Posted by: atxanna | September 7, 2008

KATIE– Middle Eastern “Baby Catcher”

Katie, with her husband Steve

Katie, with her husband Steve

Do you know any midwives that would want to come work in my country?  It’s not your everyday request.  Especially given what a narrow segment of the American population even has this vocation.  In fact, I had heard of midwives, but wasn’t even entirely confident I understood what my inquirer was asking for.  The person asking worked for a maternity hospital in a country in the Middle East (for the purpose of this story, I will call the country “Arabland”).  The hospital is in desperate need of more midwives or the government is threatening to shut it down.  Some friends and I promised to “put out feelers” when we got back to the States, but never in our wildest dreams did we think it would happen.  Enter Katie!

 

 

 

Katie was born and raised a central Texas girl.  The oldest of four kids (now many more thanks to her parents’ volunteer work in the Texas foster care program), she had the unique experience of witnessing her mother use midwives during her pregnancies.  She remembers it, and recalls being fascinated by it.  At a young age, she was always asking for books on the subject at the public library and would learn about its practices as a hobby.  In many ways, she had always dreamed of growing up to be a midwife.

 

“Midwifery” is a health care profession where providers give prenatal care to expecting mothers, attend the birth of the infant (in most cases as an alternative choice to a doctor), and provide postpartum care for the mother and her baby.  Midwives strive to help women have a natural birth experience.  When Katie talks about helping in the delivery of a baby, as a midwife, she might say something like: “I caught a baby yesterday.” When I asked her why she called it “catching a baby” she replied that “if all goes well during the birth, that’s basically all you’re doing—catching.  Simple enough. 

 

At the age of 18, Katie was offered an apprenticeship with an Austin-area midwife.  This is one of the requirements for completing your training.  In addition to the schooling and testing mandated by the state, to receive certification an apprentice has to be a part of approximately 60 births under the leadership of their mentor.  After that, you take a national exam and begin your own practice.  For Katie, rounding the corner to the end of her training was such a joy.  But the circumstances of her life were also quickly changing.  Right as she completed the national exam, she got engaged to Steve, and was unsure she would even go on to practice after all. 

 

Katie & Steve were married in December 2007, and this past spring they took a city-wide course called Perspectives (www.perspectives.org).  Katie said, “Perspectives made God’s call on our lives more real to us… it shifted our outlook to think: not only is living this out do-able, it’s essential.  Instead of thinking: I could be a missionary, I started thinking: no, I am a missionary… I just need to live like it.  It was during that class that one of the friends who’d been with me when I heard the request for a midwife in the Middle East met Katie.  When Katie told her what she did for a living, my friend about passed out from shock.  After further research, Katie & Steve decided to go to Arabland for a month, as a trial run, and see if the hospital (and country) would be a fit.  So this summer, the two of them went in search of answers—was God calling them to serve as His light in this foreign land? 

 

The place where Katie would work is a missionary maternity hospital.  They provide patients with prenatal, delivery, and postpartum care.  The hospital sees about 75 births a month.  In Arabland, there is socialized medicine and government hospitals will deliver the nationals’ children for free.  But still almost 40% of the national population pays to come and have their babies at this missionary hospital.  Why do they come to the missionary hospital?  Because the care is that much better.  The workers there are truly a reflection of Light and Life, as followers of Jesus Christ, and it overflows into their work every day.

 

In Arabland, it is illegal to evangelize, and there are strict anti-conversion laws in place.  At the hospital, though, if a patient asks for Christian materials, the workers are allowed to give it to them.  Even with such strictness around sharing, the people seem very open to asking questions.  When they see an American, they automatically assume he/she is a Christian.  And if you do not beat around the bush, and directly or openly share about your faith, they actually respect you.  They talk about religion like we talk about the weather,” Katie said.  There is constantly an opportunity to talk about what you believe.  The hospital administrator advised Steve and Katie to be bold in sharing.  His “encouragement” to them was, “If you are found out to be the one who led a local to convert, the police will put you in jail.  But go ahead and do it anyway. Because you are American, the worst that could happen is you are jailed for a week, the embassy will get you out, then they will kick you out of Arabland and you’ll never be allowed back.  The end.  But you become a testimony of the faith that you believed in so much that you were willing to go to jail for it… and you can still go on to work in its neighboring countries.

Today, the hospital is in the heart of the city.

Today, the hospital is in the heart of the city.

There are only 3 male and 6 female Christian workers in the whole of Arabland.  So the need is great.  The woman who started the hospital in 1967 still lives there and in all her years serving the people of this country, she hasn’t seen many converts (that she knows of).  But she has loved well.  She doesn’t attend the births anymore (she’s 86 and in her time delivered more than 25,000 babies), but she’s always at the hospital—she sees every baby and every woman, she says goodbye to each patient before they leave, and she PRAYS.  Everyone in the city knows who she is—they even call her the Mother of the city, because when she started the hospital, the “town” was nothing but desert… but now a city has grown up around this centerpiece.

When it was built, the hospital was in the middle of the desert.

When it was built, the hospital was in the middle of the desert.

After spending a month there—Katie catching babies and Steve researching what kinds of jobs he could get—they came back to Austin eager to prepare the way for their return.  They both had always thought “missions” sounded neat, like something they’d enjoy doing “someday… maybe.”  With this opportunity in their heads, Katie has started to remember back to her teenage years.  She used to be intrigued with and wondered about Muslim women.  She remembers dreaming—“wouldn’t it be cool to go to the Middle East to help women.”  She was concerned about the oppression of women in the Arab World.  She thought about the limitations women faced in healthcare.  She used to ask a lot: “who helps these women?”  And God is now opening the door for Katie to be that person. 

 

Fast forward to today.  She’s schooled in her trade.  She’s ready.  She’s called.  And she’s going.  Oh, and did I mention she’s a brand new mom?  Sienna Louise was born a week ago.  Now they will apply for a passport for their baby, wrap up their house, and hop a plane back to Arabland sometime this fall (or winter).  Steve & Katie cannot wait to serve the Lord in this desert land, caring for a people who do not know Jesus as Lord, doing their best to love them well. 

 

(Please pray that their house sells or they find a renter in this dismal housing market so they can get there faster.)

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