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NPR: Female missionary to Uganda story brings out 'no white savior' syndrome

NPR: Female missionary to Uganda story brings out 'no white savior' syndrome

There’s a curious story on NPR’s site about an American woman who moved to Uganda years ago, set up a Christian charity to help malnourished kids and now is being sued by two Ugandan women who claimed that her negligence led to their children’s deaths.

Renee Balch, who moved back to west-central Virginia after it was clear things were going south in Africa, is fighting back, claiming she had nothing to do with these deaths.

There’s enough about this story that raises a lot of questions about the high rates of death in certain African countries; about foreigners who travel to Africa to do what they can to help and whether they should be held liable for any of these deaths. The story picks up with an anecdote (which I am skipping) about a critically ill child whom Bach (allegedly) nearly killed through lack of medical knowledge.

Ten years ago, Renee Bach left her home in Virginia to set up a charity to help children in Uganda. … Bach was not a doctor. She was a 20-year-old high school graduate with no medical training. And not only was her center not a hospital — at the time it didn't employ a single doctor.

Yet from 2010 through 2015, Bach says, she took in 940 severely malnourished children. And 105 of them died.

Now Bach is being sued in Ugandan civil court.

One in nine kids dying is not a good ratio. But, would these kids have died anyway? Was Bach’s facility the only one that was available?

Uganda has an infant mortality rate of 49 deaths per 1,000 people, but when Bach moved there, it was around 83.4, which is very high.

How could a young American with no medical training even contemplate caring for critically ill children in a foreign country? To understand, it helps to know that the place where Bach set up her operation — the city of Jinja — had already become a hub of American volunteerism by the time she arrived.

A sprawling city of tens of thousands of people on the shores of Lake Victoria, Jinja is surrounded by rural villages of considerable poverty. U.S. missionaries had set up a host of charities there. And soon American teens raised in mostly evangelical churches were streaming in to volunteer at them.

Bach was one of these teens. On her first trip, in 2007, she worked at a missionary-run orphanage — staying on for nine months.

Once back home in Virginia, Bach — now 19 years old — came to a life-changing conclusion: She should move to Jinja full time and set up her own charity.

I googled “missionary groups in Jinja” and sure enough, there’s a bunch.

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What sort of faith compels a mom to sacrifice her life for her child? Various media never tell us

What sort of faith compels a mom to sacrifice her life for her child? Various media never tell us

Years ago, I had a friend in California who was about four months pregnant when she learned that she had a fast-moving cancer that would kill her in a matter of weeks unless she started chemotherapy immediately. But it was a type of chemo that would kill her child.

Fiercely pro-life, considering abortion was the last thing on her mind. However, the cancer was so fast-moving that even if she decided to forego the chemo, she would not live long enough to bring the baby to the viability stage before delivering it. It was one of these life-of-the-mother situations that you hear about but rarely learn the gritty details.

Partly because she had several other children who needed her, she did abort this fourth child and had the chemo. Sadly, she only lived one more year before the cancer returned and she died.

Now to the news. I was interested to hear of a similar story that ran in the Washington Post about a woman who rejected chemo so her unborn child could live. Of course, you should watch for the faith element in this story.

The headaches began sometime in March. They didn’t think much of them, other than that they were possible migraines -- until she started vomiting.
An initial scan showed a mass in Carrie DeKlyen’s brain. More tests showed that it was a form of cancer, possibly lymphoma, but treatable. But a pathology exam revealed a more grim diagnosis. The 37-year-old mother of five from Wyoming, Mich., had glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. If lucky, she could live for five more years.
The tumor was taken out during a surgery in April, her husband, Nick DeKlyen, said. Not even a month later, the couple received two pieces of shocking news. Carrie’s tumor was back -- and she was eight weeks pregnant.

Here’s the agonizing choice part, with a hint at faith:

They had two options. They could try to prolong Carrie’s life through chemotherapy, but that meant ending her pregnancy. Or they could keep the baby, but Carrie would not live long enough to see the child.

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Are Christian conservatives the new media bogeymen for all Donald Trump policies?

Are Christian conservatives the new media bogeymen for all Donald Trump policies?

I was in Washington, D.C., this past week on a journalism assignment that put me, as a reporter, in touch with a lot of Christian conservatives.

Naturally, I was curious as to whether any of these people had anything to do with President Donald Trump’s transgender announcement. The ones I talked with denied they had.

I was aware of other issues they were discussing, so I believed their assertion that transgender issues weren’t on their list, much less near the top. So I found it odd that these same conservatives were blamed for Trump’s announcement in some news reports.

Here’s what the Associated Press led with. Note that the headline on this piece said, “Trump transgender ban nod to Christian conservatives,” not just “conservatives."

WASHINGTON (AP) -- His agenda stalled and his party divided, President Donald Trump veered into the nation’s simmering culture wars by announcing plans to ban transgender people from serving in the military.
Much of the political world -- prominent conservatives and Trump administration officials, among them -- was surprised and confused by the president’s sudden social media pronouncement. But on the ground in North Carolina, Tami Fitzgerald was elated.
“It was pretty high up on our wish list,” said Fitzgerald, executive director for North Carolina Values Coalition, which has fought for that state’s so-called “bathroom bill.” Fitzgerald said she found it “ridiculous” that the American taxpayers were being forced to pay for treatment and surgery that violates the conscience of most of the American public.”
Trump’s abrupt announcement amounted to a direct political lifeline to his most passionate supporters. In his chaotic first six months in office, Trump has lost sizable support from independents and some Republican voters. But polls show white evangelicals remaining loyal -- and essential to stabilizing his political standing.

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