Trust, Influence, Sharing, Life…

 

As we begin our work in Cavango, our patient volume is well below the 30-50 patients/day that I would consider ideal.  A doctor hasn’t worked here (apart from periodic, 1-2 day visits) since 1976.  The local folks do not consider modern medicine as a first option, so the patients arrive at our hospital quite sick and often near death (they come as a last resort).  We’ve had children die of malaria and severe malnutrition and we’ve had many remarkable recoveries.  We don’t yet know how the various and numerable surrounding villages are perceiving our work.  We’ve gained the trust and confidence of those working in the clinic (they see me work and see the remarkable recoveries), but the trust and confidence of the rest remain to be seen.  One of the primary challenges that we face is the “selling” of both our product and our care to people who don’t know us.  This will take time and our Father’s influence.  We are trusting in our Father’s intervention regarding all we do, including the perception of the local folks and even who chooses to come in for help.  HE will determine our reputation and the extent of our usefulness.  He calls us to humbly and faithfully love and serve each who comes to us, and to leave the rest to Him.  We hope to see this volume consistently grow over the next couple years.

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Poverty extols such a dear price, in so many ways.  An adobe wall fell on a toddler neighbor of our Lubango friends during a severe, recent rain.  A woman who came to us for concerns regarding her pregnancy of six months, lost her two year old toddler three months ago when a metal roofing sheet fell off of their house and onto him during a sudden, strong gust of wind.  The metal roofing sheets are held down on top of the houses with large rocks and are quite unstable.  The child was decapitated in front of his mother and she will likely never completely recover.  Most of the illnesses/injuries we see are directly related to inadequate community and/or individual resources.

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We begin this week three new monthly clinics in villages within about a three hour off-road drive of Cavango.  Please pray for the local people’s first impressions and for our Father’s hand to be obvious.  We drove about two hours to meet with the leader of the region, to seek his advice, permission and direction (he was a great guy and so enthusiastic about our work in “his” villages) and, on our return, we drove through a storm that dropped 4 inches of rain in two hours.  It was a total mess on awful dirt “roads” and it was a blast!

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This week, early in our 9hr trek home to Cavango, Betsy said, “Isn’t the sky beautiful today?” I noticed the sky the rest of the trip, though I hadn’t noticed it previously.  Our daily influence with others is similar as our lives and words draw attention to our Father’s beauty and majesty…

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Our missionary friends, the Foxes, live on a rural farm and seek to train local men in developing skills that would enable them both to serve others in their home community and to provide for their families.  Lawrence Fox began a welding class this week for several men and asked Ben to translate for him.  Ben learned some welding basics, and Mer, Betsy and Ben stayed with this delightful family for the week while I did my flight clinics.  They all had a great time.

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Our trip this month saw quite a variety of presentations, including broken bones, various forms of cancer, difficult labors, tooth extractions, much malaria, TB, acute psychoses, severe malnutrition…  There was good news in that there is no more cholera in the south.  Joining me was a delightful and quite sharp 4th year Wake Forest medical student, Sara Foster Fabiano, daughter of our Angola SIM Director, Sheila Foster Fabiano.

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A key to cross-cultural adaptation… and to marriage, parenting, friendship, leadership, disciple-making and doctoring is learning to, “Shut up and listen”.  We had a patient present to one of our remote villages with a complaint of back pain.  This is a common primary care malady in every part of the world and as we were interacting with him on his care and preparing to provide some medication for help with his new and severe pain, he mentioned that he was having difficulty urinating.  Because he was in his 50s, we checked his prostate and found it to be obviously cancerous.  We were able to advise him to travel to Lubango for likely life-saving surgery simply because we asked questions and listened…

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While working in Tchincombe (one of our clinic sites among a very rural people group), as we were wrapping up our clinic for the day, we were called to the house of a young woman in a difficult, prolonged labor.  It was quite a sight as perhaps 10-12 people stood outside of the stick-walled, grass-roof hut, and the door opened and we were led into a 4m x 4m house, packed wall-to-wall with women, sitting and standing around the distressed, laboring mom-to-be, offering encouragement, support, and who-knows-what-else (I’m too new here to know of the nature of interactions like this).  The door closed and it was pitch dark in the room.  With our headlamp and simple instruments, we were able to help her deliver without incident and mom and beautiful baby survived well.  Everyone was quite interested in everything we did and so grateful for our intervention.  They all joined us in bowing in asking our Father to touch the woman and baby as we worked.

 

Virtually everything in this culture is shared.  All of these women were “sharing” this woman’s labor.  In Mk 1:33, the crowd in Capernum is described as gathering around the door of a home watching Jesus interact with the sick and demon-possessed.  That describes perfectly what we see when we hold clinics.  If we permitted it, every consult would be a group event, with everyone participating!

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Giving birth in this culture is to “da a luz” or to “give light”.  What a beautiful description of what happens both at our physical birth and at our spiritual rebirth.

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Challenging me lately…  What is to me life-giving?  What do I consider in my life to have great value?  What excites me, what awakens my passion, what gives me energy, what do I look forward to?  What can I honestly not imagine living without?

 

Prompting this question is the growing realization that most rural Angolans (as I live among them and observe) don’t have (and cannot pursue obtaining)… a job, new appliances/furniture, a bed, tasty food choices, a computer, a worship band at church services, financial security / retirement, virtually any activity that we consider “fun”, leisurely activities (golf, tennis, going out for coffee, seeing a concert or a sporting event), romantic love (not important here), chocolate, educational opportunities, a car, a meal in a good restaurant, iTunes, vacations…  They have no opportunity to travel, seek a fulfilling career, pursue their “dreams”, go to (or rent/download) a movie, watch their favorite TV show (or sporting event), play a board game/card game, read a good book, celebrate Christmas with gifts…

 

Do the above give me “life” or do they make life worthwhile to me?  Would I have joy if I was able to experience NONE of the above?  Is it valid to predominantly live for only activities/pursuits that 21st century money can buy?  Historically, mankind has lived as does the rural Angolan for thousands of years…

 

What does our Creator, our Designer, consider valid pursuits, passions, “life”?  Are our pursuits about life or are they about increasing our pleasure?  Are what occupy our thoughts and stimulate our passions “life” as our Father intended, or are we missing the mark?

 

There is, of course, a long list of what anyone, anywhere, can do in any century… serve those hurting (there is ALWAYS pain), enjoy the presence of family/friends, work hard, rest, give, encourage, converse with our Father, hear or read His communications to us, share a meal, entertain visitors, make disciples, visit neighbors, grow food, creatively improve our house/property with natural resources (plants and dirt), engage in activity (work, fish, hunt, plant, etc) that will bring additional food to one’s family, introduce Jesus to another, appreciate the gifts and struggles of today, worship our Maker, etc.  Could it be that we will find “life” in these and all of those other things might distract us from real life?  It is remarkable that all of the qualities that Jesus advised us to pursue were timeless and priceless.

 

“The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.”

 

Would you join me today in re-evaluating what is “life” for us as compared to what our Father might consider “life” (a word-search for “life” in the gospel of John is revealing).  We can begin again today to devote ourselves to that which gives Him pleasure, and gives us life abundant, with our Father’s intended depth and maturity.

 

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