A Cry in the Night

As told by missionary nurse, Noeleen Loughran, our partner on the ground in Rumbek.

Just around Christmas time, as I was sitting outside the Parish House as usual here at night, I found myself listening to the sound of a baby’s cry.  It was a lingering cry, and it stood out from the usual cries one hears from babies in the distance.  It bothered me, but being late at night there wasn’t much I could do.  The following night, the cry pierced my head again, and so on and so on every night.  I knew it was the same baby’s cry. 

Every night I complained to the church Fathers, “Where is that child crying from?”  Everywhere I went I could hear the cry.  It began tormenting me with frustration as to where the child was and how I couldn’t do something.  We made inquiries to no avail – no one knew the whereabouts of the child.  I felt like I was the only one who could hear the painful sound, and no one else seemed overly concerned, as it is quite regular to hear children crying here.  There were times I felt God was purposely making me hear it more than anyone else.

In my frustration one night, I could stand it no longer and I got out of bed just after midnight.  I awoke the guard at the gate and told him to open the gate. Against his advice, I proceeded with a flashlight toward the sound, knowing very well I could get bitten by the snakes that come out at night. But with trust in God I proceeded.  I knew a girl in this area called Lucky, and I woke her up to ask her if she knew where the child was.  She knew. At last I had found her.

Under the stars lay a young woman with a tearful baby wrapped in her arms – a very frail young lady. Beside her lay two more children sleeping, and beside them lay an elderly woman with her legs tied together and her arms tied together, chained to a pole.  They had no shelter of any kind, no blanket, and only a piece of plastic over four sticks to cover their heads. 

The old lady gave me a beautiful smile. I later learned that she was an elder in the church from the town of Yirol, some 3 hour’s journey by car, and they had walked to Rumbek looking for medical help.  Due to the war, the elderly lady had – as many do here – temporarily lost her sanity from the trauma, and was tied up for her own safety. 

The baby was so hungry and the mother could not produce enough milk to feed her.  Being late, both Lucky and I ran back to the parish house, and gathered up anything I could find in terms of food. We ran back to them with a few slices of bread, a box of porridge, and a half of a yogurt for the baby.  That would see them through until morning, I thought.

The next day I bought everything they needed in terms of food, and powdered baby milk for six months.  Now there was the issue of what to do for the elderly lady.  At that time, I had a doctor come from Uganda to work with trauma victims for one week, who was a psychiatrist and medical doctor.  When he came with me to see the woman, he wept. He said it was so sad to see the pain in her eyes, and yet a little help can change all that. And yet a little help can change all that. We bought her some needed medicine for her trauma, and now she sits comfortably smiling, no longer needing to be tied up or of any danger to herself.  I have not yet found somewhere for them to live, but I am working on it.

There is no longer the cry of a baby each night. I have comfort and peace now in my heart knowing she is ok.  What I have learned in this experience is that God makes us hear things that others may not hear. He makes us feel things others may not feel. And he gives us the strength and courage to do something about it.  We sometimes think God is far away and that we can’t hear him. But in truth, his voice comes to us in many ways, and we can see him in the places we least expect.  The infant – a little girl – did not have a name. And as she was born at Christmas, we have called her “Iosa,” the Irish name for Jesus.

-Blessings, Noeleen


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