I was hit near the end of February with what was likely malaria, as few other illnesses can cause such fever and chills (I had no way of definitively testing). I began anti-malarial treatment immediately and I was able to continue our “clinics” trip to the interior, though feeling pretty rough and woozy (medical term). I am now almost completely recovered. I was so glad I was able to work… and to remember… that everything in this life is a battle… there are so many casualties… so many wounded… so many naked, captive, thirsty, hungry… and so many with malaria… with nowhere to go for help.
At these rural clinics in February, I met a woman who has had a pretty amazing year. I’ve treated her several times over the course of this past year, and when she came to me initially she was having 3-4 seizures monthly (for many years) and was 37 years old and had never been able to become pregnant. She was distraught and had a sad, depressed countenance. I treated her for a parasite that can cause seizure disorder in this part of the world (hoping this might be the cause and, if so, that it would still be treatable/reversible – no diagnostic equipment available) and we tried various, simple treatments (none with any real hope for success) for infertility… and with each treatment, I asked our Father (the only Healer – doctors and medications are tools in His hands) to touch her, to stop the seizures and to give her a much-longed-for child. I hadn’t seen her since August and when she walked in I didn’t recognize her. She was dressed in respectable clothes, she was beaming (how differently a person looks when they smile!), and she almost embraced me in greeting. I asked her how I could help her and she began telling her story as I reviewed her simple chart. In short, she hadn’t had a seizure for all of these months and was five months pregnant! We had a most joyful conversation, saw a beautiful, healthy little boy on ultrasound, and prayed together with such gratitude. The Wind…
I said good-bye to Shangalala this month, where an Angolan doctor will now visit once monthly beginning in March. I have so enjoyed serving in this drought-stricken part of Angola for the past year. It was our home for six months and we enjoyed working alongside some beautiful, remote people, especially the director, Alice, who is likely one of the most godly women I’ve known, demonstrating such love and such a servant’s heart combined with giftedness and a desire to continue to learn in order to better serve her people. I’m always so inspired when I meet a veteran in the medical profession that has maintained a softness for hurting people. The profession can be a compassion-killer and those in the profession with both compassion and skill are rare, indeed.
I also saw a 40 year old woman who presented to us last month fully psychotic, not eating, severely dehydrated, wandering miles from home, unable to communicate, completely disheveled, smelling of stool and urine, with the characteristic “nothing behind the eyes” psychotic look. When I approached the village this week, she walked up and greeted me with a most beautiful and warm smile, she was clean and well-kept and as we talked it was apparent that she was “all there”. She didn’t remember the previous visit, but she and her family were so grateful as they related immediate improvement and quick recovery following our last visit. We only had simple medications for her on her previous visit (not the appropriate medication for her condition) and, of course, we had asked our Father to intervene and to touch her. The Wind…
We also had an infant girl with severe, grave pneumonia, several kids with severe malaria and a comatose boy with meningitis, all improved after only one day of treatment… and our humble request for help from our Father. We saw many patients over the week, but these few embody our purpose/task. We are servants with a few tools (not unlike the men, mentioned below, looking for work in the cities), anxious to serve and bring to our Father anyone seeking help.
I remember again this morning that no one is unbroken, no one is without limiting wounds, pain, and deforming scars… and no one is completely healed… until that day…
Jesus spoke of those who loved Him when He spoke of sheep and goats in Mt 25. He indicated that His people would ALWAYS seek out the hungry, hurting, desperate, broken… Virtually every hospital in the developing world has been begun by Jesus-lovers seeking to be His hands. What an honor to serve Him and to serve those like me… broken, captive, ill, thirsty, hungry…
We live in a culture where I will ask if a village is far and the response will be, “No, less than a day’s walk.” or “No. You will arrive during the second day’s walk.” More than two days walking will usually indicate that the village is “far”. They walk about the same distance as a marathon each day. I used to think that completing a marathon was a great accomplishment (I ran several – quite slowly), yet so many people (men, women and children) in this part of the world (and others) run or walk that distance regularly!
Physical attraction is sure interesting to observe across cultures. With the emphasis in the west on looking good and smelling good, living among a rural, barefoot, raggedly clothed, rarely cleansed people with almost no access to the ability to improve their appearance (or smell) has been eye-opening. Virtually all of these people lose most of their teeth at an early adult age (and their decayed teeth and are all over the place, in contrast to the American, “orthodontified”, perfectly aligned…) and have awful breath (no toothpaste/brushing), they virtually never bathe, toilet paper isn’t available, and they are often fly-covered, yet are some of the most attractive people I’ve met. As we all know, physical appearance means little once we get to know the real person. They smile easily, are without malice, are universally kind and people-loving, and possess a humility unique among men. With every word and action, they communicate acceptance without condition (one never feels in their presence an expectation to perform a certain way in order to be accepted). There are so many attractive and beautiful people here…
Young men gather with their simple tools (hoe, shovel, axe) at designated locations on the outskirts of the cities early every morning, hoping to be picked out by an employer for a day’s work. Steady employment is quite rare.
