From the monthly archives:

May 2002

Beauty For Ashes

by Original Author on May 7, 2002

Originally posted by Betty Jo Harter
I will never be desensitized to the task of taking mothers and their babies that have just died back to their homes to bury them. I have sobbed until my tears felt like rivers. I have taken more babies than I want to count home because they did not make it to the clinic in time for us to help them. The drive back to their home is always the same. The baby is wrapped in a dirty blanket that the mother had, a deafening silence is in the car except for the weeping of the mother. I put my arm around the mother and cradle her while she cradles her dead baby and she rocks the baby and strokes the blanket as though the baby is still alive.

Brothers and sisters this scene is so common! The Lord being my helper and strength we will find as many children as possible in every corner and province in an attempt to help them. Please forgive me for not writing more often so that you are informed as to what is taking place with the children here. You have been so wonderful to write, encourage, pray and financially support the children here. I have said to Gus, “I have to make a choice most of the time to either live this life, or to write about it”. There never seems to be time to do both. The Lord being my helper I’ll try to do better in the future.

I don’t know how to catch up now except to summarize a few incidents and bring you all the way from last October to now. The week that Gus left for the States we opened the clinic, Beauty for Ashes. The group that treated children before us didn’t even leave us a Q-tip to get us started. They just left for the States. We started from scratch. All we had was the building, which needed cleaning and additional rooms to make it ready to receive patients. So we added temporary rooms. An activity room and office for keeping records and receiving new patients. We built our beds, cabinets, desk, IV poles, kitchen tables, storage cabinets for medicine and benches to sit on the porch. We added hot water for sterilization, emergency lighting for black outs we experience in Davao. Exhaust fan, for the elimination of odor of the sick children, beds and storage for the six nurses, commercial size cooking utensils, three refrigerators, and ovens. Of course, all the antibiotics, medicines, syringes, IV tubing, oxygen tanks, dozens of cloth diapers, one hundred t-shirts we had made for the children because they had no clothing, and sandals for the children because they had no shoes. Most importantly, the necessary nutritional foods and vitamins for the children.

We wanted this place not to look like a hospital but inviting and cheerful for children. I made all the paints in primary color. We painted scripture verses in Visayan and English with cartoon characters and children hand print all over the walls. We want to remind the caregiver where their strength and health comes from. The activity room was built to draw them away form their beds for a few moments everyday to cheer them. In the room I had a carousel and tent built to appear like a circus. The flooring is alphabet foam puzzle pieces. We have plastic children chairs and tables for coloring. We have a small TV and VCR for watching children’s animated movies. An inviting room for children.

We painted daises and others of my favorite flower on the wall of the porch. It looks as though they are growing; the little ones are in their own little garden. I mentioned about how cheerful the clinic is because I want you to know that so much of their physical recovery is stimulated by the surroundings and the constant love and support they get from all of us. Our children at home look with joy to their individual time at the clinic to help play with the children, feed them, bathe them or to take a night shift with the nurse on duty. I am so thankful for the opportunity for our children to grow up serving this way. I do hope they appreciate what a blessed position they are in from the Lord to minister and I thank God continually for this rare opportunity.

Now that the clinic was ready, where were the children? Once again I started knocking on doors of different departments in the city of Davao. I first contacted the head of the Department of Health and told them we needed his help and support to help his children. I had no way knowing what his reaction would be. At that time no one in the city had ever heard of Beauty for Ashes. Much to my surprise he was not only very helpful in making recommendations for us to Chiefs of Staff of many hospitals in Davao del Sur, but will work with us in allowing us to teach preventative nutrition to the different barangays in Davao del Sur.

The staff of nurses and I began to travel to various provinces in Mindanao calling upon Health Center, Hospitals, and individual homes inquiring and informing them of our desires to help their children. We now are receiving telephone calls and knocks on the gate to please come pick up children in need of our care. We are ready any time day or night to get the children. It is a common occurrence for us to drive the car as far as the road will allow, get on a motorcycle, transfer to a horse and then sometimes to walk the rest of the way. Now picture us returning that same path, walking, horseback, motorcycle and then the car except this return trip we must also bring back the caregiver (mother or relatives) and the child that is near death. It was just last Christmas that we experienced a trip like that. Unknown to us, the mother was nine months pregnant. She delivered Christmas day. We named the baby Christian. I am sure Christian was a little early because of the arduous trip.

We have been blessed since the last of October to nurse thirty-six children that were near death and have been able to return thirty-one of them to their homes healthy. Oh, you cannot imagine what a miracle from God unless you had seen these children. We can care for fourteen maximum in the facility. We have now a staff of six nurses, one social worker, a cook, someone to do the laundry and another to clean.

We have only made a tiny ripple in the water here, which is running over with severely, severely malnourished children. God being our helper we will help as many as he gives us opportunity. He only calls us to obedience and He makes all the changes. What a wonderful savior!

Mom Harter