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Fire Update in Escopa

It is Day 5 after the fire in Escopa. We have been so busy here at Gentle Hands after the Christmas Day fire under the bridge.

My morning shift over, its 2am. I gently woke Mandy who had grabbed 5 hours of sleep between shifts. Each hour of sleep is precious. Tonight, little JR won’t sleep… he whimpers and cries.

Picture 22 Read more

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Little JR

I was sleeping soundly. It had been a long day, but wonderful. There had been food and presents this Christmas Day. I was so very tired. Outside, my dad was in a drunken stupor screaming at my mom. How many times in the last week had he been drunk? Last week, when my mom took me to get medicine from Ate Cher, he was drunk then too… I remember cuz she really yelled at him. Read more

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FIRE!

It was 2am and someone pounding at my door, calling me in a panic. “Fire, Ate Cher. Fire in Escopa!”

I grabbed my phone and threw on my blue jeans, flashbacks of 3 months ago running through my mind when we had a fire and lost 45 houses in Escopa. I grabbed my phone and keys and ran…

Sirens screamed… this should have been a peaceful Christmas night… it was a nightmare.

The streets were lined with families… even in the dark, I could see the horror on their faces. Some were carrying sacks of clothes. There, a kettle, a pot. There a TV. One person had a wash basin… Everything they could save before the fire reached their house.

Mothers were crying. One woman passed by me 3 times… pacing the street, not sure where to turn, where to go… she mumbled and rubbed her eyes… hoping maybe, it was a nightmare…

I stood as close as I dared, watching the fire devour the houses where only 48 hours ago, we delivered food baskets and Christmas presents. The house we were building for a family from the last fire, was next, still standing. Lord, protect that house. All our hard work… the money we spent… please…Why were the fire trucks not coming?

The air was electric as crowds stood and watched the fire lap up the wooden shanties… suddenly, the power was out. The glow from the fire cast eerie shadows and people screamed and ran every which way… it was chaos.

Another person grabbed me… “We’ve lost everything… we have nothing left…” What could I do but hug them and coo… “I know, I know…”

A little girl, no more than 10 years old… holding her little brother… sobbing… she couldn’t find her mom. I sent one of our boys into the crowds to look…

So many faces… tears streaming down blackened cheeks… children naked and frightened, their parents too distraught to comfort them…

Finally, much too late, the fire trucks moved and after 5 hours, the fire was out… the entire community under the bridge, completely gone. Not a house standing.

A little boy, only 1, was brought to the hospital, his face and head badly burned. I sent one of our boys to get him… we have lost so many at that hospital. We had him discharged and we bandaged his wounds… After being in the emergency room for 3 hours, they had done nothing. He was so brave. He just wimpered…

Thankfully, only one mother and her baby died. There were only two burn victims. We don’t understand why things happen. We do know this community is despised because they are squatters. We do know the help from the government will be minimal and for sure, not enough. There are hundreds of people sleeping on the cold dirty cement basketball court. We are running a hostel on the first floor of our building and will set up a soup kitchen in our garage. In by 7 PM out by 6 AM. We expect to feed 50 to 100  people one meal a day. We are collecting clothes and other donations.

Please pray for the little boy, J.R., who was burned so badly. Pray for our families… they have lost absolutely everything… even their hope. Pray we will raise funds and donations. This is our community where we have been sowing seeds for five years… Pray that God will use this time… for His glory.

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Jomar – A Family For Christmas

Something is breaking in his life… Just the past 2 weeks. For the first time since he came to us a year ago, he has changed. His smiles catch us off guard, his contagious laugh that we have never heard before, rings through the house. He is like a flower before our eyes, opening its petals to the sun… Read more

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Emmanuel

5 December 2005

I have been at many deliveries and seen many interesting birth situations. This was a little different. Christy was a 24-year-old in a women’s prison in another city. I had been there several times on different outreaches. The women were locked in a cell no bigger than 12 X 4. At least 30 of them. More than half of them had been in that same room for 2 years and more… waiting for their court dates. Christy had been in jail for drug abuse only 6 months when I met her. She was 7 months pregnant.

We had never offered to deliver Christy’s baby. It was a 2 to 3 hour drive on a good day and we had done no pre-natal checks, had no information about her previous 4 births. On the day that Christy went into labor, the police were understaffed and the warden refused to let her out of the jail to give birth. What was she to do? Several frantic calls were made to our home. I asked Bernadette to get a birth kit ready and away we went.

The drive seemed forever. Traffic was horrible, bumper to bumper almost the whole way. We prayed we would make it. When we arrived, Christy met us at the gate. She looked very tired already. We went into the tiny office of the warden, pushed two desks together, threw some papers and books in the corner and set our instruments up. Thankfully we had brought extra sheets so she wouldn’t have to lay straight on the desk. We covered the window with a sheet so the guards would stop looking in. Every time one of them would comment, you could see Christy tense up.

Dette and the girls left for a quick bite to eat so I could labor with Christy in quiet. As each contraction came harder and longer, I prayed with her.  It was only a few hours and the girls were back. Christy had relaxed and thankfully was ready to push.

She climbed up on the desks and we put our gloves on. Mandy and Leah stood on either side and encouraged her and prayed. Finally, one last push and a beautiful baby boy was born. He was really tiny and we wrapped him up in a towel. The guards heard the babies first cry and banged on the door hollering and cheering. Sternly, we told them to be quiet because there was a problem with the placenta. It was very serious, I said. I didn’t hear a peep from them for the next hour. The placenta really took forever to come and when it did, it came in little pieces. It was a very tense hour as we prayed and Dette used her incredible skills to painstakingly pull the rest of the placenta out piece by piece. Thankfully, no bleeding.

Gently we cleaned Christy up and changed her clothes. The baby was dressed in a sleeper and she held him tight. She sat on the chair as though nothing had happened. She named him “Emmanuel” because it was so close to Christmas. Quietly we sat for a few holy minutes as she cried silently.

“What will you do with the baby,” I asked gently, knowing she would not be allowed to keep him even for a night. She explained one of her young cousins would take him. I smiled and said I would love to care for him if she would let me. Tears came to her eyes and she nodded her head.

“Please, Ate Cher.”

I walked to the small cell where 30 women lived together and showed them the baby. I told them to be kind to Christy and to help her recover. They all understood. Most of them had children on the outside and missed them terribly. They nodded and cheered, shoving their arms through the bars wanting to hold the baby.

I turned and let Christy give her little Emmanuel one last hug.

Then the girls gathered up our things. The desks were pushed back the way we found them as though nothing happened. The gate clanged behind us and I snuggled the babe close to me. I said a prayer, so thankful for the privilege of rescuing yet another baby.