I began my orientation this past week to the health care needs of post-war, impoverished Angola. My first week of work in the hospital has been bittersweet. It has been nice to be able to see and treat so many very sick people who arrived, in many cases, after days to weeks of walking. It has also been difficult to see human beings, created lovingly by our Father, in such painful, debilitated conditions. A few descriptions follow:
A 2 month old girl, who will be blind for the rest of her life because her cornea was infected with gonorrhea (so common here) during birth . It is standard in developed countries to treat all newborns with an ointment to prevent this.
A 48 year old man who will lose one eye and half his face because of six years of growth of basal cell skin cancer. He came in with the left eye and the area surrounding looking just like hamburger. He just kept hoping it would improve. Going to a hospital was not culturally automatic for him.
A forty year old women who had lost 16 pregnancies in the second trimester, arrived at six months, in labor. A cerclage was placed and meds were given to arrest labor and 24 hr later, she was resting comfortably. The next day, her labor progressed and she delivered and the baby did not survive.
A twelve year old with malaria and liver failure because he took a popular “traditional” medicine (all natural) that destroyed his liver. The malaria is treatable, the liver failure is not.
A forty year old man who lost sight in one eye because of untreated, marked high blood pressure.
Several beautiful men and women who had been battling the symptoms of TB for months. This disease is everywhere here and, praise God, quite treatable.
A thirty year old women died because of advanced bladder cancer, caused by a very common parasite picked up by wading in contaminated water.
Multiple cases of severe malaria (several resistant to initial treatment), usually involving the brain (cerebral malaria), caused by the most dangerous type (Falciparum), which is about the only type here. Virtually no one living here has not had the pleasure…
Many, various cases (fractures, tumors, infections, etc) neglected or improperly treated at their local hospitals, clinics, or traditional healers leaving debilitating, permanent functional disability.
I spent a day with Steve Collins, a 73 year old Family Practice Physician (with the energy of a young man), who learned how to remove cataracts at age 58 and has given thousands their sight back.
I am spending my days seeing patients and doing rounds with Dr Steve Foster and two beautiful, helpful, young physicians, who are learning with me from Dr Foster how to treat the many medical challenges that arrive daily, carried by many who have been suffering for a long time from that which, even after 20+ years as a physician, I cannot imagine. Significant suffering is normal here and is typically borne with incredible grace. I have been challenged many times already by the manner in which, what we would define as tragic, is accepted with remarkable grace and humility.
I pray for each person, reminding them that there is but one Healer, and that physicians and medications are tools, like a hammer, in the hands of the Carpenter. I ask God to touch them physically, to resolve their condition, to encourage them, to convince them of His affection for them, and to reveal Himself to them So far, this speaking to my Father on their behalf has been received well.
We find someone sleeping on our front steps most mornings.
I’ve had several conversations with the veteran missionaries about strategy to reach the unreached. It looks like the several people groups in the SW corner of this country might be our target. There may be as many as 750,000 people in this region with no health care at all and little or no Kingdom presence (depending on the people group). How we will do this and exactly where we will go, remains unknown, but there is a lot of enthusiasm among the missionaries (pilots with Mission Aviation Fellowship, those in health care, and the local Angolan believers) here to reach these people groups. Please pray for us over the next few months, that our Father would guide our conversations and our time with Him, and that each of our decisions would line up well with His purposes for us. It is our heart to hear and obey, rather than do our own thing, no matter how good it might seem strategically. I’m grateful that the other missionaries share this perspective on hearing our Father rather than doing “something great” for the Kingdom. We recognize that zeal and passion for God can be misdirected.
I spent a morning at an outlying clinic and saw about 30 kids, from 2 weeks to 12 years. About half tested positive for malaria (and it’s the dry season).
Our travel, setup, ministry and living funds have been adequate, and we are so grateful for each of you who is partnering with us. We couldn’t be here at all without the hard work that you contribute through your donations to SIM. We are thrilled to be part of a wonderful team reaching into Angola to touch many with health services and to demonstrate and speak of God’s confounding love for each and every person here.
I am so glad to be here. The work will be challenging and I have much to learn, but I dearly wish to be spent in a place like this. These dear people are cherished by our Father, who invites us (me here and you there) to be the instruments He uses to demonstrate His care for them. For we know that He desires each and every one to know Him as He is, and to live in unity with Him, as Adam and Eve did in the garden, and as Jesus did and does. We desire to daily walk in this unity and be witnesses that it is both possible and beautiful to love as He loved.
Please pray for us today, however His Spirit might lead you.