Encouragement, RHD, Fear, Motivation…


Every now and then, we receive profound encouragement through emails.  People from North America and elsewhere share how they are encouraged and challenged by our lives, our ministry, our blog posts, photos, proverbs, etc.  These encouragements are no small thing.  They affect our day, our hearts, our work attitude, etc.  Thank you for helping us press on in our work here (Gal 6:9)!  Many of you sacrificially financially support our work (Heb 6:10)  We’ve received financial contributions to our work from about 80 people over the past year.  Some have sent toys for the rural kids (who have NO toys), a pharmacist sent injectable medicine that I can’t get here, people have donated instruments and equipment (an ultrasound machine for $15,000), one family has sent over twenty boxes of all kinds of useful items for us and useful items to give away, and so much more.  This recent email from a local missionary whose region we visit monthly with our flight/clinic ministry demonstrates that our temporal work (and your valuable support) is not in vain, from an eternal perspective.


Today I was 100km from here (this missionary lives 200 km from anywhere).  At the service a lady came to me and said that you Tim had operated on her at Tchincombe (where we hold monthly clinics via plane and where this missionary lives).  She was so pleased that she wanted to come to hear God’s Word and praise Him for how she has healed.  I thought you might be encouraged to hear that your ministry is having the desired effect.  Thanks for your hard work.


We are so grateful to be working as part of a team of supporters, all serving various parts and roles, all working together to serve these rural folks and see them know Him, who holds every one so dear.


We were visited by a beautiful group of people from Toronto (including two cardiologists, a nephrologist, a pharmacist, and students), whose priority was to screen rural children to find the incidence of rheumatic heart disease (RHD).  Rheumatic heart disease results from inflammation in the heart after untreated strep throat.  The bacteria that causes strep throat is dangerous because of the delayed, inflammatory effect of the infection on the kidneys, joints, and heart after the sore throat resolves.  The team went to several rural areas and screened hundreds of kids for this heart disease using ultrasound (echocardiography).  In Cavango, they randomly screened 120 “healthy” kids and found 9 with significant heart disease.  Two will not survive long without a valve transplant (which is not available in Angola).  They are trying to arrange this surgery in another country!  Statistically, these are crazy numbers, and numbers that affected the human population historically before the advent of antibiotics.  We saw a four year old with acute rheumatic heart disease and began aggressive treatment.  She’s in our Father’s hands, as are the others.  This same team screened kids near a major city (where access to health care is better) and found no cases of RHD (virtually no RHD is seen in North America, though the bacteria and strep throat are common).


This study in RHD speaks to what we’re about in our work here.  This disease is treated quite simply in a primary care setting (penicillin), with devastating, deadly consequences if untreated.  Primary care (basic medications, antibiotics, vaccinations, etc) for these rural folks is not available here and in so many places around the world.  How can you and I further help?


The pharmacist’s visit was timely, as she was able to help me organize our pharmacy in Cavango and guide me re. running it smoothly and efficiently (from a room about the size of your closet).


We consulted over 200 hundred people with the team after sending out notices by motorbike to 20+ of the 50+ villages within 50-60 km of Cavango, three days prior to their visit.  Almost all patients walked for hours to arrive.  We saw a 22 year old with previously undiagnosed leprosy for three years who walked three hours for his consultation (“not far”, he said) and many other sad cases (including several people with TB), some treatable and some untreatable because they had nowhere to go for so long.


We said goodbye to Ellie this week, who now begins the next chapter of her story across the ocean.  It will be a joy to see how our Father directs her, though her beautiful heart will be sorely missed here.  Some dear friends purchased for her a year at Word of Life Bible school in New York.  Another dear friend purchased a week at Kanakuk camp in Colorado for Ben and did the same for Luke several years ago.  This incredible generosity is beautiful to behold, indeed.  To receive such generosity is quite humbling, yet motivates me to love more selflessly, to sacrifice my life for another, to be a blessing.  Sacrificial giving of our resources is a primary kingdom tool, modeled by our Lord, and a hallmark of those who know Him.  We are so grateful!


Driving anywhere in Angola, one experiences many police checkpoints, where our car is searched and our “documents” verified.  Virtually all cities, large and small, have these checkpoints going and coming, and the attitude of the police is typically punitive (you always feel like a criminal) .  Living in a police state has reminded me that fear and control are still used today as models of behavior change (as they have been throughout history) and are contrary to Jesus’ teaching of love and freedom as primary motivators of change.  There are so many current examples of fear and control in families, in work places, in laws, and even in the church.  All of us have been affected.  If you’ve lived with a controlling person, you know it is as living as a slave, without identity.  I’ve been counseling a beautiful 28 year old man who is a gifted leader and shows great maturity but his father continually seeks to control and manipulate him with demeaning threats, demands and comments.


Fear and control often yield positive short-term results, but result in long-term wounds.  Fear and control produce order and ease for the one in power.  Fear and control train people to behave according to perceived evaluation of others and to behave focused on whether or not they will either be “caught” or receive praise.  Jesus indicated that people motivated thusly (emphasis on outward appearance/behavior) can have decent exteriors and be dead/empty/rotten on the inside.


