Beds, Lessons, Politics, Feelings, Prosperity…


A container arrived from SIMUSA with fifty donated electric hospital beds.  It was a crazy morning sliding the container off of the truck with chains, a tree and logs under it to protect the truck bed.  I’ll try to post a video that Luke filmed.  The beds are beautiful but we need a small generator to operate them, as we have no electricity here (in the states one would simply plug them into a wall socket). They are likely the most beautiful man-made items in this region and people gathered around us as we unpacked them and the nurses (men) actually giggled when we raised and lowered the beds with the generator.  They will serve many ill rural people for many years!


To empty the shipping container and take the container off the truck, I wanted to hire four men.  Our head nurse suggested ten men and I relented.  Nineteen men did the work.  Because so many men worked, the work was completed in less than two hours, so I offered to pay the going rate for a half day’s work ($2/day).  They were dissatisfied and they grumbled to their friends, saying they wanted a full day’s wage, and I heard about it.  I called a meeting with all of them to resolve the conflict without delay and I asked them to voice their concerns to me face-to-face.  One man voiced their concerns tactfully and maturely and I responded.  Over fifteen minutes, we both voiced our different perspectives.  I shared how we would have much work over the next few months (during our renovation and construction) and that we needed to strike a balance for a wage agreeable to them and affordable to me.  They were quite understanding of the age-old dilemma of limited resources on my part and desire for work (and fair wages) on their part.  If the wages are too little, they won’t want to work, and if the wages are too great, we won’t be able to pay (and it’s culturally unhealthy to pay more than the regional fair wage).  In coming days, we will arrive at a wage through negotiations that will satisfy both parties.


As I walked away, I shared with Luke that more “ministry” occurred in that fifteen minutes than in 100 sermons.  Ministry occurs not from the pulpit as much as living life together and modeling Jesus’ heart in resolving conflicts (normal and common).  I believe they were honored in the discussion and in the negotiation.  I also expressed the necessity of sharing concerns face-to-face rather than the gossip and complaining that had occurred after the work.  Kingdom, life lesson for them as gossip is as common here as anywhere.  I also learned (again) that it is honoring and necessary to agree to a wage before a job to avoid conflicting expectations.  Management lesson for me (again).  I will hire the leader among them (who spoke with wisdom and respect) to lead in future endeavors as the conflict allowed the cream to rise to the top.


In discussing these wages with our clinic director, we debated payment per-job vs payment per-day.  He immediately suggested that we will get better work for our wage if we pay per-job rather than per-day because the workers will work more slowly on a per-day wage in order to gain more money for the same work and they will work more quickly on a per-job basis because they will want to complete the work and move onto another job more quickly.  Human nature is the same anywhere, even in the most rural places in Africa!


Life in rural Angola…  A sixty-eight-year-old woman was carried into our consultation room by her son and daughter and laid on the bed.  They had driven 6+ hours by motorbike on winding dirt paths with their mom squeezed between them.  They said she had been ill since February with a cough and difficulty breathing and had been unable to walk for a month.  They had been to several hospitals and had been “treated” for months without improvement.  With just a couple questions, her diagnosis of heart failure was obvious and confirmed by echocardiography.  She died within a day, before any treatment could take effect.  I arrived at the hospital to check on some patients and found this woman’s weeping daughter, who told me of her death.


All doors in the clinic were closed (except hers) as it was Saturday afternoon and everyone’s work had been completed, so they returned home for a much needed afternoon off.  I drove to the village to get the key to the pharmacy, while also seeking our ambulance driver to take this woman’s body part of the way home (to an un-crossable river).  The nurse on call wasn’t home and I sent someone to look for him.  The ambulance driver also wasn’t home so I sent another messenger to find him.  Our driver returned after two hours and took the woman 8km away to the top of a small mountain, where we must go (Photo) to get cell service to make calls (an area of about 3x3ft).  She carried with her several numbers and she tried them all in order to find someone in her village who might be able to bring a motorbike to transport her and her mom’s body back home from the bridge.  She received no answers to her calls, so she returned to the hospital.  Our ambulance driver took her to the mountain again later in the day to make more calls and when she was able to contact someone, they drove five hours to meet her and the body at a walking bridge over the river, where the body was carried across from our ambulance to the bike.  The body was then placed on the bike between the driver, in front, and the daughter behind, for five hours, just as they had arrived the previous day…


A fifty-year-old man arrived on crutches with a complaint of severe back pain for several years that was incapacitating.  It caused weakness in one leg and I though that was the reason he used crutches.  During the interview, I asked why he used crutches and he responded that he had an accident on his motor cycle a week ago and couldn’t walk on his ankle and was given crutches on his arrival to our clinic.  Nothing more was said about his ankle and he was only interested in his back pain.  People here only go to the doctor for what they perceive as serious problems.  He likely had a broken ankle but to him this was not a reason to bother the doctor.  I honored his interest and made no more mention of his ankle, nor did he, as we focused only on treating his back pain!


