Shangalala, Mukuando, Cavango…

My first week at the Shangalala hospital has featured about 15 patients/day.  The people in surrounding villages all live quite simply in grass-roof houses.  One couple, however, drove several hours when they heard a doctor was here.  The husband and wife both had severe knee arthritis and we gave each an injection which should help for several months.  I’ve already seen several cases of TB and Leprosy.

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I was walking home at the end of the day and a man came running up the hill to the hospital, yelling for me to please wait.  When he arrived, he explained, out of breath, that he had just brought his 70+ year old father to the hospital from several hours away (on a motorbike) because of abdominal pain and urinary incontinence for months that had become intolerable in the past days.  After examining the father, I found a bladder tumor and helped the symptoms of this 80+ year old man by putting a catheter into his bladder.  We recommended where to further receive treatment (at our mission hospital in Lubango) and he left symptom-free for the first time in a long time.  Sometimes our help isn’t so extravagant…

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While not working at the clinic, I am building a second generator building with Ben.  It is a small brick building to minimize the sound and we are building a second because the noise of our generator in our first bothers a long-term missionary here.  Our house in Shangalala overall has been quite more of a project than I envisioned.  We have worked for two full weeks to make it livable.  So many little things come up.  We just found out that one of our containers for collecting rainwater (our only source of drinking water) has a leak and we’ve lost much water that we thought we had collected.  We are blessed, however, in that the rains have begun in earnest!  Many local people have come by to greet us and one family has offered to help (for about an hour).  This is in contrast to the missionary community from Lubango who came for a full weekend and worked tirelessly helping us get started.  The Fox family of four stayed for a whole week to help!  Without all of the help, this house would have been too much.

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The Lutheran church at the Shangalala mission is full on Sundays (perhaps about 100 people) and there is a brief prayer time and bible study frequently during the week at the clinic.  There are so many many pastors and leaders as it seems everyone has a title.  The people here are nice, always smiling and greeting.  It seems they don’t hesitate to attend a religious service or go to a church activity.  Even a going-away celebration for a Finnish missionary (here for two years) was a mini-service with hymns, a message, and prayer.

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Meredith and I joined six people and flew out in our small plane to an isolated people group, the Mukuando people, this past Friday to continue to build relationships, to inspect their water supply, and to hold a clinic.  This people group has their own language and it takes them two or three days of walking and hitching rides to reach the nearest city.  The people were warm and were so glad for our visit.  The water supply is a spring on the mountain top, brought down to the village in one inch flexible PVC, about two miles, installed by the MAF missionaries seven years ago.  The source was clean and still well-protected and the water was arriving in the village in a constant flow, about the same volume as a standard faucet in the states.  It supplies clean water for a village of several hundred people.

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There are several villages in the beautiful inactive volcano’s crater, with a total estimated population of about 2000-3000 people.  Historically, they have had very sporadic and short-term church and healthcare outreach but no healthcare or church presence for years.  We were surrounded by mountains covered in clouds the whole day.  It was gorgeous.

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We held clinic in a small adobe (mud) home with a flat, steel roof.  We had to stop seeing patients while it rained because we couldn’t hear each other while the rain hit the roof.  We saw about 20 people in the afternoon and most had not seen a doctor for their problem because of their isolation.  It was a good visit and continued to hopefully help them begin to trust us as we plan monthly medical visits this year.  My translator was a man who lives in the volcano and calls himself an “evangelist”.  He is an obviously self-confident, gifted communicator, who helped us immensely.  He giggled (was quite embarrassed) every time I asked him to tell the person that only God can heal and that I would like to pray for the patient.  Religious christianity can be a long way from practical christianity!  He was challenged, as we all often are, as to whether Jesus is alive and interactive or a god of doctrine, religion, principles, and words (he was quite a talker!).  Are we to live by the Spirit or by teachings, words and “truth”?  Do we follow the bible (as this man does) or live by a moment-by-moment interaction with His Spirit?  Is Kingdom life about walking with Jesus or about learning and walking out the bible?  Do we obey Jesus or obey the bible?  Is there a difference?

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Why are the charismatic, gifted communicators leading Jesus’ church today when He indicated that the greatest among us (worthy to be followed) should be those who sacrificially serve?  We focus in our churches on teaching, oration and knowledge.  Do our leaders serve and love or teach and instruct?  What does our Father desire in HIS church?  Are we hearers AND doers or hearers only?

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We flew out of Mukuando while locked in by thick clouds and had quite a flight home.  Our plane did quite a bit of dancing as our pilot, Brent Mudde, flew by instruments for thirty minutes.  There was no sense of up or down as we were enveloped by the storm.  It was a great site when we emerged above the storm to blue sky and we had a sense of which direction was up!  He then navigated us around the storm and we arrived to the Lubango airport safely.  I admired Brent’s skills and knowledge and thanked my Father for our safe arrival.  I’m reminded that our aviation ministry is not without risk, but each rural Angolan that we are able to love is worthy of any personal risk, while our trust remains in our Father for weather, engine mechanics, and human abilities.  We can risk simply because we know whose we are and where we are going.

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Two days later, we flew out to Cavango, a very isolated area 5-6 hours (off-road) from any small city having available health care.  We are holding monthly clinics here where there was a small mission from the 1950s to the 1990s, when it was destroyed, brick by brick, during the civil wars.  It had Leprosy and TB treatment centers, along with a 40 bed hospital and operating room.  It now has an 8-bed hospital and outpatient clinic, built by Samaritan’s Purse in 2006.  It’s always nice to stay a few days with Peter and Shelley, the missionary couple serving these isolated people.

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We saw about 25 people the first day as it rained and dripped water on my writing table throughout our patient interviews.  We set a bowl where the water hit the table.  We saw a variety of interesting and sad cases including, TB, leprosy, a little girl born without a vagina, chorea, strangulated hernia with peritonitis (sent to the city for surgery), disseminated cysticercosis (hundreds of cysts in a man’s skin and muscles from pork tapeworm), severe heart failure with atrial fibrillation, incompetent cervix who had lost six pregnancies…

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It was nice to see a woman, who I saw several months ago with over a year of epilepsy, now have no seizures for three months after we treated her for a suspected tapeworm larva in her brain.

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The workers at the clinic seemed so pleased that 50+ people came over the two days and many people walked miles “from across the river”.  We saw some significant illnesses and were able to provide some help.  We prayed for each and introduced them to the love of a Father who holds them so dear and seeks relationship with them.  Who knows the temporary and eternal impact?

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I fly to Lubango today (it’s been pouring all night!) to shop for medications and then, hopefully home tomorrow to Shangalala for a couple of weeks.  Traveling with me is Diane Lui, a wonderful, bright, enthusiastic fourth-year medical student from my former medical school at Ohio University.  Our next trip is in two weeks, Lord-willing, when we are flying to the south-eastern corner of Angola for an exploration/survey trip to evaluate the Kingdom and health care presence there.  Most people in this very poor country of Angola see this region as the most desperate from both perspectives.  We’ll see!

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A wonderful glance at life here through the eyes of a beautiful OSU medical student, Zach Rossfeld.  He visited all of the places that I’ve worked this past year and his entry “Xangalala” in February is about our move (with pictures).    http://zachrossfeld.blogspot.com

One comment

  1. Thanks for the update, Tim. What a work you are accomplishing among the people there. Thank God for the health and strength He gives you each day. We keep you and the family in our prayers. Jim and Sharon

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