TB, Gatherings, Muck, Beggars…

 

We opened our new TB Ward this week and have three of the six beds occupied (one child and two adults). Much work went into the simple building over a 2-month period and the product will serve many over coming years. We had a gathering, a brief talk by yours truly (about both the earthly and eternal benefits of their work on the building) and a can of soda and a piece of cake (made by Meredith) for each of the workers. They thoroughly enjoyed the celebration at the beginning of our clinic day. The patients will stay in this building for the first two months of treatment, then they will finish their eight-month treatment at home, with monthly re-evaluations. For those initial two months, they will be uniquely loved and cared for and they’ll participate in our morning discussions on God’s Kingdom. It will be two months they will not soon forget. This was made possible because of the contributions of our home church, VCDC, and many of you who financially support our work here. You will never meet in this life those you are loving and helping, yet many here benefit from your willingness to serve Jesus and those He loves on the other side of the world…

 

Our daily morning discussions with our patients and their families are a joy. We usually have between 10 and 30 people enthusiastically gather for the 15-20 minute discussion that is purposefully unlike any church service, though many have never attended a church meeting or heard a passage from the Bible. There is good interaction and much curiosity and engagement. Currently I am going through the Book of John, reading a passage, asking questions and having a guided discussion. I especially focus on the Father and His personality, His joys, His desires for us, His plans for us, His priorities, His emphases, etc.  I love that the nurses hear the message every day (they translate my words from Portuguese to Ganguela) and those that stay at the hospital for many days hear much of our Father and His Kingdom. It’s just like our Father: turning ashes to joy while creating beautiful opportunities to know Him out of the afflictions of illness and injury (historically, Jesus-followers have built in every corner of the world clinics and hospitals to serve the hurting, while introducing them to their Father and demonstration of His love and care). The interest/engagement in these gatherings is far better than that which I witness when I speak in church services. I especially love seeing God’s Kingdom enter hearts and minds outside of a church setting.

 

Monday we discussed the “woman at the well” from John 4. It was a joy to see their reaction to Jesus’ heart toward those in His culture prejudicially disenfranchised, despised, and neglected and His affection toward those who have messed up their life, with the implication that His heart is the same toward similar people today.

 

Perhaps you or someone you know finds him/herself described similarly, struggling on the outside of the cultural “norm” (the addict, the promiscuous, the error-prone, the lonely…) either by our choices or those of others. Jesus sought out and embraced especially these, offering His “living water” of forgiveness, grace, acceptance and hope.  His spirit within us compels us to do the same…

 

Most days at these morning gatherings, we also discuss physical health and how those gathered can live healthier lives and how they can respond to physical challenges in themselves and in their children. We discuss subjects such as fever, diarrhea, wounds, nutrition, pregnancy, etc. The listeners express their interest through their many questions and responses to my questions.

 

As I led our monthly meeting this week with the community leaders, they shared with me their enthusiasm over the changes in the clinic/hospital and their joy that their community is serving so many from the surrounding villages through our work at the clinic.

 

I will take with me this week two young women (ages 16 and 17) with vaginal-bladder fistulas (acquired from lengthy and unsuccessful labor) to our mission hospital in Lubango for surgery in the hope of having their life restored to one with the ability to hold their urine. These women are ostracized for obvious reasons in that no one can tolerate being near them because of the incessant mess and odor. This hospital (click on “CEML” above) does such beautiful work every day, restoring life in so many ways in Jesus’ name in those who have lost so much because of injury or illness.

 

On Sunday morning, Jeremias greeted the folks at church by saying in English, “Good Morning. How are you?” and many responded by saying, “Fine. How are you?” There are about 5-6 people (including Jeremias) putting forth dedicated effort in learning English in Bets’ twice weekly classes (and many other nominal learners) and their enthusiasm is good for me as I struggle to find the motivation/energy to learn Ganguela.

 

On our trip to Huambo last week to deliver a small boy to the hospital for surgery, we were stopped by police (there is a police stop about every 15-20 km on the paved roads) and they found that I was missing an essential ownership document (we’ve had much difficulty getting the correct document from Toyota, who sold us the car three years ago). After much discussion, they let us go without impounding our car (they said that we would lose our car if stopped again) and we carefully retraced our 4hr drive home (avoiding other police checks), accomplishing little (we did drop off the boy in a nearby town, where they were to transfer him to Huambo, for his urgently needed surgery).

 

One of the things on our “to do” list for Huambo was to exchange our gas bottle for our stove (we need to do this every 4-5 months) and our friend from Huambo (Ismael, a YWAM missionary from Brazil who owns a small piece of land across the river from us) graciously brought a gas bottle to us the following day but, because his land is across the quite-flooded river, we needed to canoe it to our side. The gas container weighs 50kg, so I took our car to the river to bring it home from there (about a mile). It was canoed across successfully in the rapid current, but I buried my car over the tires in the mucky flooded area (too much confidence in 4WD!), so I walked the winding path home (in the dark with a flashlight that struggled to stay on – it was a starless and moonless night and I would never have made it home without the “lamp unto my feet”) and the next day Ben and I brought our other car to the river to free the first car. We freed the first car, only to bury the second car in the muck. We freed this car with a wench and some ingenuity (there were no trees/rocks for securing the wench), only to get it stuck again. We labored in the heat, through the afternoon, sweating off our DEET, and we were mauled by small, blood-thirsty insects so thick it was difficult to inhale – we coughed and hacked because we inhaled many. The locals don’t fish during these months because of these insects (exactly like the “Pium” that irritated us in parts of the Amazon Basin). We finally freed both cars and got the gas bottle home. The next day one of our cars had three flat tires, which we then repaired. I’ve rarely been so sore (and itchy) as I was the next day! Living in the interior has its unique challenges…

 

There was some commotion near our clinic Jongo (the grass-covered shelter that we built for the families of our hospital patients – see photo) today and we wandered over to discover a large, black/gray-back and white belly snake in the grass roof. The people here dislike snakes as much as people anywhere. A man cleverly and courageously knocked the snake from the roof and killed it, to the relief of everyone. It was between one and two meters long and I haven’t been able to ID it because there are so many African snakes with a similar appearance. Snakes are one of few animals here that the rural people don’t eat…

 

A hungry and frail beggar finds food, eats his fill, and then seeks out his family and friends to guide them to the rich and plentiful banquet.  Some of his friends admit their hunger, follow him and are filled. Others refuse to go because they simply don’t believe that he has found food.  Still others accuse the satisfied messenger of being disingenuous and critical of their lack of food.  While the beggar’s love and concern for his friends compels him to introduce them to the food, only the extent of their hunger combined with his credibly transformed health will convince them to follow him to sustenance. May our words, our passion, and our credible health and vitality convince those who know us (and some who don’t know us) that we have found Life…

 

4 comments

  1. You, your family, and your work surely are testimonies to God’s love. Thank you for sharing your lives with us. I have learned so much about the poor and how I must help.

  2. It’s always challenging and inspiring to read your posts. May the Lord keep you under His wings of love and care.

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