Wind, American Dream, Termites, Salvation…

 

We recently sent home a two year old little girl who had arrived in a coma, which had developed after three days of fever.  She then had seizures every few minutes (almost nonstop) for close to 48 hours and, with our limited resources, we couldn’t stop them medically. She was incredibly pale, as the malaria had killed about 2/3 of her blood cells. We treated her aggressively and kept her hydrated through an IV line we put in her tibia and on the third day began to see slight improvement, with decreasing fever/seizures.  She awoke on day four and little by little improved over two weeks until it was clear that she would have no neurological sequelae.  I’ve seen many remarkable recoveries during my time in Angola, and she is among the most impressive.  I wonder what our Father has in store for her?  I thought that several of the 12 patients currently staying in our little hospital (a ten pound, severely malnourished 3 y/o with malaria and pneumonia, a 60 y/o woman with severe heart failure – less than 10% function via ultrasound, another severe pneumonia in a 3 y/o who arrived with a respiratory rate over 100 breaths/minute, a 2 y/o with severe typhoid fever…), based on our limited resources and their critical condition on admission, would surely not survive through their first night, but all are recovering quite well.  The Wind…

 

At one of our clinic sites, we arrived to a large group seeking consultation and the only location available for us to see patients was in a room with a coughing, bed-ridden TB patient.  We paraded about 40 sick people through, doing our best to shield him from them and them from him…  At another clinic site yesterday, a barefoot (very few people wear shoes in the interior), 60-ish year old couple arrived, she with severe leprosy and he completely blind in both eyes due to cataracts.  There have been so many sad cases just this week, ranging from Multiple Sclerosis to Muscular Dystrophy, to advanced cancers, to TB in all forms, to vaginal fistulas, to albinos with severe skin cancers, to bleeding disorders, to so much malnutrition, to a wave of Pertussis (no one’s vaccinated), etc, etc.  Please ask our Father, the only Healer and the only Giver of Life, to heal more of these beautiful people through us…

 

We live about a mile from a river that, at the end of the rainy season, is high, fast white water.  I walk to this river every morning with my Father, often seeing eagles and always looking for the hippos that I know are there (prints, other sightings, etc) but I’ve never seen.  We can hear the river’s roar from our house.

 

Most meals in the rural homes are eaten with their hands, as utensils are still pretty expensive for these folks (and must be cleaned – water is limited).

 

These folks have an amazing ability to see the silver lining in the midst of significant pain.  Our dear friend’s three close nephews (nephews in this culture are considered sons) were on a motorcycle months back and were hit by a car, killing two.  It was devastating for him.  Yesterday he enthusiastically told me of the other’s recovery and how grateful he was to His Father for sparing his life and healing him.   The constant hardship faced by the people here forces one to focus on the cup half-full, as focusing on the ever-present loss (half-empty) would simply be intolerable.  It has amazed me to see, in this culture of so much hardship, pain and loss, such hearts of gratitude and virtually no bitterness.

 

Another friend’s 20 year old son has left home and moved to the city in pursuit of “the American Dream”.  He’s been captured by the lure of technology and wealth (he wants a computer and wants to “experience” the internet) and this from his home with no electricity, cell phone coverage, plumbing, etc.  Our heartbroken friend describes him as having abandoned the simple, relational, eternal focus of his family/village to embrace the pursuit of the temporal promises of this world.  This young man is responding like so many before him to some variation of the same temptations that Jesus faced on the mountain (prosperity without cost and unaccountable power over man and circumstance).(Mt 4)  Every young person will face these temptations and will decide whom he will serve/pursue.  It’s so painful for a parent to see his/her child toying with such soul/heart destroying forces (the distraction of materialism is perhaps the most lethal and most deceptive) as they wander into the empty promises of the material world.  As my friend is appreciating though, we are so blessed to be able to cling to Jesus and trust Him to pursue and care for those whom we dearly love…

 

Two missionary families in Angola (friends of ours) almost lost their lives in serious car crashes this month.  Automobile accidents are the biggest health risk for cross-cultural workers in developing countries as the roads are awful, other’s cars are in poor condition, drivers are poorly trained, anything and everything (cows, goats, two year-olds, bicycles…) use the roads, and virtually no traffic laws are enforced.

 

There is a standard routine that is followed in the rural areas during all greetings.  Each asks the other how their night was and how their health is (good health is never taken for granted here, where life expectancy is among the lowest in the world), and then each tells what is happening in their lives that day and what their concerns are.  It is such a routine that, when we moved to the rural areas, I was graciously instructed on this routine several times because I wasn’t following the standard protocol!

 

A common way of saying “Good bye” here is “Estamos juntos” which means “We are together”.  I love that!

 

We recently had a huge hatching of large termites.  There are often hundreds of termite hills per acre, ranging in size from a fist to a garage, while most are about the size of a toddler.  These bugs hatch once/year and literally millions fly sporadically for a few minutes/hours and crash land on the ground, lose their wings and crawl around to find/create a new home in the ground.  They are about the size of a small paperclip and there were so many that the ground was literally moving and shining (from the reflective, clear, transparent wings) for 2-3 mornings.  Everyone in the villages was out with buckets and cans collecting the little ant-like termites, later to roast them over a fire in oil for the once/year termite feast.  I didn’t try them, but they are a crunchy meal and it proves that just about anything tastes ok with enough oil and salt!

 

The story that I wrote about last time (the circus on the mountain) is illustrative of the church today.  When we were stranded in the crater and then threatened by an “enemy” with discomfort, confinement and further inconvenience, there were various responses among us.  Some were understandably anxious and preoccupied with surviving, getting off the mountain to safety and away from the “enemy” (and the insults, threats, etc) and to a place where there was peace and no threat of harm.  They were primarily concerned with their own rescue or “salvation”.  Others were preoccupied about the people that we came to serve and how the ordeal would affect them, and not at all about themselves (or their “salvation”).

 

The impressive similarity of this situation to the church today is that the salvation movement among evangelicals in recent decades has largely been about “me” (my salvation, my depravity, my reward, my eternity, my peace, my joy…), the opposite of Jesus’ example and emphasis of self abandonment and surrender for the sake of our neighbor’s benefit and our Father’s purposes.   One’s eternal life (“salvation”) is the fruit of an outward-focused relationship with Jesus, NOT the goal!

 

Others in the church today disregard Jesus’ emphasis on eternal life and focus only on the temporal aspects of His ministry, even though He spoke often of an eternal relationship with Him in His Kingdom.  His church will reflect Him, and His was a radical emphasis on both.  The emphasis and direction of any body will be that of its Head and if we (and our churches) are not emphasizing that which Jesus emphasized, we must reconsider whether we are, in fact, His. (2Pet 1.10)   Jesus was not preoccupied with His blessings, well being, ministry success, life-style, comfort, job-satisfaction, reputation, leisure, retirement, etc as He trusted His Father for His care.  He was not concerned with His own salvation, as He knew whose He was and, because of whose He was, where He was going.  He was quite concerned, however, with His friends’ pain, discomfort, rejection, etc in this life and with their relationship with His Father (their eternal life).  He was preoccupied with NOTHING that concerned Himself, but with everything that concerned those He came to love and serve.  Those who are His are like Him…

 

Whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart to him, how does the love of God abide in him? 1Jn 3.17

 

Church-goers do not necessarily impact the world, but those with radical disregard for themselves and radical love/concern for Jesus and for those around them make an impact in every interaction…

 

I am primarily concerned and preoccupied with what today, as demonstrated by how I spend my emotions, my time, my effort, and my money?”

 

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