Tools, Illness, an Ass and a 97 year old man

This morning I was visited by a family from the interior.  A man had been having a cough, fever and difficulty breathing for two weeks, a woman had an infected wound on her very swollen, hot foot for about two weeks, and a 16 year old boy had been unable to use his left hand for about two years.  These would be pretty typical consults on any given day at my house when I’m not traveling.  What made this family remarkable, however, was that they lived in a particularly remote area, the man was 97 years old and the boy had been completely normal prior to an illness two years ago and now was very mentally delayed and had significant right arm weakness and wasting. 

The older man was very bright, had an obvious love for God, and was quite ill.  He said that he hadn’t been able to lie down for the entire duration of the illness, he had only recently stopped having fever and chills and he became short of breath quite easily.  His daughter (the boy’s mother), had a significant foot infection which was moving to her waist.  The son had a left hand almost paralyzed with significant weakness in his entire arm.  He was very slow to respond in conversation but seemed to understand me.  His story was one that is somewhat common in the interior here.  He was healthy and bright and picked up an illness with a significant fever.  Fever does not typically cause a family to take a trip to the city.  After several days of illness, they noticed the weakness and the mental changes.  He has not shown any recovery of function in the two years since.

I don’t meet many 97 year olds who have lived in the jungle all their life.  I do see many infections, and these three represent rather common infections in the remote people of this region.  The man had pneumonia, the woman had cellulits, and the boy was suffering from the sequelae of meningitis.  Last week I also consulted with a young lawyer (35-40) in town who was battling the acute effects of Chagas disease, a potentially awful parasitic disease transmitted by the "kissing bug" of this region.  He likely picked it up while recently visiting his family in the interior.  I see people with leprosy (easily treated), tuberculosis, (nonresistent), much dysentery (both infectious and parasitic), dengue fever and malaria, as well as other more minor infectious illnesses.  The swine flu has also been through the Amazon region, based on what I’ve seen.

Sometimes these cases make for interesting medicine for a doc from the U.S.  So many respond well to treatment and it’s nice to be able to be a tool in the master carpenter’s hand.  I explain to each person that a doctor cures a person in the same way that a hammer builds a house.  How silly for the hammer to think that it is the primary builder.  I’m so glad that THE carpenter enjoys using tools to accomplish His tasks, allowing me to participate in His work.  It’s sad to hear of Christians who think that faith is only exhibited in healing that occurs without using medications (or doctors).  Christians get pretty weird when it comes to healing.  They say faith will move mountains and will heal but I have yet to see one travel "by faith", build a house "by faith", make dinner "by faith".  Why not accept the fact that God LOVES using people (tools) to do His work?  Some of these faith teachers are like some doctors I know who are like the ass (yes, doctors can be asses; I’ve known more than a few!) in the following story. John Wimber told of the donkey that carried Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  Though he initially saw himself as only a donkey being used to carry a man, after several minutes of cheering and adulation, his perspective began to change and he began to think rather highly of himself.  Instead of having a sense of appreciation for the privilege of being used, and of gratitude to the One who chose to use him, he put himself where only God should be, in a position to receive praise.  To live apart from humility before God is to be so deceived.  Many preachers, doctors, and others will be so surprised one day when they see the true measure of their contribution, and when they meet the only One worthy of praise. 

To be an instrument (or an ass) well used by the Master, when He desires, how He desires, and where He desires, is our great privilege.  


My kids showed me an incredible drama on You Tube.  Please go to this link for a five minute video/drama about our Father’s passionate heart for broken, screwed up people. 


Further Thoughts:


People who live many hours from any medical help break bones and have asthma, headaches, meningitis, diarrhea, lacerations, strokes…

Jesus didn’t call us to be good people, He called us to Himself.

In every circumstance and in every encounter, there is more going on than we perceive.

Desire is like a knife.  It can be sharp or dull, strong or weak, large or small and can be used for either constructive or destructive purposes.

Pain and loss are difficult for anyone to endure and require time from which to recover.

Don’t make decisions of any significance when you are tired.

To have a good sense of humor is to smile easily, not to be able to make people laugh.

For every personal strength, there is a corresponding weakness.  For every personal weakness, there is a corresponding strength.

To dwell on what you lack is to not appreciate the much that you have.

You’ve been called to do what you can do, not to do what you can’t do.  The ear has been called to hear but it has not been called to smell or run.  Focus on that which you can do, and do it well.

With decisions, the choice is often between inner peace, accompanied by outer conflict, and outer peace, accompanied by inner conflict.

An excellent metaphor for life is that of a journey.  To remember that a difficult uphill climb will always be followed by a downhill grade offers hope. To remember that an easier, downhill stretch will most certainly be followed by a tough climb keeps one humble.

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