Extravagance, Resuscitation, Angolan Church, Merry Christmas…

We went to the market on Saturday.  It is about a quarter mile square and has everything, including more flies than I believe I’ve ever seen in my life.  You had to be careful when and where you inhaled!  It is hundreds of walk-up, small booths with wares laid out on simple tables made of many small sticks laying flat.  These simple booths are set up and taken down every day.  We wandered a bit and bought a few things (the vegetables are improving with the rains).  It is truly a developing world experience.  The sights and the smells (like a trash dump), packed with people, muddy, loud (many different speakers blaring), and many drunks.  We were followed by a persistent, vulgar drunk for about 10 minutes until I cornered him for a few minutes while the girls (Bets and our missionary friend from Argentina, Elizabeth) disappeared into the crowd.

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We just found out that the woman who cleans for us speaks fluently eleven languages.  She moved to Zambia during the war and taught school there for 14 years.

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We’ve had a couple send us now over twenty boxes from the States over eight months, full of both fun and needed items.  It’s like Christmas every time we all gather to open the newest arrival.  Barb is constantly emailing and asking us what else we would like, introducing many of her own ideas and gifts.  She makes us feel so valued and cherished, and by her giving of so much time, effort, and money, she also communicates the value she puts on our work here and on her Father’s heart.  Where your treasure is…  We didn’t even know this couple a year ago!  We met when they were invited by a friend to hear about our work.  What a beautiful portrayal of extravagant Kingdom love!

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The director of the hospital is a sweet, hard-working local man of 31 years and came to see me because of several years of hip pain.  His affected leg is quite thin by comparison.  He went to the TB sanatorium  and got the x-ray that I ordered and, sure enough, TB has pretty much destroyed his hip joint.  Though we began treatment, He likely faces a life of constant pain as there are no joint replacement surgeries here.  Please ask God to touch Lucas.

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As I was leaving brief weekend rounds, one of the nurses stopped me and began telling me a story from the previous evening.  At this hospital, the docs answer questions on the phone, but don’t get called in after hours, as the nurses handle everything as best they can.  We had admitted that day a 2 month old who had stopped nursing and had a fever.  Malaria was positive, she had pneumonia with low blood oxygen levels, and she had a bulging soft spot (though dehydrated), so we suspected meningitis so we began aggressive treatment for all.  This nurse (Adriana) said that they were called by the baby’s mother because she was “breathing strangely”.  Adriana said that when she arrived momentarily, the baby was actually not breathing.  They began CPR, gave adrenalin, ventilated her with a mask and ambu bag, and she improved greatly.  This was very good, independent work by these nurses!  What happens here is that when the hospital generator is turned off for the night @ 6:00p, the patients on oxygen must supply their own generator in order to keep the electric oxygen machine operating.  This child’s mother could not bring in a generator so the child lost the oxygen and about an hour later arrested (lost pulse and stopped breathing).

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As I looked at this sleeping, very stable child before heading home, I had several thoughts:  How cool that God had arranged for me to give a lecture to the nurses last week on critical pediatric cases exactly like this one and how cool that they learned and exactly applied what they were taught.  How cool that Adriana and the others were able to experience the joy of participating in God’s healing of this critically ill little baby; this excitement will rub off on their care for others.  How challenging is critical care medicine without continuous electricity!  How the more we can teach and model, the more sustained will be the improvement in this nation’s horribly inadequate and antiquated health care.  As I interacted with the mother and prayed for the baby, it was clear that she was quite grateful both for what God had done and for what the nurses had done.

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“Church” in Angola:

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Generally speaking, these churches, large and small, have some of the most beautiful choir-singing that I’ve heard.  It is a treat when the music starts as the choir shuffles into the church.  Almost all of the singing is a cappella.

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Offerings in the rural churches are usually food (some corn, vegetables, a chicken, etc) to help feed the leader’s family (his wage).

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On a road trip, we were giving a ride to several Angolan nurses and planning on stopping at a church service that Sunday morning near where we would be working.  One said that she couldn’t go to church because she wasn’t wearing her “church clothes”.  She would have to go home and change, during which time she would miss much of the service.  This didn’t at all seem illogical or inappropriate to her.  Women cover their heads “in church”, don’t wear pants, etc.  This arranging/improving of our outer life for God is still such a common misperception of what it means to live with Jesus.  The fruit produced from control of God’s Spirit’s over our lives is peace, patience, love joy, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control, love.  Which of these can be appreciated only in certain clothes?  Religion so grieves our Father’s heart.  Missionaries who love Jesus are needed even in the churches here, let alone among the unreached rural people.  How can we change the focus from our religious performance for Him to the life of God’s Spirit in us?

