July 20, 2018

Andrew & Anna Beckham

“One of [Anna’s] most memorable experiences was in attendance of a birth in the village of Kuduli. Kuduli has felt for a long time to us a spiritually dark place, with frequent stories of the occult and several hangings during our life here. Any potential for a beautiful and natural delivery was not spared this spiritual oppression, as Anna discovered on her very first encounter with the Laarim traditional birth process. A routine request for Anna to assist with a girl of around 16 years having her first baby led her out to a distant homestead we have not previously entered. She examined the expectant mother to find she was fully dilated and ready to push. On announcing this, the mood seemed to change, and Anna’s voice was no longer heard. The already compact house became overcrowded as men and women entered. An apparently spiritual ceremony of chanting and sprinkling an unidentified substance over the gathered onlookers led to what can only be described as a frenzy. Women screamed while suddenly pushing on and punching the abdomen. One man restrained the young woman by the head while another whipped her with a stick. Another woman, preparing to catch the coming baby, would occasionally break from role to slap the mum-to-be. In disbelief Anna sat unable to diffuse the chaos and prayed through tears of despair. After some time, exhausted by the effort, and with no apparent effect, the crowd released the traumatised woman and called Anna back to assist. Unsure what else to do in the face of this oppressive atmosphere Anna offered to take the young woman to the clinic, to which the mum readily agreed. After a short car journey, and in the relative peace of a clinic room the baby came quickly and smoothly. We thank God for a healthy physical outcome, even if the spiritual sickness evident here continues to make us reel. We understand more each day that much of this is common practice throughout Laarim. Of all our anticipated challenges in working in a remote and traditional setting like these back-water hills of South Sudan, the reality seems often much more brutal and deprived than we had imagined. How much this people needs its redeemer for every aspect of their culture and life!”

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