I will live in Cavango many years and disciple many believers (young and old) before I ever discuss with them those things that have sadly divided churches since the beginning (listed in a previous blog – mainly intellectual doctrinal differences). There are far too many essentials of the Kingdom to emphasize (which will take several lifetimes to learn to apply) to waste time and energy on controversial and intellectual differences of opinion. As disciple-makers, mentors and leaders, we MUST continually evaluate if we are emphasizing and prioritizing the same things as the One we follow (being a discipler is so much more than disseminating information) or if we are simply doing what we think is best. Paul encouraged pursuing a simple, pure devotion to Jesus (2Cor 11:3) and we must do the same.
Walking with God is NOT an intellectual endeavor! It is such no more so than our relationship with our wife/husband, which God likens to our relationship with Him. Many churches practice a form of brainwashing (read the bible more and hear more “bible” teaching and you will be transformed). A doctrinal, intellectual emphasis, as well as religion (do’s and don’ts), can produce change (if change is the goal) and can also replace our Father’s emphasis on relationship and one-ness with Him (Jn 17).
Serving our brother, loving our enemy, and giving our life for another has NEVER divided the church. Seeking to intellectually understand and explain the mystery of God (theology), who has partially revealed Himself to us (we are incapable of receiving a full revelation of God), and the resulting intellectual disagreements (“heresies”) has caused virtually all church divisions through the centuries (including today). People who place a high priority on intellectual doctrinal belief and emphasize truth over love always believe in separating from those with differences (they often believe that those who disagree with them are not real “christians” and that they should not associate with – let alone, love – those with different biblical beliefs). It is this emphasis on doctrine (teaching) and knowledge (learn more, read more, study more, hear more…) that has produced the largely powerless, unattractive, arrogant, cold, isolated, hypocritical (virtually all statistics are equal with the unchurched) church of 2014. There are so many unloved, without hope, wounded, scarred, hungry and captive… and the church so often turns away to study, to preach to itself, and to criticize and argue with its own. But there is always a remnant… a few… not like the rest… that know Life…
All of this intellectual, arrogant and divisive emphasis is, of course, completely contrary to the humility, unity and love that Jesus (“love your enemies”) and Paul (“above all, love”) said would characterize the Father’s church (because His church would be spending themselves on that which mattered most to Jesus – love of Father and love of neighbor). If the church would return to an emphasis on application of the scriptures, rather than on interpretation, the world would again see Jesus in the church.
Those spent on loving their Father and neighbor have no time or energy to divide over intellectual doctrinal differences.
We too easily forget that our Father has given us His Spirit to teach us (those with ears to hear) all things about walking with Him and relating with Him.
Many years ago, as a new Jesus-follower, I befriended a beautiful, Jesus-loving group of reformed baptists, a beautiful group of Jesus-loving Catholics, and a beautiful, Jesus-loving group of charismatics (I had never heard of “sovereignty” or “charismatic”!) and I was rather quickly introduced to a few of the many doctrinal rifts within the church.
Over time, as I noted the following…
1. the defensive, cold, intellectual, arrogant and un-Jesus-like behavior of most church people who held tightly to a life-emphasis based on man-made, “biblical” doctrines,
2. “Don’t let them waste their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees. These things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don’t help people live a life of faith in God. The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. But some people have missed this whole point. They have turned away from these things and spend their time in meaningless discussions. They want to be known as teachers of the law of Moses, but they don’t know what they are talking about, even though they speak so confidently.” 1Tim 1:4-7
3. “If anyone claims, ‘I am living in the light’, but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. Anyone who loves another brother or sister is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble. But anyone who hates another brother or sister is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness.” 1Jn 2:9-11, and
4. Jesus’ confidence in the leading of His Father’s Spirit, clearly expressed in some of His last words in Jn 14-17
… I chose to prioritize relationship with my Father’s living, leading and interacting Spirit, and to passionately honor His words to us (His revelation of Himself), as they are, while rejecting ALL doctrines of men.
This decision has served me well as I’ve watched so many sincere truth seekers defensively hate and condemn their brother over differences in man-made, “biblical” doctrines, interpretations and opinions. One doesn’t read many of God’s letters to us without learning that His heart is about relationship and application of His words, while so often our study of “God’s Word” becomes quite academic, emphasizing knowledge and interpretation, while de-prioritizing both relationship and application.
Some of the men in my discipleship group (who can barely read, live in stick and grass huts, have never visited a “real” city church (with “important” and dividing man-made doctrines and creeds), and don’t know the difference between King James, NIV, NASB, etc) are passionate Jesus-lovers and have so little bible knowledge, but they are diligent to apply what they know. I believe THIS is our Father’s heart for His people.
Let’s remember today that our life (application) speaks much more loudly than our words (our words are empty without a faithful life), that it is ONLY what we do (application), not what we say, that demonstrates our true allegiance and beliefs, and that it is our intimacy with our Father, not our knowledge, that makes us like Him…