Heat, Rain, Schisto, 103, Beginning…

It was 100 degrees in the shade today.  It felt like 80 degrees in this desert climate.

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We see many cases of Schistosomaisis, a parasite that lives in water, snails, humans and sheep.  It causes inflammation of the inner bladder wall, which often leads to bladder cancer.  The adult parasite lives in the bladder of sheep or humans and releases its eggs in urine which then mature into larvae if urinated in fresh water.  These larvae infect snails in the water, mature within the snail into a free-swimming larvae, which then burrow into the leg of an unsuspecting man, woman or child who are collecting drinking water, washing clothes, bathing, or peeing in the water.  These larvae migrate then to the bladder and mature into an adult and lay thousands of eggs in the urine.

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A couple of months ago, I had the joy of spending a day with 7-8 young men and hear about the challenges they are facing.  This has led to opportunities to counsel with them.  It’s a pleasure to meet with thirsty men and creatively find ways to lead them to Water.  Most of the counsel, of course, revolves around girls and their current relationships (as has much of the counsel I’ve given over the past 30 years).  I think they like having an ear to hear them, as well as hearing some counsel based on much experience and many mistakes (mine and others).

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Many patients arrive with another illness and contract malaria in the hospital.  There are so many mosquitoes in the wards (and the rain hasn’t yet arrived).

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What is abundant life and prosperity to one living in the bush, with no stores, no running water, no electricity, a life expectancy of < 40 years?

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Most people in rural Angola (and so many in the world) don’t read and so many christians in the world (and most in rural Angola) do not own a bible.

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A couple days ago, we got our first real rain shower in 6 months.  The whole region had a distinct smell that wasn’t pleasant at all.  In the Amazon villages, they called the season of the first rains the season of the “yellow river”.  There is much waste running along the ground during those first few heavy rains.  Consider that there are virtually no septic systems here and no one uses outhouses.

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A 103 year old man came into the ED yesterday with a perforated ulcer in his stomach.  We closed the hole and so far he is surviving.  This man in a country where the life expectancy has forever been < 40 years.

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I ask our Father to touch every person I see and resolve their illness.  The vast majority are not immediately healed.  The son humbly asks and leaves the decision up to His Father, trusting the Father’s wisdom, purpose, and power…

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Syphilis and Gonorrhea are highly prevalent.  The consequences for syphilis include significant neurological deformities and the consequences for gonorrhea include urethral strictures in young men (unable to pee), infertility for women (devastating for a woman in this culture), and potentially incurable joint infections/destruction in both.  Yesterday, we put a catheter through the abdomen and into the bladder of a young man (common procedure here) after an unsuccessful attempt at placing even a small urethral catheter.  He will use this suprapubic catheter for several months, then a urethral dilatation will be attempted.  If unsuccessful, the urethra will need to be reconstructed.  Without the surgical capabilities of this hospital, the suprapubic catheter would be permanent and the only way this man would survive.  Gonorrhea is still a huge killer and maimer in the developing world.  In this people group, the men where skirts, so only this man’s several wives know of his disability.

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We are beginning to plan our monthly excursions by plane into the very remote areas of Angola.  We will go where people don’t know about the banquet and that they are invited.  We will go where they haven’t heard that God is a loving Father and that THEY are the object of His affection; that they are cherished, created in love, and invited into the family.  Because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross, the sin, depravity, rebellion, etc of these very rural people has been completely dealt with and they have access to the Father by trusting Him.  We tell every patient that we encounter that they are loved, created with purpose, and that they can know God.  We will be doing the same as we seek out those in the most remote highways and byways.

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After a meeting of the two pilots and the doc (me) that will run with this project where we decided which remote people groups we will initially serve, one of the pilots received a phone call the next day from an African Wycliffe team who communicated that they wish to target especially two remote people groups in SW Angola (the same two groups that we had identified the night before as our initial outreaches).  Our Father’s up to something at this time, in this place.  As we begin to plan and prepare, various thoughts are generated…

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Can we allow for differences in the body as significant as that between a finger and a liver, both created by the Maker for a purpose?  The head has such joy over each and created their differences and the manner in which each serves the body.  The body of Christ (individuals and churches) has a great deal of difficulty accepting another part of the body which is in no way similar to itself.  Some churches are as similar to another as the kidney is to an eye, yet both are invited to be beautiful servants of the Body.  Can the eye surrender to the head and joyfully carry out its function without being concerned that the kidney has a completely different perspective, function and relationship with the head?  Can the finger and stomach see the value of working together in unity?  One of my goals is to unite various churches around the healthcare work, to give the toe and the elbow work in which they can excel for the sake of the body.

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For example, various denominations have churches in the cities within a few hours of the rural people whom we will serve.  We will invite people from these churches to help with the work and then we will begin to form a new gathering of new believers (a church) in the area.  We will not meet in a church building, will not spend money on church services, and as a group will decide on a name (completely irrelevant).  If any church people insist that we must use their name or do things their way, they won’t be included, though everyone’s suggestions will be welcomed.  Humble Jesus lovers and those who wish to serve the hurting will be embraced and included in our work.  Those interested in prioritizing names, buildings, methods, etc will be excluded.  We don’t want to plant churches, we want to seek out Jesus-lovers and make disciples who will gather periodically (not for a service) to help each other grow, to encourage each other, build each other up, and to HEAR each other (a church).  The goal will be utilizing and maximizing each cherished person to walk in the gifts that our Father has ordained for them, not to make a beautiful Sunday service.  Works and relationships outside of the gathering will be the emphasis.  The gathering will be a place of sharing and giving thanks about the work and relationships outside of the gathering.

