Arrival, Confusion, Eternal Impact…

 

We arrived in Cavango a few days ago and it’s nice to be back. We were warmly welcomed by folks who have become dear friends in a short time. The house in which we live was in good shape, with only a few termites having moved in during our absence. We had a very busy first day as Ben and I installed 8 new solar batteries, which gave us electricity and running water (electric water pump) while Bets and Mer unpacked and began to put the house in order again.

 

The next day, we had five friends visit from Lubango, who evaluated the road to Cavango for its ability to handle a trailer carrying heavy equipment and also evaluated the land at Cavango for the construction of a dirt airstrip, which will enable us to evacuate people needing urgent surgical intervention.

 

We’ve been gone from Cavango since the end of May. Our furlough was full and served its purpose well. When we left Angola, we were tired after a challenging couple of years and we return refreshed and ready to dive back in. I had a successful knee replacement and am almost pain-free. We vacationed with our kids and were able to spend good time with our beloved family in Toledo. We were able to sit down with many of our team of supporters/encouragers/prayers and share about our work and the impact God is making through all of us. Ben and Mer were able to visit many colleges, as both will be leaving to study in the US before our next furlough.

 

We spent a week in Windhoek, Namibia (a city like those in the US with US-type prices/products) getting acquainted with a new missionary family and greeting another arriving in Africa for the first time. We purchased a trailer for our trips to the interior and solar equipment for the inpatient side of the small Cavango hospital, among other ministry supplies. We were also able to organize transport of more than 200 solar audio bibles into Angola.

 

We then spent a week in Lubango purchasing medications and food/supplies for our initial month-long stay in Cavango. Our first night in Lubango, while staying with friends in the middle of the city, gun shots were fired outside the house and we saw a policeman firing into the air as he chased someone down the road.

 

My week in Lubango was a difficult one as I battled severe diarrhea for seven days and felt pretty rough, but I was able to accomplish the tasks necessary for our move back to Cavango. After seven days, this bright physician finally treated a parasitic illness called Giardiasis and subsequently improved quickly. At least it helped me begin to lose my “furlough fifteen”!

 

Our third day back in Cavango was Sunday and we attended the church service in our village. We enjoyed the various choirs and when it came time for the message, the leader asked if I would give the message. Preparation zero. As I walked forward, I asked our Father to share His heart and He gave me a word that was a delight to deliver. I spoke on the first 25 verses of John 9, emphasizing the incredible confusion caused by Jesus touching a blind man. It’s always the case when Jesus touches someone… there is confusion and misunderstanding by those around.

 

Being misunderstood is a given when walking with Jesus. Family doesn’t understand, friends don’t understand, fellow christians often don’t understand, and especially the religious (who see christianity as doing good, following rules, etc and who don’t value/understand a living, interactive relationship with God) don’t understand. Isn’t it interesting that do-gooders, church-goers, rule-followers, etc are well tolerated and even admired by the culture, while passionate Jesus-lovers who speak of being touched by Jesus, following a living Jesus, interacting with Jesus, etc are virtually always found offensive, extreme, etc (except by the broken, hurting and hungry)? As in this case, however, the one touched/loved/rescued by Jesus loses interest in the opinions of those around and holds only the opinion of his Rescuer/Healer/Master in high regard. “One thing I know…”

 

The solar system we installed in May on the clinic side of the simple Cavango hospital, with contributions from our home church, VCDC, continues to work well and the nurses still rave about having lights every night. We installed the solar system on the inpatient side this week, also bought with contributions from VCDC. I made inquiries into the car purchase by VCDC that will daily transport ill and injured people from their villages to the hospital here. We hope to make the purchase in the next 2-3 months, as it will likely require a trip to the capital, a 2-day drive from Cavango. We will likely need to send someone from the village to Driving School 6hr away for three months in order to operate the vehicle. We will also purchase new hospital beds with contributions from VCDC. On our return to Lubango, we purchased several thousand dollars of medicine/medical supplies with contributions from our many supporters. There are so many people contributing to our work and it is such a pleasure to be part of such a team!

 

Our first few days of clinic were quite busy, with people arriving from great distances to receive a consultation. All received a touch from our Father, for He said, “Ask… Seek… Knock…” and “Cast your cares upon Him…” Some were quite ill and others not so critical… I admitted to our hospital 2 teens with severe, complicated pneumonia (one young man has atrial fibrillation and heart failure) and we had a 22 year old from our village suddenly die before I could see him (likely from appendicitis). Not only the very young and very old are at risk in this rural population…

 

I walked into our clinic on the first day to a woman in labor for more than 24 hours with her 5th pregnancy, who had just arrived after a 5+ hour motorbike ride. We were able to help her through a difficult labor and deliver a healthy baby boy about 12 hours later…

 

I saw a woman this week who has experienced six consecutive still-births in pregnancies longer than 6 months (after having three healthy babies) and a woman who has had 10 deliveries of healthy babies, but only five have survived beyond the age of 5 years. Amazingly tragic stories to me, and quite within “normal” in this rural land with little health care intervention.

 

Further consequences of lack of access to health care… a 21 year old male I saw this week was struck in the knee with a stick 9 months ago. Because of the pain, he didn’t walk on it for several weeks and then the stiffness made it difficult to bend and straighten, so he did neither. He arrived at our clinic with his knee fixed in about 130 degrees of extension, and there was no movement whatsoever. He will be markedly disabled for the rest of his life and his knee would likely have been a simple fix 9 months ago. We recommended a trip into the city for an X-ray and consultation with a surgeon and he said a trip into the city was not possible…

 

 

Tobacco is used commonly here and the men that I’ve spoken with say that it’s greatest benefit is that it “removes their hunger”. Marijuana is grown here and used especially by older men because it diminishes their pain and allows them to work longer hours in their fields…

 

After a rain, most of the footprints I see on the paths around our home are barefoot…

 

We had a great meeting today with the community leaders and there remains much enthusiasm for the future of Cavango. A new idea that surfaced was considering the possibility of a mission school for the kids of the community, whose education is quite poor through the government school, which meets twice weekly for a few hours. Anyone reading this interested in having an incredible eternal impact through teaching the next generation in the middle of Africa nowhere?

 

I drove about 8hr yesterday to drop off two surgical patients (a woman with a vaginal/bladder fistula and a woman blind from cataracts) near a train station that will allow them to travel inexpensively into Lubango for surgery. I may be doing this more often or, perhaps, our transport vehicle might be able to do this periodically. The MAF pilots are also planning on weekly trips out this way to take urgent surgical cases to Lubango. Our Father continues to lead us to more ways to serve these folks…

 

As the healed blind man can forget what it was like to be blind and take his sight for granted, we can take our Father’s presence with us for granted and forget what life is like without Jesus. As the seeing man can choose to be blind again, we can choose to live independently of our Father, each with its respective consequences.

 

Or… we can live today in expressed gratitude and worship for His demonstrated love for us, for the joy He has in us, and that we can trust Him that every detail (pleasant and unpleasant) of our lives has an eternal purpose…

 

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