I go to Xangongo (the nearest town – about 30-40 min off road) to exchange our American money for Angolan money (we receive our money in American dollars because the Angolan banks take a huge percent to convert dollars to Kwanzas). Where we live, the only way to exchange money is on the street. I drive up to an area on the main street in front of several bars and a mini-market, with perhaps 15-20 people hanging out outside, mostly drunk. As I drive up, four or five young men approach the car and I let one know that I would like to exchange money. Once they know I want to exchange money, several approach my window yelling for my attention and that they would be the best person to work with. I choose one and tell him I would like to exchange $1000 dollars and they all begin to noisily work together to come up with the Angolan money. They count up the money, I recount the money and we make the exchange. It is absolutely crazy but the result is satisfactory. We need to do this regularly for our purchasing of food and necessities.
This is our fifth day without water. It is amazing how quickly we smell like the local folks and our bathroom smells like a typical Angolan public restroom. This has happened perhaps four or five times since living in Shangalala (four months). Water and electricity is always a challenge to maintain in the developing world (most of the earth’s population). Our generator broke down recently and we were without power for several days except for the couple hrs/day when the mission generator is on. We never have power at night. When we were in Cavango (where we will move in August), the water pump broke and we were without water again. One learns to so appreciate water from a tap and electricity with a switch or an outlet. Yet we are still so far from living like everyone here (no electricity, fire for cooking and warmth, water from the river carried daily in a bucket on one’s head…). We are still drinking water that we collected off of our roof during our two week rainy season in February and are so thankful for that water! Yet the people here have more contentment and generally deal with life’s challenges with much more joy than people in the west (me)…
The people here tolerate difficulty, adversity and pain so much better than those living in the materially prosperous parts of the world. I am amazed multiple times every day when I deliver bad news, when I attend a woman’s labor, when I do a painful procedure (incising an abscess, pulling a tooth, setting a fracture…), when I meet parents of a severely disabled child or when I simply witness their daily hardships. I don’t understand but so marvel at the courage and tolerance (with joy) of these folks. Living with adversity has so many benefits to the soul…
We have a two year old in our hospital with Pertussis, a potentially deadly disease that restricts the airway (see Bibiana in photos). She sleeps on the veranda to remain isolated from other nonvaccinated kids (almost all). Everyone hears her when they walk anywhere near the hospital. Luke returned from a run near the hospital yesterday and asked me what was wrong with the patient making so much noise with every breath. He couldn’t believe it was a two year old! Pertussis is one of the deadly diseases for which we have vaccinations available world-wide (tetanus, measles, diphtheria, hepatitis, etc), except in rural Angola (vaccines must remain refrigerated and this presents some real challenges here). This child was not vaccinated, nor were the other six children in the family. They live quite remotely and away from any vaccination programs (or refrigeration, electricity, etc), and the beautiful, caring father did not realize the benefits of vaccinations. These are the people we love to serve. There is an abundance of modern health care in much of the world. We need more workers where workers are not…
The same applies to the church. Are we going to those who haven’t heard or are we working where others are working, planting OUR preference of church where others already exist? Are we sharing our lives with those who agree with us or are we embracing, loving and sharing about Jesus’ kingdom with those who don’t know Him and are perhaps antagonistic to Him, to the church, and to us? Let’s go in the U.S. and elsewhere where Jesus’ kingdom is not, rather than where Jesus’ message is already heard. We can certainly improve vaccination programs where they already exist, but how much better to firstly focus on making what we have available to all. Jesus followers also can “improve” the church, but let’s focus our time and resources on those who haven’t had the opportunity to meet Him.
Every time we leave our home for any length of time, we return to something missing. Since living cross-culturally in the Amazon and Angola, we’ve been robbed perhaps a dozen times. There is always a sense of violation and a temptation to become angry. Then I remember (sometimes after several conversations with my Counselor) that God knew and allowed the loss and has reasons that we simply don’t appreciate with our limited perspective. “They don’t know what they do…” It’s just not about us… We must remember that in Jesus’ life, in Paul and Peter’s life and in our life, our Father both brings and allows adversity so that we can glorify Him in our response… Loving Him in adversity, loss and pain always brings Him more glory than loving Him in ease. Light is so much more appreciated, and more obviously beautiful, in darkness…
I spoke this past week with “Pedro”, a young man I discipled when living in Lubango. He has a passionate, sensitive heart for Jesus and it’s always a joy to talk with Him and allow his contagious love for Jesus to rub off on me. He has been leading a small group with his family and everyone is enthusiastically beginning a relationship with Jesus except His Father, who has been antagonistic. Pedro continues, however, to look for ways to maintain a relationship with, and to honor, his father, so when his father invited him for a Saturday picnic, he enthusiastically consented. His father took him to a house two hours away and introduced him to a woman who wanted to “help” him. She told him many personal things that she couldn’t possibly know, including his struggle with frequent headaches. She said she could heal him and his desire to be healed over-ruled his better judgment and he agreed to her “treatment” which involved killing a goat and mixing its blood with various herbs and chanting various incantations. He was there for several hours, often in trance-like state, and left feeling about the same, aside from sensing a distance from his heavenly Father. He was to drink the “potion” daily until his return. He returned a week later for more of the same and this time he clearly knew that He was violating His relationship with his Father in order to honor his earthly father and to seek healing. He knew that His heavenly father could heal him at any time, yet chose not to, communicating with him that “His grace is sufficient”. He left, displeasing his father and the woman “healer”, but walked away in peace “that passes understanding”.
