Germs, Suckers, Francis, A Father’s girl…

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I’ve been in Windhoek, Namibia for a week (about 11h from Shangalala, plus 1-3h at the border), picking up medical supplies that we are unable to purchase in Angola (many), and picking up our son Luke and Hannah, a dear friend of our family’s, and ushering them to a plane to Angola.  Another reason for being here is that Luke and Hannah brought from the US many medical supplies (that many of you purchased with your contributions to this work) that would have likely been confiscated if they came in by air, so I will drive them over the border and have less likelihood of confiscation and high fees (as much as 100% of the purchase price).  Two of the boxes are lost somewhere, however, and I am waiting for their arrival to depart for Shangalala, hopefully tomorrow (?).

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One of the things I purchased while here is water-free hand cleanser, as there is no running water in any of the places I work, including Shangalala.  Sometimes, a thoughtful person will put a small basin of water (carried some distance from a river or stream in a bucket on a woman’s head) in the consultation room with some soap and a towel.  You can imagine what might be in that water after a few patient visits!  When visiting someone’s house here, all wash hands before the meal in the same basin of water!  This is a culture, of course, with no bathrooms, no outhouses, no running water, no toilet paper, etc, so there is a good risk of picking up a contagious disease by hand.  There has also been a 2-3 year drought in many of these places, raising the risk from the perspective of greatly contaminated drinking water, but also from that of contaminated hands.  And, of course, everyone shakes hands with everyone, all the time.

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I believe greatly in the power of touch but if I were here to practice medicine, I would stop shaking hands, where gloves, etc.  But because I am not here to practice medicine, but to love His beloved (medicine being one means), I must communicate my Father’s affection for each person in whatever means possible, and warm handshakes and embraces, praying with my hands on them or arms around them, and caressing, kissing and head-butting children, etc is part of making each interaction both earthly and eternally relevant. 

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We all know the difference between a courtesy hug and a “I’m SO glad to see you” hug.  So much is communicated in our common, “benign” interactions.  In a simple greeting, we often already know if we are considered cherished, valued, and unique or if we are a “have to” or an interruption.  Some men don’t even extend their hand for a handshake but make you reach for theirs.  An enthusiastic handshake/hug and smile from a brother immediately reestablishes a relationship on good terms.  A less-than-enthusiastic handshake communicates, well, less-than-enthusiasm.  Giving another our undivided attention is the FIRST way that we communicate love to another, and we begin in our greeting.  I hope a little hand sanitizer between greetings will not diminish the power of the foreign doctor’s affectionate greeting!

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As I introduce myself to the mother or father, I give each of the children a sucker and this is a very, very special treat for the kids in this very rural, very poor culture.  It’s a blast to see their reaction!  Most of the parents rarely make it to the city, and perhaps only then would a child taste something similar.  I’ve had the adults working at the clinics ask me for one in such a way as to know this is something they rarely taste, as well.  Health care interactions with Jesus were memorable, not only because He often did something extraordinary, but also because of the way that He communicated value to each person.  For a sense of value and love to be communicated effectively, it must be received.  For it to be received, it must be communicated in such a way as to be understood and appreciated by the recipient.  I’ve seen that touch and suckers mean much to a child, reducing fear.  Isn’t fear so connected to value?  When we feel valued and loved in someone’s presence, we have no fear or insecurity with them.  As Jesus followers, we communicate His spirit of value for each person, and walls come down in our relationships and we are able to communicate about our Father in a way that it is received and understood by the recipient.  Are we sensitive as to whether our words and acts of love are being received or  are we only focused on our good intentions and , “if they can’t or won’t accept or understand me, that’s their choice”?  Many in the church label their cold insensitivity persecution and wear it like a badge of honor.  Most of us men have learned the hard way in our marriages how applicable is this concept of loving with (or without) sensitivity.  To love without sensitivity is to do surgery on a broken heart!

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Jesus communicated such value to every screwed up person He encountered.  It’s an interesting study to analyze the different types of people that He encountered.  People have not changed at all!  We ALL have our issues, and yet too often, within the church, we stand in judgment of those with issues different than ours.  As did Jesus, the Jesus-lover will seek to embrace and seek to understand the person different than them (they will even seek them out).  The religious christian will need everyone to be like him/her (in beliefs, behavior and even in how they are flawed).  We see this in the church’s unwillingness to embrace those who have contrary biblical views, unwillingness to embrace those with different political views, unwillingness to embrace those living in unhealthy sexual relationships, etc.  If only we all could work cross-culturally for a time…  The views held by those in other cultures are SO different from those of the american church and a cross-cultural worker faces the choice daily to embrace or reject those who believe and behave differently, deviantly, absurdly, ignorantly, etc.  I think one of the cultural strengths of the Mormon church is the requirement of their young people to do two years of cross-cultural work.  It produces a maturity and understanding of the world often lacking in our “christian” churches.

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A modern-day version of Jesus’ interaction with the adulterer and her accusers might be an interaction with a homosexual man with HIV on welfare, surrounded by church-going, upstanding citizens.  How many of us would be among those who walk away after He writes in the sand at our feet?  When will we admit, as Jesus followers, that we are no less screwed up than that man or any man, but our lives have been transformed because we know LOVE.  It is His love for us that transforms our whole being and that doesn’t change after walking with Him for one day or fifty years.  The moment we begin to feel that it is our spiritual growth or transformation (in performance, beliefs, knowledge, etc) that is the key to our relationship with God, we have left Jesus for religion.

