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No Room, at the Station

We know that by participating in a Habitat for Humanity build, we have the opportunity to reach out and touch people in a way that would not otherwise be possible. We know also, that many lessons are learnt on a Habitat construction site and we always come away with a new respect for those living in poverty.

But sometimes, something totally unexpected happens and we are drawn into situations that will both challenge us and reward us through the experience. It is my pleasure to introduce you, the reader to the ‘tiny miracle’ of one such Habitat build.

Through the Habitat for Humanity International Thrivent Build partnership, a team of volunteers from Lutheran Churches in the USA, and Canada were building in an AIDS OVC (Orphans and Vulnerable Children) project in Ntshongweni near Durban, SA.

The build was going extremely well and the two teams were working really hard to finish the walls of their new houses before the end of the week. Volunteers were laying block, mixing cement and joking with their builders and crew leaders. It was mid afternoon when a policewoman from the police station next door to the construction site ran up to volunteers building on the first house and screamed for someone to help her. In all her excitement she explained that a young women had come into the police station and was about to give birth and she did not know what to do.


Gogo Maria Moyo and ‘Midwife’ Jean Burrows the day after the birth of Njabulo



Jean Burrows pointing to the birthplace of baby Njabulo Dube

And this is where the small miracle begins. Building on the first house was volunteer Jean Burrows from Canada who at the last minute had joined the Lutheran team along with her husband Ross. In the early sixties, Jean had worked in obstetrics in the labour and delivery ward of a hospital in Ontario.

With her heart racing, Jean grabbed a pair of rubber gloves from the first aid kit and together with a few other lady volunteers rushed to the police station. “My heart was pounding”, said Jean, “I just rushed to the young girls aid”. Arriving at the police station the Habitat volunteers were guided to the rear of the building where they found sixteen year old Thembelihle Dube laying on a dirty mattress in the middle of the long grass. She was in the advanced stages of labour and the babies head had already crowned.

Jean got down on her knees comforting the young mother and gently gave assurance that all would be OK. Within minutes, a tiny Njabulo Dube (meaning happiness) was delivered on to the mattress. Working quickly, Jean cut the laces from Carla Whitson’s construction boots and Shara Cunningham quickly washed them to remove the cement and dust. The laces were then used to tie the babies, umbilical cord and the Njabulo was placed gently on the chest of his mother and covered with a blanket.

Meanwhile, news had spread quickly and whilst the volunteers waited for the arrival of the ambulance, Gogo (grandmother) Maria Moyo arrived to see for the first time, her great grandson. The adrenaline, relief, joy, happiness and tears of the volunteers greeted Maria as she gazed down upon the small bundle and she thanked Jean and her team of ladies for helping her granddaughter.

Njabulo was taken with his mother to a local hospital and would probably be home within a few days. Visiting the family the next day, Gogo Maria welcomed us with open arms and again thanked Jean for everything she had done.

On reflection how amazing that Jean was only able to come on the build because someone else dropped out at the last minute? How awesome that Jean had the very skills that were needed at that moment in time? How incredible that all the volunteers involved were women of deep faith? How biblical that for tiny Njabulo, there was no room at the station and so he was born on a mattress, upon long grass?

For our volunteers, the experience will be one never to be forgotten but for communities living in poverty and without many of the resources we take for granted, the sudden birth of Njabulo is one more daily challenge they have to face. We pray that God will bless tiny Njabulo Dube and we give thanks to God for our amazing Lutheran partners whose compassion and love for the orphans and the poor has become a beacon of hope in a community decimated by the AIDS pandemic.