Jesus transforms our lives differently, however, from the inside out, as we accept His love and acceptance of us, without condition or merit.  The Kingdom is about freedom rather than control and grace rather than fear.  Jesus encouraged us to listen to Him and follow, to walk “in the Spirit”, rather than according to laws, rules and regulations.  So many churches turn the beautiful freedom of Jesus kingdom into religious control and fear, through an emphasis on behavior (do’s and don’ts).  Many, many unchurched Americans have had bad church experiences (“church wounds”) because they encountered a religious “christian” or church who communicated a kingdom based on performance rather than grace.  We all are tempted to motivate via fear and control when we become preoccupied about someone’s behavior rather than loving them as they are.


Fear kills love and love kills fear.  Fear is a tool of darkness and our U.S. culture has learned to use fear to motivate us to improve our performance (is there any wonder that anxiety and depression are rampant in the most “successful” country ever?), just like the godless Angolan government.  Have you noticed how much performance is emphasized in our culture, and in our churches, vs relationship and care and concern for people?  Our culture (and church) is trending more and more toward the worldly pursuits of performance, competitiveness, excellence, and perfection (not possible in human beings) over the godly pursuits of love and care.  We love to emphasize and pursue that which we can measure, and most kingdom qualities are simply not measurable!


I was indoctrinated into this fear and control method of motivation through sports early in my life and am still seeking to undo some of the negative consequences of the same.  The value of competitive sports in our American culture is grossly over-rated.  I so regret that my early life was almost entirely about chasing dreams of success in sports, while I missed building relationships and learning about the real lives around me and around the world.  I was extremely dedicated to something quite artificial and of virtually no value whatsoever.  If we see sports as a game, with no more significance than a game of Rummy, then our perspective is kingdom healthy.  If sports to us has more significance than this, either as an observer or a participant, we are giving our hearts (time and money) to something without value!  The time, energy, and money that the American church spends on sports (as the football season begins), while millions of people worldwide are hungry, without health care, and/or don’t know the King…


Last night, at a hotel on my way back home from Windhoek, I was able to have a conversation with the hotel manager for two hours.  I asked him about his life and beliefs… and listened.  It was obvious that he absolutely loved sharing about his life, beliefs, etc.  Though there were many pauses in the conversation, he never expressed any interest in me or my life.  This is typical of human interaction but we Jesus-followers are different.  We love and care and express interest and concern for people’s lives (ask questions), as they are.  Our goal is to love (their lives and interests and concerns before ours), no strings.  We seek to build up, value and encourage them.  Kingdom love, in contrast to the love of this world, has nothing to do with feelings and everything to do with prioritizing another’s life and interests before my own.


Many church-goers would have felt obligated to use this opportunity to preach, to “evangelize” this man (without building any foundation of relationship), but as Jesus followers we are different.  I did not seek to preach or lay out the gospel in my first interaction with him, but rather love and listen.  As Jesus followers, we love first and, in the context of loving, introduce them to our Father with sensitivity, honor and respect.  Most of us recall well first hearing about God’s love as expressed through someone who cared for us.  Many of us also remember being preached at.  People from our missionary team stay at this hotel frequently and I will see this man again.  We will have opportunity to share about our Father, after our care and love for him (and His) are established.


A Kingdom truth: “People don’t care what you know until they know how much you care”.  We must be about our Father’s business – caring and loving.  Then, in the context of a caring relationship, our Father will provide opportunity (in HIS time) to introduce them to Him.  Who can you love today, serve today, and show interest in today, by asking questions and listening?


One of our many beautiful supporters this week encouraged me (through a very encouraging email) to read 1Cor 13 weekly for three months because it has had an impact on her life.  I would encourage all of us to do the same, as this emphasis on love in our lives (note the first three verses) is that of the One we follow.  Gaining knowledge about God and teaching about Him (primary concerns of most churches) are challenging, but there is no more challenging life for any of us than to always consider others as more important, seeking their benefit, dreams, desires, opinions, and interests over my own (love).  This is the church’s calling, “A new commandment I give you…”, as we walk with Him.


Let’s remember today, that our calling is to serve our Father… and to serve another.  In humility, we surrender our pursuits, desires, and interests to our Father… and to another.  We praise our Father… and praise another.  We give all we have to our Father… and to another.  We consider all we have as without value for the sake of developing relationship with our Father… and developing relationship with another.  We prioritize listening to our Father… and listening to another.  We defer to our Father… and defer to another.  We honor and esteem our Father… and we honor and esteem others.  Jesus and His followers always married our relationship with God with our relationship with others.


Our earnings, our things, our energy, our time, our dreams… are not given to us to enjoy, but to give away.  We so often turn this around (me!), primarily seeking enjoyment, comfort, security, etc, while giving away a little.  We are called, however, to give our lives away, disregarding the pursuit of enjoyment.  Our Father always gives so many precious moments in the midst of our sacrifice.  Our personal reward will come… later… in ways we can’t begin to imagine… when we hear, “Well done”… forever… from the One we love.


Please pray for me as I set out on an exploration trip to the southwest of Angola at the end of this month.  There are several unreached people groups in the region that we hope to serve through the medical flight ministry.   We are specifically looking how we can serve the Himba people near Oncocua and the Mukabal people near Virei, both groups unreached and historically resistant to the Gospel.  Please ask our Father to help me see with His eyes and hear with His ears and I will need His guidance as to who to speak to and specifically which are the best places to visit.  Also I will be trusting His protection as the terrain is rugged, offroad, mountainous desert, and very remote.  Please also pray that He will bring fellow travelers so I don’t need to make the trip alone (I’m willing).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.