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Ben and I were traveling together through a region called Xangalala “shangalala” (about 5 hr south of Lubango) to look at an old Lutheran mission that had a medical clinic in the past.  In discussing what we would do on the weekend, our Angolan friend traveling with us said that on Sunday morning he would like to go and “watch” the church “service” at the “temple”.  Many here consider the church building a holy place (“God’s house”), like the temple of Jerusalem.  The “christian” churches here, as in Brazil, have a sad fascination with the Old Testament, old agreement, old covenant.  We insult the Covenant-maker and his sacrifice, work and motivation for His new covenant when we disregard the beauty and grace of the same, glorifying in what was.  Many practices of the OT (tithes, buildings, special celebrations/meetings, etc), however, are self-serving and support the institution of “church” and therefore, continue to be embraced.  Sadly, this belief that a church building is special is alive and well in the States, though we likely wouldn’t state it so directly.  We expect a special experience “at church” and if you receive prayer “at church” (altar call), it is more powerful than if you converse with your Father somewhere else (at home).  Jesus indicated the opposite to be true, suggesting your closet a more appropriate place to really interact with your Father!  Millions of evangelical church-goers also still flock to “church” on Sunday because of obligation, duty, to satisfy God’s requirement, to feel better about themselves, to avoid guilt for not going, to meet with God…  We  “go to church” on Sunday, we will decorate “the church”, we will build “a church”, etc.  Buildings and “church services” in buildings…  Is this Jesus’ model?

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Jesus made it clear that His people are His church and His dwelling place, that we don’t go to a place to worship Him, we don’t go somewhere to meet Him, we don’t go some place to converse with Him (except perhaps to our private “closet”).  We do, however, go somewhere to make disciples (where the unbelievers gather), we go some place to serve, we go somewhere to “rub shoulders” with other parts of His body, we go somewhere to unite to work together with other parts of His body, and to encourage, support and learn from other parts of the body.

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It is SO good to gather with fellow Jesus-lovers and to share, encourage, serve, and listen to each other.  This can occur at a mall, in a house, in a park, at a bar, in a church building, on a motorcycle trip, in a car, at a camp site, at work, over a coffee or a beer.  Wherever two or threegather in my name...  Jesus lovers don’t meet together in a holy place, rather every place in which they meet becomes holy, because Jesus is there.  In any location, we, the church, can use our gifts to build each other up, we can serve together, pray for one another, plan activities together, etc.  How sad when this “meeting” becomes obligatory, when we have to wear certain clothes to impress God or others, when our “meeting” or meeting place becomes necessary for God to interact with us, when we go to “watch” rather than participate…

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Praying here is extremely formal.  One gets the sense that a declaration is being made rather than sharing a humble thank you or request.  God is rarely addressed as a loving, interested, listening, present Father.  Some have said that I have a tendency to focus a lot on God’s love.  So did Jesus, in SO many different ways.  Paul said that if we want to see God, look at Jesus.  A few years ago, I took a new, hard look at Jesus, His perspective and His emphasis, desiring not only to believe as He believes, but also to emphasize what He emphasizes, to love what He loves, to hate what He hates.  I saw that His perspective is quite eternal and His emphasis is love, God’s of us, ours of Him, and ours of one another.  Only one group of people consistently experienced His anger, the religious leaders.  Still today, the religious leaders pray in declarations and in a manner (to be heard by men) that in no way resembles a cherished son speaking with His loving Father.  When one has seen dead christian religion (vs. relationship) to the extent that I have, one has a tendency to radically appreciate genuine, affectionate conversation with our Father.  I don’t see this kind of interaction in church gatherings here.

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This is a sober people.  Though the older adults have easy smiles, there is a serious undertone to their conversations that would be unfamiliar in the States, perhaps because of the many years of war and the current, daily hardships.  Their worship is joyful, yet quite sober.  In contrast, in the west, the church must be fun, entertaining, and stimulating and our conversations must always be about “fun”, “amazing”, or “awesome”.  In the developing world, life is stimulating and draining enough, church gatherings don’t need to be.  Sober, reality based interpersonal interaction is becoming a lost art and I wonder if this beautiful, genuine sober interaction is one of many things that our prosperity has robbed from us?

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Well, this wasn’t much about Christmas.  We want you to know how grateful we are for your interest in our journey and work.  Several of you have written lately, sharing your appreciation for the blog posts.  Thank you!  Your encouragement brings warmth to our days.  I sure appreciate that we can stay connected in this manner.  We continue to have a very real sense of doing our work every day with a large team, and that is such a joy.

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We especially miss you and miss home during this season.  Bets does a wonderful job of helping our family celebrate in a somewhat familiar manner, but it’s not the same because we’re missing people.  Please think of us and pray for us.  It is such a joy to know that we will be able to celebrate Jesus together for thousands of years and that these few years apart, which feel significant now, will then seem quite brief.  Please let us know how we can pray for you as talking about you with our Father is a great way for us to love you from a far.

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Please have a special, memorable, worshipful, intimate Christmas season.

tim

One comment

  1. Tim and family,
    wishing you all the best this christmas season. I so look forward to your writing and they are so wounderful to share with others. We had the previlage of meeting someone today who has a proweful testimony but something he said reminded me of one of your writings and I was able to share it with him, he was very touched and he said it was the confirmation he needed about his recent move to Sunbury. It is our prayer to help him get connected at VCDC.
    Blessings,
    Beth

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