Students, Runway, Greed, Personhood…

 

We have two beautiful fourth-year medical students with us this month from Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, Kyle Mudd and Nigel Hogan. They have added to our lives, our discussions, and our joy. Their humble, hungry hearts uplift and challenge us every day. How quickly I’ve grown to love these guys!  They are each writing excellent blogs about their experiences in Angola at the following links:

Nigel Hogan – www.nfhogan.wordpress.com

Kyle Mudd – www.muddwilk.wordpress.com

 

 

Last week, we had Jason and Ryan Helmholdt and Gary Goertzen visit for a week to begin our runway project. This will be a 4-month project, done with a bulldozer and a bobcat, and the renovated road (level and straight) from the village to the future runway is already a delight to use. They bring their servant hearts and their beautiful skill to serve us and the people of this region.

 

 

I had my weekly meeting with the nurses today and they emphasized how much they love the meetings and especially the teaching that takes place at these meetings. One of the nurses read a passage from the book that I bought for them, “Where there is no Doctor” that states that we work in health care not to make money but for the pleasure of serving. He looked up and said, “That is the same perspective that you have been teaching us for the past year.” What a joy when our teaching and our lives make an impact!

 

 

Greed, the desire for “more”, is destructive. It destroys individuals, it destroys marriages, it destroys beautiful works of service, and it sets itself against God’s Kingdom. Jesus said that He and (a desire for more) money could not be served together…

 

During our recent furlough in the US, I bought a refurbished Sonosite portable ultrasound machine that would allow me to do diagnostic studies (especially cardiac) that I am currently unable to do (it’s my only diagnostic tool and hugely valuable). I bought the machine for $21,500 (about half the price of a similar new machine) from Providian Medical Equipment out of Cleveland. The company was great to work with throughout the purchase process and many promises were made that if anything ever went wrong, they would make any necessary repairs.

 

The machine worked wonderfully in Angola for about one month and abruptly quit working one day during a patient exam. I contacted the company and they initially said that they would repair it, and when I asked if I had any other options for trade-in (I was concerned that this machine only worked for one month and perhaps wasn’t worth repairing), they offered the following: I would send the broken machine back to them with an additional $19,900 and they would send me a new (different brand) machine. I emailed the manufacturer of this machine and found that their price was $22,000 (including shipping to Angola). When I questioned Providian as to why they were offering me a $22,000 machine for a total cost of $41,400, they didn’t respond to any of my multiple emails (my only form of communication from here) for several weeks (they had previously been responding promptly).

 

I finally asked a friend in the US to call them, and Providian told him that they didn’t want to deal with me anymore because I had offended them in my questioning their offer. My friend convinced them, however, to send the already-promised-replacement-parts to him, which he sent to the medical students (Kyle and Nigel) who were soon traveling here. Upon their arrival, we easily replaced one board in the machine and it did nothing to fix the problem, and we couldn’t replace the second board because it fit neither the machine nor the first board (the connecting parts were “female/female” instead of the original “male/female”). Providian responded to my email questions about the parts not fitting by saying that I had broken the machine, that it was my fault the boards didn’t fit together and that they were under no obligation to repair the machine!

 

It has been a customer service “worst-case” (since mid-December), one which beautifully illustrates the ugliness of profit-driven greed. Providian has demonstrated no concern that I am out $21,500 and in possession of a nonfunctioning machine. They are actually offended that I am displeased and don’t trust them! Greed will, however, destroy the one that it feeds, and treating customers this way will eventually find its way to this company’s bottom line.

 

If you work in health care, please remember Providian Medical Equipment LLC, as no one deserves this type of treatment. This is surely not an isolated incident, for if they treat a US doctor working in Angola like this…

 

I am so sorry that I was taken like this as I feel personally responsible for every contribution sent to support us and our work. I explained to Providian both before and after the purchase that all of the purchase money was from contributions from beautiful people seeking to serve the rural poor of Angola. It appears that there are people, who call themselves “Christian”, who have little appreciation for what we are doing and for those (you) who sacrificially support our work here.

 

In contrast, I then contacted Sonosite (the original manufacturer) directly and they have responded beautifully. They demonstrated real concern that I was without a machine to do my work and would do whatever they could to help. They immediately offered to repair the machine and sent me a part at no cost. They’ve been responsive and customer-focused (they’ve earned my trust) and I am sending the machine to them for repair (because this is Angola, the shipping costs one way are $1100), so I will likely be using the machine again in 1-2 months.

 

To some in business, the customer is the means to build/profit the business, while to others the purpose of the business is to serve the customer. My interaction with Providian and Sonosite illustrates this difference nicely.

 

 

It’s dehumanizing and demeaning to be treated as an object. Jesus addressed this tendency of human nature when He said that all of His desires for us could be summed up in two directives – love God and love people. Love resigns itself to blessing/edifying/benefitting the other. Love serves, defers, submits… Love frees the other to respond as they will.

 

This is in contrast to when we treat people as objects and expect them to respond to us as slaves, to respond to what we require or desire.

 

When we view God as an object, we expect Him to respond to our desires as would an object with a button to push. Have you heard some people dictate to God what He should do (when they “pray”)? People disappointed in God see Him thusly (He didn’t/doesn’t respond as they deem fit). To see God as a person is to give Him the freedom to respond as He will, and to honor Him no matter what His response.

 

When we see people as objects, we require/expect them to respond to our desires/directives in the same way. To honor people as created and equal persons is to see them as worthy of being served and free to respond as they will.

 

How often have I expected my Father, my wife, my kids, my friends, my patients, etc to behave as I desire and as I see fit (objects), rather than as they desire and as they see fit (persons)?

 

I know that you also have been treated as an object and faced injustice and it is never pleasant. Please remember with me today to see our Father and others as persons to be honored and served rather than as objects to serve us.

 

2 comments

  1. Thanks Tim and Betsy! Fits perfectly with the value of compassion, the heart of my sermon later today. I am going to use your comparison of objects vs people. Serving instead of expectations and directives. We would just love to stop by for some of that amazing and beautiful Kubacki hospitality!

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