He's a good man and hard-working. He's got good work ethic, which is common among the Burkinabe. He has a nice face - easily trusted. How happy he must have been to hear that the baby was on the way! Like most West Africans, he would have chosen someone well-respected and well-loved to be the one who named the new little one. A boy's name and a girl's name would be carefully chosen and told to the parents a few weeks before the expected birth. How nervous he would be those last few weeks! A new baby in the house - he must save every extra Franc for the new little life. He must have spent hours on his job as a guard wondering about the little tyke. What kind of personality could he expect? If it were a girl, would she look like her mother? How much hair would she have? They should probably get a new dog for the house - no, scratch that; feeding dogs added extra cost.
Finally the evening of the birth comes. Just off work, he rushes with his sweet wife to the closest birthing clinic and signs all the necessary paperwork while they find her a bed.
He waits - there's really nothing else for him to do. He tries to be a good coach, but finds that his nerves make him terrible at this task, so he paces and waits to his wife's side. He paces and waits, paces and waits. And waits.
Too long. This is taking too long. Too many nurses have checked on her, and they're chattering among themselves now. One approaches him. It's not going well, sir. The baby isn't coming. Your wife is bleeding heavily and is ready to give birth, but the baby isn't coming. We have some medicine that we can give her to make her dilate properly so the baby will come, but you'll have to pay for it right now.
Suddenly all that he knew about the local clinics came to mind - blood loss, lost babies, dull instruments, high maternal death rates.
"But I don't have any money! We can only pay for the birth, that is all!"
"I'm sorry, sir, but that is our policy. No money, no medicine."
He knows this was the way it is. That's the way it always is in these hospitals. No money, no surgery. No money, no medicine. No money, no help.
What could he do? He had to find the money. His boss! His boss could surely loan him the money and save his wife's life. He could work it off later, or have it taken out of his salary. Anything. His wife will die without it.
So he sets out on his bicycle, calling his boss's number. The night is still young; his boss won't be asleep. He doesn't answer the call. Again. No answer. Again. Again. Again. No answer. Panic begins to set it. If his boss doesn't answer, where will he get the money? His wife will bleed out. She will die soon. The baby will die with her. He HAS to get the money! His boss continues not to answer the phone. He has to find someone to give him the money, or he will be a widower within the hour.
He sees a white man driving down the dirt road near him and in desperation the man waves the car to a stop. The white man rolls down the window and they exchange greetings, and the man makes his desperate plea. Please, sir, 7,000 CFA is what I need. My wife is having a baby and will die without this medicine. It's already been too long and they won't help her. I can't get a hold of my boss. Please help me. I'll do anything - I'll give you my ID card, anything.
So Ken turns from the driver's seat and asks me, "Do you have 10,000 CFA with you?" I look at the African man at his window, desperation in his eyes and a bicycle leaning on his thigh, speaking in French too rapid for me to catch. I don't have any money with me. I don't even have my purse. Ken turns back to the man and tells him to stay right there, that he isn't carrying any cash because he was just taking me home, but he is going to run back to the house and get the money that the man needs. Our guard, Kiinda, re-explains in Moree from the passenger seat so the panicked man will know that we aren't just driving off. So back to the house we head, where Ken runs inside, grabs his wallet, runs back outside, and we drive quickly back to the intersection where, sure enough, the man is waiting with wide, scared eyes for us to return to him.
We pull up beside him and hand the money out the window, along with a tract on baptism. The man takes the gift and his whole face changes. If Burkinabe were emotional people, I think he would have cried on the spot. He thanks Ken over and over, again offering his ID card, but Ken waves off the offer, saying that he doesn't need to be paid back; he is able to give because of the grace of God. You're welcome, you're very welcome. God bless you, too.
We drive off as the man pedals toward the hospital, and I am silent. Partly because of the lesson in generosity and witnessing that I just learned from this missionary, and partly because we have just witnessed a level of poverty that we will never be able to fully explain. That man - that good, hard-working, very nice man - was so desperate for money that he stopped a complete stranger on the road in the middle of the night to ask for help. And if he had not, both his wife and his unborn child would have died before daybreak. No extra money for the possibility of such disaster, no savings account. Just desperation. How much is 7,000? Fourteen dollars.
This is the norm for those living here, the everyday life of these people and the constant surroundings of these missionaries. Unexplainable poverty. Desperation to which no one back in the States can relate and which can never be accurately described. The knowledge that less than $20 just saved two lives. The fact that this reality can co-exist in a world that put a man on the moon is mind-boggling sometimes. In one week I will fly back to the richest country in the world - just in time for American holiday season, complete with its 'Black Friday' and a completely different reality. Blessed Savior, wherever I go, wherever you take me, let me never forget that this reality pervades my world, as well.