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I walked by such a sad sight today.  In one of the poorer neighborhoods of the city (Lubango is very poor), a group of men were laying bricks for a church building expansion.  I’ve walked by this church on Sunday mornings, and the attenders are poor, so poor (tattered clothes, no shoes, hungry, etc).  Yet their leader collects their money to expand their 10m x 6m building.  They don’t have two pennies to rub together, yet they donate their precious little to buy bricks for a building, and then give their time to lay the bricks.  They’ve no doubt been told that they are contributing to God’s Kingdom by constructing a building where “Kingdom work” gets done.  Likely their leader lives in the nicest house among them, when the One they claim to follow had NO home and not once did He equate Kingdom work with a building (though He identified much Kingdom work).  In Angola and around the world, Jesus walks among us naked, hungry, thirsty, lonely, homeless, etc and we build buildings and hold meetings in our buildings.  Where your treasure is…

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Many people in the developing world do not have a full-time pastor/leader (and for those that do, the Sunday service is “church”).  Biblically, a person must be quite proven, over much time, before being placed on a leadership team (deacons, elders, overseers) over even a few people.  New believers (first several years) should never be placed in leadership, no matter their apparent abilities.  How many newer believers will we sacrifice on the altar of “church growth” before we begin following the Holy Spirit and HIS leadership?

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Every group of believers (the church) has various gifts (pastoral, healing, prophecy, serving, etc) that can benefit the body.  In our current church service structure, one person teaches/preaches and all of the other gifts sit on their hands.  So many of His children gather with so much to offer and one person performs, shares, preaches, etc.  We put people in leadership in our churches in the same way that Israel demanded a king, and then we (and our kings) suffer the same consequences.  Why is there such a focus on human leadership in the church, rather than on human servantship, with God’s Spirit leading?  Our gatherings will be small, other-focused and Spirit-focused, learning to love God and learning to love each other.  Learning will take place by doing, not through teaching.  Our emphasis will be on learning a little and doing, rather than on learning more.

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How do we hear in our gatherings about all of God’s Spirit’s beautiful work done throughout the body?  We don’t.  “Order” is one of the most prominent idols bowed to in the church today.  It is bowed to because it benefits our flesh.  It benefits the flesh of the attenders who won’t consider how they might serve, encourage, and edify the others at the gathering.  It benefits the leader who relishes in the following that he/she generates.  It benefits everyone because it isn’t messy (humans working together is always messy).  The Spirit has placed gifts throughout the body, which are never seen or heard, because we serve “order” over Jesus.  When order is mentioned in Corinthians, it emphasizes that many people should share in our services.

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NO leader is qualified to be heard week in and week out.  Many leaders see themselves as the “head”;  the body unable to function well without them.  THEY must be heard on Sunday.  The surprise they will face on that day when the King of Kings (the Head) stands before them and they see that building the church was all about Him (HIS effort, HIS skill, HIS charisma, etc) and not about them at all (or their abundant leadership gifts).  Early on, how abundantly the Spirit worked among His (screwed up and messy) people and how little He used the men in the pulpit.  But in Angola churches (and in Brasil, US, and Canada), everything must be done in order…

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There is a similarity in physical health.  So many doctors see their work as necessary for their patient’s health or recovery.  They forget that there is but one Healer who graciously uses many instruments (physicians, nurses medications, counsel, nutrition, circumstances, etc).  Physicians, like pastors, are invited to participate in the work that the King is completing.  The Bible is a book of INVITATION and we are invited to participate in what HE is doing all around us.  Jesus stands at the door and invites, He prepares the feast and sends out the invitations, He invites the weary and burdened to come to Him, He invites men to follow Him, we are invited to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, we are invited to do our work heartily for Him and through Him, we are invited to love God and live…

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Jesus characterizes the heart of His Father:

He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you…”  Lk 14:12

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There are so many ways that we can share Jesus’ love in our work to these very remote, rural people groups (the poor, crippled, lame, blind…)  Sometimes we will use words.  We will not use buildings or entertainment to draw them.  We will serve and embrace them as this is our Father’s method.   We will teach Jesus’ words and introduce them to our Father.  We will trust His Spirit in us to feed the hungry, teach the poor in spirit, counsel the wounded, heal the sick, comfort the anxious…

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Please pray that God’s Spirit can work freely among us and that the tools create no resistance in the Carpenter’s hands… so that more would know His character, His love, and His eternal purposes… so that more would experience the affection that we know…

One comment

  1. I also have been thinging that we had better be prepared for God to do something big in Angola – what with sending you guys, the Foxes, us, the Halls, the Fauses, Samand Elizabeth and at least 1 other family that I know of to Southern Angola within a year (or so on arrivals)… just saying…

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