Witchcraft is offering our allegiance to an enemy of our Father for personal benefit. Our Father is described as a “jealous God”, simply because He knows that Life can be found only in Him. Witchcraft and offering oneself to a spiritual medium is the most common first step for these rural folks when facing a health issue. Their options are few. Doctors and other instruments of our Father’s touch are nowhere to be found. Modern medications are prescribed improperly by ignorant, well-meaning health care workers. It is no wonder that there is little confidence in modern health care tools when the health workers prescribe medications incorrectly most of the time. The people in my clinics marvel at their beneficial results, results secured simply by correct diagnosis and treatment, and reliance on the only real Physician. Modern medicine prescribed by a health care worker is simply like a mechanic or carpenter using the correct tool or part to correct a problem. Medical practice here is too often like a mechanic using a hammer to repair a computer. More damage is done when the incorrect tool is used to solve a problem. The tool is good, but its incorrect use harms more than helps and leaves the “seeker” of help without confidence in modern “technology”, mechanics, carpentry, etc.
How often do we violate our relationship with our Father to seek healing, avoid conflict, to keep peace, to seek or maintain comfort, security or prosperity, etc? There is much “witchcraft” today using Jesus’ name. The “witches” of today in “healing ministries”, are immensely popular, draw huge crowds, and use all kinds of emotionally appealing gimmicks to exploit the wounded. They are as popular in the poorest parts of the world as they are in the States. They are so like the woman who “treated” Pedro (not unlike the “christian healers”, she makes a very good living “healing” people).
Do we seek to heal as He did? Jesus touched the hurting person and brought him/her to His Father, simply, quietly, for their sake. Then He told them to NOT make their healing a public spectacle, but to simply be grateful to the One who healed them because He loved them and chose to heal them at that time (they all eventually succumbed to illness and died – even Lazerus). Then He slipped away, so as not to draw attention to Himself. He made NO profit from His ministry! He was humble and His focus was on the loved one, not on Him. Is this what we see in the “healing ministries” today that claim to follow this same Jesus?
“Pedro” turned back to his Father and chose peace with Him over peace with his earthly father and over resolution of his “affliction”. Trial and affliction test our allegiance and trust. It is especially when we are hurting that our true desires become clear. Affliction and success both reveal our true allegiance. If we are successful and we struggle to converse with, worship, and spend time with Jesus, we have our answer as to our allegiance. In affliction, if we are more focused on solving the problem (like Pedro), than on walking with, and surrendering to, Jesus every step of the way, who we trust is revealed.
Do we want peace, healing, success, prosperity, conflict resolution, etc or do we want want to walk in surrender to Jesus, moment by moment, trusting Him with any results, pleasing to us or otherwise? He often puts us in positions to give us the choice and to give us the opportunity to confirm our true allegiance. If you are hurting today from loss, from confusing and painful circumstances, please know that you have been given an opportunity to further secure your trust in Him, a trust that will be eternally honored and rewarded, though you experience this momentary, earthly affliction, which will seem quite insignificant in five hundred years.
My friend learned a valuable lesson, one that our Father graciously allows each of us to learn many times during our life: Life is in Him, and Him alone. We wander, and then we realize again that Life is not in church, religion, healing, prosperity, ease, bible knowledge, friends, being married, a better job, becoming a missionary, having a big ministry, etc, etc. Life is in Him. Walking with Him, sharing our life with Him, surrendering to Him, worshipping Him… The earthly “rewards” are sometimes pleasing to us, sometimes costly (Jesus indicated that walking with Him would mostly be costly). There is much talk today of the “blessing” of following Jesus and not much is heard of abandoning earthly “blessings” and following Him, because knowing His grace is reward enough. Are we abandoning earthly blessing and realizing this cost? The eternal rewards are sure, guaranteed by the promises of our King, the One who beat death to give us all the assurance we need… to trust Him.
Luke has posted a great review (and photos) of his experiences this past couple weeks, visiting and surveying many villages near Cavango @ http://www.lukekubacki.blogspot.com.