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Religion can transform.  It washes the outside of rot and the rot remains.  I’ve so been there and still go there at times, and so do you.  Religious christians are everywhere, and you know them by their priority (in their thoughts, words, actions) on the “seen” and measurable.  Their focus is on (their and others’) performance, behavior, knowledge, sacrifice, etc and they are always critical of those who see things differently than they do.  Jesus lovers, on the other hand, are overwhelmed by how good God is (not by their own goodness, spiritual growth, etc) and transferring God’s love for them to others.  They are people of radical humility (lack of self focus), of unseen (unrewarded) service, of immediate availability, of private worship.  They embrace the unloveable, and embrace instead of criticize those making what they believe are unhealthy choices.  Because we disagree with another’s choices should in no way prevent us from loving, embracing and building relationship with them.

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Are there exceptions?  Yes.  Paul makes it clear in his letters that after much patience and love, sometimes we must sever a relationship for a time in order to help one reach a place of decision re. allegiance.  Paul also warns us to maintain a solid allegiance to Jesus as we love and embrace those living contrary to God’s ways, lest we take on their destructive behavior or burn out from frustration in their lack of response to our love (common in cross-cultural work).  We see the same often in marriage when we counsel separation when one spouse refuses to acknowledge his/her vows.  Sometimes this separation restores a beautiful relationship.  Sometimes it reveals the lack of allegiance in the wound-er, and the marriage fails.  In the church, it is the same.  We must love, embrace, forgive, turn the other cheek, love, embrace, forgive, etc and only rarely reject.  I’m afraid we often have it the other way around.

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I’m currently reading a couple of books about a remarkably unique man, Francis of Assisi, who radically confounded the church culture of His day by the way that he loved the unloveable and rejected anything that interfered with a simple, pure devotion to Jesus and His creation.  Every person (no matter how morally or otherwise unpleasant) and creature to him had immense value simply because he recognized how they were cherished by their Creator.  We need a Franciscan movement today.  Would you join me?

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I was greatly challenged this week by a friend’s heart who is married to an exceptional man who receives much acclaim for his work and I realized that I receive much earthly praise for my “sacrificial” work.  I am married to someone, on the other hand, who didn’t “hear” our Father’s call, yet has followed, supported and encouraged for many years, at great sacrifice to virtually every girlhood american dream.  Betsy has often questioned and doubted and feared, yet followed and supported, with little praise or accolade.  She is such a wonderful illustration of a flawed, yet beautiful, Jesus follower, fully aware of weaknesses, doubts, and reservations, yet, like Mary said to the angel and Jesus said in the garden, “Your will, not mine”.  Sometimes battling many fearful “What ifs” and other questions, sometimes struggling to understand why this or that step, yet walking forward into the foggy unfamiliar in (sometimes shaky) trust of the One who cares for her.  You may be familiar with Hannah Hurnard’s, “Hinds Feet on High Places”, a must read allegory about a flawed girl named Much Afraid (you, me, Betsy), and her life’s journey with her Shepherd along HIS chosen, often difficult-to-understand path to His kingdom.

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Sometimes, our Father does something uniquely special for his kids.  You might know that Betsy has a special love of tennis, and for now over eight of her “prime” adult years she has had little opportunity to play.  You also know that we are moving essentially to the middle of Africa nowhere in August.  And… Peter and Shelley, the missionaries who have lived there for several years, built a tennis court in the clay (dirt) several years ago and have used it frequently.  Bets will soon live at a house with a tennis court (and all the equipment)!  How her Father loves her!  And, like all fathers, every now and then He communicates His affection in a unique and personal way…

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8 comments

  1. Praise the Lord that He is using you around the world to communicate truth to us here. Only God can do that! Truth sets people free… free to hug and love and cherish and be real. Free to express their hurt and share their pain without shame. Free to touch all the ugliness and beauty at the same time. Thank you for reminding me that I have been and am being set free to Love by The Truth!

  2. What a blessing your family is to so many Angolans. Praise God that He gives us little things even if they look like clay tennis courts in Angola. You ministry helps heals their bodies but your families presence refreshes their hearts. The Himba see you and say to one another “chilinowa” (very nice) because you reflect the love of the Father in word, deed and by your presence. My wife and I read, reflect and talk about your words each time you right. We read them and long to be in Angola.

  3. Tim, You’ve reminded me when, in 1986 you introduced Hannah Hurnard’s- Hind’s Feet on High Places to me. I have learned many truths about my own fears over the years with rereading it. Just last month Jarrett and I (9 years old now) enjoyed it as our bedtime reading. Thank you for your example of transparency of your own brokenness and how our Lord meets us where we are. Love to You, Bets and the Kids. Kent

  4. I feel “unequipped” to write a comment – Dr. Kubacki is a fantastic writer and it is fascinating, humbling, and exciting reading how God is using you. I can say I am happy to see how the Lord is using you, I am glad to know that you are being used in a great way….but all of those sentences seem so vain compared to the magnitude of what is happening in your lives.

    So, here is really is is my mind as I read your blog:
    1- I often think of Ben and his music – I wonder what God is going to do with Ben. I know He accelerated Ben’s learning process when he was in the US… will He do the same again? Whatever He decides I want to know. I like thinking about Ben’s garden ( minus the cobra visitors).

    2- I like Ellie’s Facebook pictures – when I see Ellie and Meredith I think about how beautiful they are. My favorite perfume is from Bath and Body Works – Ellie’s gift. It is almost empty – but I will have to buy another one of the same because I think of her every day when I put that one ( I am still embarassed to think that I received a gift from the Kubackis).

    3- Finally: Betsy has a tennis court! I do not know why that made me SOOOO happy I had to write a comment. I am so thankful that the Lord allowed me to have Betsy around for a few months.

    4-

  5. Besty,

    Stay long enough, and I will come to play tennis with you on your court. This makes me so happy.

    Monte

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