We have been so blessed these past few months in Angola with the separate visits of our sons Ben and Luke.  It’s been a joy to reintroduce them to the people here and have Luke join me in the clinic the past couple weeks. These folks have no respect for what we have left materially because they just don’t know.  But a local person marveled this past week to me that we left our family and home to serve here.  This is not an infrequent observation and has occurred more recently because of our son’s visits.  They can’t fathom leaving family to go to a foreign land to serve those in need and this has caused them to take notice.  But didn’t Jesus tell his followers to forsake their relationships and their personal ambitions and “go”?  As He did…  Virtually every one of His close followers travelled well away from “home”, several went great distances, to share of their Father’s affection for people (who didn’t know), demonstrated in Jesus’ life and death. They travelled to India, Asia, Africa, England and many other places for this purpose and almost every one of them died an awful death because of the perceived threat that they posed to the local governments in calling people to worship someone other than the political leaders.


About local politicians…  I had a couple good meetings this week with leaders (chiefs) of many local villages who greatly appreciate our work and are thrilled to see us expanding our hospital to serve more people and to serve our patients with more resources (surgery building, electricity, laboratory, simple bed under roof for every inpatient, etc) and excellence.  We (myself and these village leaders) then traveled to our comuna (like a county seat in the US) to meet with the “mayor” of this region (over about 40 villages) to share our vision for the hospital.  He is new this year and replaces a “do nothing” previous leader who was offended by our presence.  This man was thrilled by our vision and offered whatever support he could.  He humbly acknowledged the lack of medical care in his region.  This was a beautiful contrast to what we have experienced over the past years and offers much hope for our work here.  It was an encouraging week for the rural people of this region.


One of the huge cultural differences we see here is that “feelings” play little into the daily decisions of the poor, rural Angolan.  If something needs to be done, there is no consideration as to how it will make one “feel”.  These folks wouldn’t consider doing, or not doing, based on how they “feel” or will feel (example – woman squeezing her dead mom’s body between her and the motorbike driver for five hours to get her back to family and friends).  These folks would never consider not eating or doing something based on “not liking it”.  The options one has here are radically simplified and fantasies about what “could be” are dismissed, out of necessity.  They don’t “dream” or wish about what they don’t have and, because of this, they are able to maintain their sanity (and quite a bit of joy) in a culture with so little.  Silly example: It isn’t healthy for me, while living in rural Angola, to long to be playing golf (on grass) in the US.  When this desire arises, it must be eliminated or depression/frustration follows…  Not that this has ever happened…


These rural people exemplify Jesus’ admonition to minimize one’s desires in order to pursue one’s vision (for the Jesus-follower – to maintain intimacy with Him).  Desires that interfere with following Him must be dismissed, as these folks do because of poverty/necessity.  As followers of Jesus, we are to be like these people and embrace a poverty of desire.  Jesus encouraged us to reduce our life’s desires to that which matters to our Father and/or benefits others – narrow and deep.  What is good matters above what is best for me.  Jesus encouraged his followers, for example, to dismiss any desire for gaining wealth in this life.  We are to place the Kingdom and the desires of our King above any personal desires or “feelings”.  Jesus encouraged that following Him would gain for us eternal rewards and that rewards in this life are not to be pursued, whether these rewards might be found in finances, relationships or power (status).  A marriage relationship demonstrates this principle as we must kill desires for someone other than our spouse for the good of our relationship and family.


The modern philosophy of prioritizing fulfillment of our personal desires/happiness/contentment is contrary to the Kingdom of God.  This is exactly what Jesus calls his followers to abandon for the sake of the good of those suffering/confused/lonely.  It’s not that we don’t have emotions, feelings and desires, but we must not allow them dictate our choices.  Jesus made it clear, for example, that we cannot serve Him and ourselves, even though we often desire to serve ourselves.  In the US we believe differently – that we can serve both ourselves and Him…  We must, therefore, decide, many times daily, if we will follow/believe the modern culture and/or how we feel… or… follow/believe Jesus…  We are constantly pulled in both directions… and, without fail, consequences/fruit/results, positive and negative, eternal and temporal, will follow our choices…


This message of the prosperity gospel (my rights, my rewards, my success, my health, my comforts, my contentment, my happiness, etc) has infiltrated every evangelical American church and doesn’t resemble the message and life of the King, who “had no place to lay His head” and who told us to, radically and forcefully, seek first His Kingdom while abandoning the desires of this world (relationships and possessions) for the sake of those who don’t know Him.  Why?  Because our worldly success doesn’t push back darkness as does allegiance to our King sufficient to prioritize others’ lives over our own.  We want the rewards of heaven now and Jesus said it would be otherwise… so… we create our own Jesus, one who prioritizes our personal desires and success over those of others… and the “least” suffer…


Forfeiting our personal desires will not be to us psychologically harmful, as we are led to believe in the modern west, but will rather clear from our hearts/lives the distractions that keep us from life – knowing and following intimately the King of kings…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.