mom, one baby, one family is enough.