This past couple of months in the US was not planned, as we have faced some recent trials, culminating in Betsy’s hip replacement surgery (Aug 17th). I (Tim) had a life-threatening case of ARDS and malaria with subsequent placement of 3 stents in my coronary vessels, Luke had testicular cancer with successful surgery that likely removed it all, Betsy dealt with rapidly worsening hip pain necessitating somewhat urgent surgery, I broke my big toe on a motorcycle trip (below), and had some skin cancer removed (I think that’s everything…).
We realize that these trials are in no way exceptional or unique, and that many of you have faced similar and worse. We remember in these circumstances that Jesus’ favor/affection must remain our focus, and is enough; that all trials (as well as this brief, brief life) will pass, and that only an eternal perspective, based on our love relationship with our living God, produces sustaining joy and peace. My Father is faithful to provide whatever thorns are necessary to keep me dependent on Him and the eternal purpose of the thorns is far greater than the temporal pain.
Betsy is beginning her recuperation and her pain will gradually decrease over the next few weeks, Lord-willing. The cause of her rapidly progressing arthritis (the surgeon said her hip was awful) was discovered at surgery in a torn labrum that likely occurred a couple years ago, when her pain began, which then caused laxity in the joint that led to the unnaturally quick development of such severe arthritis and pain. She is grateful for all of your prayer and concern and remains in good spirits as she painfully attacks physical therapy. She will remain in the US until about October 1st, when she will join me in Cavango.
I took a five-day, 2000-mile retreat on the back of a rented motorcycle, wandering around the perimeter of Michigan. It was a delightful week causing me to fall in love again with trees, being on a bike, and the incredibly varied wonder of my Father’s creation. The variety of both the foliage and it’s varied greens left me in awe of my Father’s radical creativity that, for the most part, goes quite unnoticed. I wrenched my left big-toe on the first day beneath the back roll bar and the pain was only a minor distraction to the wonder I was experiencing, both in and around me (though it reminded me of its presence with every gear shift). Now, two weeks later, the swelling and discoloration are beginning to decrease, though the tenderness remains. No early morning walks for a while! I don’t think there is anything I would have enjoyed more over a five day period and I am grateful for the opportunity for this refreshing in my Father’s warm affection before I head back to Angola Sept 5th. Conversation and solitude are a beautiful Kingdom combination!
I then flew out to Colorado to meet with seven people who are passionate about our work among the underserved in Cavango. Three of those we stayed with lived in Cavango in the 1970s, two have visited several times, and one was interested in finding out how he might join us in our work. The topic of conversation was Cavango past, present and future. I learned much of the work there in the 50s and 60s as a leprosarium and hospital, before it was destroyed during the civil war in 1976. I shared much about our growing health care and Kingdom work over the past three years and we brainstormed about future possibilities. We talked for about 6hr on Monday, then I presented Cavango to about 20 adults, invited to an evening get together because of expressed interest in our work. It was a beautiful, interactive group, several of whom will likely join our sending team in some way. The next day we visited a missionary engineering firm (EMI) made up of over 100 men and women, living on sacrificial support from beautiful senders (as are we) and serving in various places all over the world, where needs for their services are greatest. Kindred spirits!
Our discussions largely revolved around how to better the services that we provide the rural people of the Cavango region. We discussed in-patient wards and energy options, people needs, financial needs, medical equipment needs (beds, surgical ward, etc), and each person was interested in exploring what role they might play. The group, AGA (Advancing the Gospel in Angola), of which these beautiful folks are a part, has sent a container full of goods to Cavango and it is set to arrive this month. Four of these men stocked this container (at great effort and cost) and will meet me in Cavango in mid-September to distribute the contents of the container. The container holds the steel needed to begin construction on the first of five simple buildings that will renovate our hospital and make it more conducive to excellent care for those we serve. I’ve also just received word that our mission, SIM, has located 100 donated hospital beds, so we will now begin to fill another container for shipment next year.
The enthusiasm expressed for our work in Cavango and serving the people of this region was deeply encouraging, and much needed, as getting things done in Angola is never easy! These dear brothers and sisters are so interested in using their skills and resources to help the rural people, who have needs beyond description. There is no earthly reward for these folks, and their faith deeply encouraged me.
A couple weeks ago, I traveled to North Carolina to visit some of our mission leaders at SIM, as well as leaders at Samaritan’s Purse, who have played an integral role in our work in Angola. I also met with the family of a student who desires to visit us next year (they are missionaries with the aviation wing of Wycliffe), and leaders at Campbell University Medical School, who wish to partner with us in sending residents to learn from us and our work, which is so different than medical work in the US. It was a rich trip, renewing and forming partnerships that will benefit the people we serve.
I also visited the leaders of our home church, VCDC, in Sunbury, Ohio, and their passion for partnering with us in serving the rural people of Angola also left me encouraged to continue to see Jesus’ affection demonstrated to those we serve through our work, words and lives.
I met several people in North Carolina who were instrumental in the effort to treat those with Ebola in west Africa in 2014, several of whom are featured in the film, “Facing Darkness” (worth seeing), but who most of the world will never know. I was impacted by the beautiful, silent, exhausting and life-on-the-line sacrifice these folks made for those Jesus loves in Liberia.
Kent Brantley, a physician with Samaritan’s Purse and survivor of Ebola in 2014: “People have asked me if my faith saved me from Ebola, as in a physical healing,’’ Kent said. “In a very real way, it was my faith that got me Ebola. It was the living out of our faith that put us in a place that we were at very real risk of getting Ebola. And that changes my perspective on faith. It is not something that makes you safe. So, yes my faith put me at risk of Ebola, but it also is what I clung to at the most difficult times of my illness. Not faith that because I follow Jesus, I’m going to get well, I’m going to recover, but faith that says I got this disease by following Jesus, so whether I live or die, I’m OK with that. And that brought a tremendous amount of peace. It didn’t take away the fear or anxiety from the illness. But it brought tremendous peace during it.’’ (emphasis mine)
The above engineers, missionaries and most Jesus-lovers don’t self-promote (you won’t see us in Time magazine or on CNN). Yet, the number of people helped/healed in Jesus’ name (at great cost and sacrifice) throughout recent history (2000 years) is incalculable and is the most beautiful untold story of all time. The number of people who have found eternal life and peace through a relationship with Jesus will one day be known, but for now remains a mystery. We hear about the human hypocrisy and abuse in the church (in Time and on CNN), but this pales in comparison to the ongoing, untold, beautiful sacrifice for people of every race, tribe, and ideology in Jesus’ name. Mother Teresa was only one of so many loving Jesus (in response to His amazing love for them) by sacrificially going to the hard places to serve “the least” in this world.
Please don’t be deceived by the media’s disproportionate coverage! Join the Kingdom army today and give your effort, dollars and time to feed the hungry, heal the broken-hearted, embrace the wounded, and advocate for those with needs. As you become consumed by love for your Father and those with debilitating needs, the beauty of His kingdom will overwhelm you and you won’t have time to fret about all of the negative publicity.
All that the beautiful men and women of Samaritan’s Purse did in literally putting their lives on the line for the people of west Africa is already forgotten. The efforts of all those in our home church, those in Colorado, those with SIM and those on our support team – for the people of Cavango – will never be known. Yet…
seek them out…
…the unnoticed, the lonely, the debilitated, the abused, the wounded… No one will ever know of your sacrifice and effort, but you will join the great untold story of Jesus’ love for the hurting and broken through His (ever-flawed) followers/children and your Father will see and never forget. Jesus literally left heaven to love, serve and rescue mankind, and we can give our lives for the same…