Monday, August 16, 2010

more than a statistic

UPDATE:  compassion has graciously worked with us to get a child survival program in addis ababa, ethiopia (where judah died and is now buried) set up online for direct donations in his name.  click the link for more information.

there's a reality that's been slowly creeping up on me over these past few days.  i don't consider it a bad thing.  in fact, i pray that it's a reality that etches itself permanently in my heart and mind and that it serves as a launching pad for action in my life and the lives of those i come into contact with.

the reality is this:  judah's death was preventable.  his initial illness and symptoms were preventable.  his poor state of health that made him more susceptible to the effects of those symptoms was preventable. 

this whole thing was preventable.

before i type another word, i want you to understand that i'm not angry in the least.  i'm not angry with his orphanage or the doctors and nurses who cared for him, and i'm certainly not angry with GOD.

but i am determined.

since judah died on friday, several people have asked us if we're going to continue in the adoption process, if we're still going to pursue bringing another baby here from ethiopia to be a part of our family.  and without a single second of hesitation, the answer is a resounding YES.  a large part of our decision to adopt in the first place was the painful awareness of the life-threatening difficulties that many orphans enslaved to poverty face throughout the world and the prayerful desire to take a child out of that cycle. 

so now that we've felt the sting of poverty firsthand, how could we do anything other than forge ahead more passionately than we were before?

i don't want a word of this message to be spoken from atop the proverbial soapbox.  to be up on my soapbox would put me in a position to speak down to those around me, and this is a message and a call that we're praying through within our own family as well.  we certainly don't have this all figured out.  but the death of a baby that we loved passionately has brought us to a place of unimaginable pain and acute awareness of something that we can all take action to prevent.

with those things said, let me share a couple of statistics with you:
  • worldwide, 24,000 children under the age of 5 die every single day from preventable diseases.  most of those deaths occur in the earliest time of a child's life.  
  • several of these preventable diseases have been identified as the "big six baby killers", and they are malaria, measles, HIV/AIDS, diarrhea, pneumonia, and malnutrition.  
if you're like me, those stats feel enormously overwhelming- but entirely abstract.  if that's the case, let me share something else with you.

meet our son, judah alexander lewis.

he was born on june 26, 2010 weighing only 4.4 pounds.  in his fifth week of life, he began suffering from severe vomiting and diarrhea.  within days he had developed pneumonia, but his already malnourished body wasn't strong enough to fight.

he died early in the morning on august 13, 2010. 

that's real.  that's painful.  and that was preventable.

a couple of people who have called or come by to check on us during the last few days have mentioned that they're angry with GOD for letting this happen.  they're angry that the LORD would allow a defenseless baby to suffer and die at the hands of poverty.  but i'd like to offer another view on that point.  scripture clearly addresses the christian's call to help those who are in need and to defend the cause of the weak time and time again.  i wonder what would happen if, as believers, we became uncomfortable in our excess and we took seriously the LORD's commands throughout his word.
  • "defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked." psalm 82:3-4 
  • "he who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy." proverbs 14:21
  • "he who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors GOD." proverbs 14:31
  • "he who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done." proverbs 19:17   
  • "if a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered." proverbs 21:13 
  • "a generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor." proverbs 22:9
  • "the righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern." proverbs 29:7 
  • "if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday." isaiah 58:10 
  • "religion that GOD our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." james 1:27 
  • "if anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of GOD be in him? dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." 1 john 3:17-18 
as i mentioned before, josh and i are working through some of these issues in our own lives, and there are a couple of things i want to share about what we know up to this point.  first of all, handouts are not what this is about.  while i agree that meeting an immediate need that's staring you in the face can be a good thing, i think there's a better way to live out this type of love.  investing our time, money, and other resources into sustainable aid provides our giving the opportunity to extend beyond the immediate.  becoming involved in long-term projects doesn't just help people now, it changes lives today, tomorrow, and far beyond.

let me give you an example from an organization that we love and believe in.  compassion international is most known for their sponsorship program in which sponsors have a certain child that they sponsor each month with a set amount of money that goes toward the child's physical, educational, and spiritual development.  we love and participate in that program, but compassion has another mission that is particularly near and dear to our hearts.  their child survival program (CSP) is unique in that it focuses specifically on mother and child units, both prenatal and neonatal.  expectant mothers learn proper prenatal care in an effort to deliver healthy babies, but the local CSP doesn't stop there.  recognizing the dire effects of poverty on babies and young children, they work with the mothers to provide proper nutrition, education, and medical care -- as well as opportunities for the generation of income for the family. 

but most importantly, all of this is done through the local community under the umbrella of the local church.  it's a process that takes a family who is enslaved to the pains of poverty and methodically turns the tide of their fate toward that of health, education, and sustainable income.

enough of that and whole communities can turn around.

please consider joining with us(*) to sponsor a child survival program in judah's name.   i can't think of a better way to honor him than to commit $20 a month to help other babies like him live far beyond the short six weeks he was here on earth. 

*i changed our blog back to be publicly read because i want as many people as possible to hear this message.  please help me reach farther by linking back here or by posting this message on facebook or twitter.


Lora Lynn @ Vitafamiliae said...

I'm on it, friend. I'll be yelling it from the rooftops of the internet all day. Love to you and the fam.

Mandy said...

What an amazing testimony you have, in the wake of such a horrible tragedy! I am so sorry for your loss, and will definitely be praying for you and your family! We have just "stumbled" upon the world of Compassion and international adoption and are trying to find our own way to make a difference as well!

Libby said...

What a beautiful and life lasting tribute to your son, Judah Alexander. May God continue to work in your lives and in the lives of those children who will benefit and be blessed from the CSP. To his glory and honor forever!

Jen in Al said...

Dear Lewis Family,

I am so sorry for the loss of your baby Judah! There is so much that we should be doing as believers to minister to widows and orphans, all those in need! Thank you for sharing your heart! I will be linking back here for sure! Blessings to you as you seek bring your baby home even as your mourn the loss of precious Judah! BTW, i came here from Lora Lynn's blog. in Christ, jen in al

Jeremy Pittman said...

I love you guys!

Ronnica said...

I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your son. Though you never had a chance to hold him in your arms, I know he will forever be in your heart.

"so now that we've felt the sting of poverty firsthand, how could we do anything other than forge ahead more passionately than we were before?"

YES. I thank God for your commitment to do what you can...and may others follow your example.

russandrebecca said...

thanks for sharing your tragedy and conviction. I am provoked. I will work a bit smarter, harder and with more grace for Compassion today thanks to you and Judah.

Laura Lee said...

I am so sorry for the loss of your sweet baby Judah. We have just recently begun to sponser a child through compassion. but I'd never heard of the other program for mothers and babies.

My daughter will be turning five in a few months and I can't imagine a better way to celebrate. We will be giving in memory of Judah and the hope that many more babies make it to see that special birthday.
God Bless you and your family.

Kylie said...

Thank you so much for sharing your heart! I had no idea what all was going on.

Milam Family said...

Hi Allison. I'm so glad to reconnect with you through facebook and now your blog. Thank you so much for being so open with your life and for turning your heart break into something that is full of hope.

Jennifer Bacak said...

I was directed to you guys by Karen Spencer. We are advocates in College Station, TX. We have four kids and are in process to adopt from Ethiopia as well. Just wanted to say, I'm thankful for what God is doing in and through your family, and echo every word of your post with all my heart. I pray you grieve well and experience all fullness of JOY in Him! I look forward to news of the baby you will bring home in the future as God graciously adds to your family. Blessings!