In my last week in Cavango, prior to our return to the US for four months of connecting with our supporters/partners, malaria was on the increase and the parasite mocked my efforts while taking several young lives. Medical decision-making involves the use of mental protocols (algorithms) for every presenting symptom, identifying the cause through a process of elimination, followed by appropriate treatment matching the cause. These protocols are developed by each clinician over time, combining the results of evidence-based clinical studies with experiential results. Most times this combination proves fruitful and one can predict pretty accurately when a patient will respond positively to treatment.
A 3y/o boy came in for malaria and had no complicating symptoms or signs and was treated per protocol (> 95% success rate) with oral medication and sent home (most common method for treating malaria presenting in the first two days of illness and with no complications). He returned the next day worse, vomiting and not tolerating liquids or taking his oral medication. He worsened rapidly over night and died the next morning.
An 8y/o boy presented after a week of fever and abdominal pain, malaria test positive. He had much abdominal tenderness that raised the suspicion of typhoid fever, but his symptoms and signs did not indicate the need for transport for emergency surgery (per history and exam), so we treated him aggressively with medication and he died the next day. Hindsight revealed nothing that would indicate the need for different decisions, but still two children were dead within 48hr of their arrival to a place we encourage people to come when ill, because we can help most who arrive, no matter their presenting condition.
Another family lost two of their three kids to malaria, over the course of three days, one dying in our hospital soon after arrival and the other dying at home, suddenly and before they could organize transport. The boys who died had an eight-month-old sister who presented to us with severe malaria and survived, though she had the worst prognosis of the three on arrival. We sent the body of this mom’s son back to their village while she was forced to stay to care for, and nurse, her critically ill daughter.
Crazy… A thirty-year-old man had lost ability to move his right side two weeks prior to his arrival in Cavango, and couldn’t walk or talk. We treated a parasite that can possibly cause these symptoms and watched a mass develop and enlarge on his left temple area over several days and sent him to Lubango in the hopes that the cause might be correctable surgically. A tangerine-sized benign brain tumor was removed by our incredible surgical colleague, Annelise Olson, and this young man regained his full strength and was talking and eating within a week of this incredibly complex neurosurgery…
Another family presented over the course of two weeks with five members suffering from typhoid fever. During the first week, a five-year-old and ten-year-old needed emergent surgery for intestinal perforation from advanced illness, which they survived, returning to Cavango after a week at CEML. The father and his other two sons, an 8-year-old and a 15-year-old, survived the illness with antibiotics and without surgery. All also had malaria. The two moms never got ill!
We lost two other children, one with severe kidney failure, likely secondary to malaria and one who arrived during the night and died within hours, same cause. Malaria and Typhoid are diseases of poverty and, though we saw the majority of our impoverished patients improve, these losses hurt… and they motivate me to return to Cavango in September, after fruitful connections in the US, with more resources with which to treat these kids and these awful diseases.
We returned to the US through Charlotte, NC, while meeting for a week with the beautiful and kindred spirits at SIM and Samaritan’s Purse, reviewing our needs as we plan our simple hospital expansion to improve the service we provide for the rural people of Angola. We are so grateful for our sending mission, SIM (click SIM in the above menu), and the way they tirelessly and passionately support us and our work in Angola. When we arrive at SIMUSA, they act as if we are the most important people in the world and that nothing is more important than making sure we are healthy and are fully equipped to continue our ministry. SIM is 4000+ people from 70+ countries serving their King, yet they make us feel as though we are the only ones!
Years ago, Paul wrote Timothy, months before his death, and told him that he had poured out his life for Jesus and for those He loved. He had “fought the good fight” in surrender to His Lord, enduring beatings, rejection, ridicule and strenuous travel to see people realize their Father’s affection for them and to communicate to as many as possible that that they could live in intimacy with their Father, who had created them with purpose and joy. Why did Jesus leave home to suffer severely and die and why did Paul endure such horrific treatment, including a martyr’s death? For the sake of you, me and other people, even those who rejected them, disagreed with them, and harmed them (“Forgive them, Father…)! Today, love is considered an emotion, but these men gave their lives to love, yet their love was not emotional. Love, for them, was a verb. It was actively placing another’s well-being before one’s own, and this love was demonstrated, rather than spoken or felt.
Is life to be enjoyed? Or are our lives to be “poured out” or “spent”, in service for our King, to benefit others? One of my challenges for the next few months is to encourage my fellow Jesus-followers in the US to enjoy life less so that others (in rural Angola) might live. How do I do this and how can you help me? It is so difficult in the US to appreciate the painful and consistent loss to young death experienced by all of these folks in Angola. The debility and pain these folks bear daily is also beyond what we can imagine here, as is the hopelessness associated with lack of ability to improve or leave their surroundings. The “enjoyment” of life is not a pursuit in Angola, as survival for another day is considered a success. Things we take for granted they could never afford, such as owning a car, vacationing, eating with utensils, having enough soap to bathe more than weekly, using toilet paper, having plumbing or electricity in their house, etc.
In 1Cor 13:11, Paul challenges his reader to put off “childish things” and mature in recognizing that the pursuit of leisure, comfort and “fun” focuses on self while so many around us need our help. We can run after personal gain or we can passionately pursue self-sacrificing and other-focused love. Children and adolescents are consumed by their own desires, they develop their own cliques with peers of similar worldviews and pursuits, and they are enamored and passionate about experiencing more leisure, more friends, more status/popularity, more fun, the latest toys, greater ease and less work… Adult “children” are the same. They also live for the weekend and evening because work is a chore, a “have to”, rather than an opportunity to serve and give themselves away…
Jesus calls us, through Paul, to put off the childish distractions that keep us from seeking firstly the Kingdom of God; distractions that prevent us from bringing heaven to earth, from pushing Light into darkness, from embracing the lonely, from seeking out those hurting…
Jesus didn’t come as much to communicate salvation and eternal life after death as much as He came to communicate and demonstrate our realization of “abundant life” in His Kingdom “on earth as it is in Heaven”. He taught that we can live in union with the Ruler of the universe, now, in the midst of all that life might throw at us, promising us, as well, that death would not overcome our inseparable union with Him (eternal life). The early Jesus-followers embraced suffering and even death so that He might be known and honored and so that others could meet their King, but “abundant life” has been sadly reduced in many churches today to material prosperity, healing of all infirmity and problem-free living, nowhere communicated by Jesus. We each can choose, moment-by-moment, to journey arm-in-arm, united in surrender to our King in circumstances pleasant and unpleasant, and find “life”… or we can choose to live independently of the Him and prioritize personal wealth, pleasure and health, and experience death. What a privilege that each of us is invited to partner with Him in bringing His Kingdom to earth, serving in love, trust, peace, joy, and faithfulness. As with any healthy relationship, we must forsake that which harms the same, such as the destructive, self-serving desires of the flesh which form a wedge between us and Jesus…
Millions of disillusioned church-goers believe that following Jesus will improve their lives. He said, however, that His followers would radically disregard their own lives (as did the One they follow), and rather devote themselves to improving the lives of others…
“We follow Jesus not because it’s easy, but because it’s true.” – Joni Eareckson Tada
There are many ways that we can respond to Jesus’ invitation to be his “body” in serving the world that He so loves. One way to respond to His invitation is to sacrificially join us in serving the “naked, hungry and captive” in rural Angola. Two generations of people during the long civil war completely missed basic education as schools were closed, and they didn’t hear the good news of Jesus’ Kingdom as Jesus-followers were persecuted and jailed. But today in daily groups of 50-200 adults (Every day is a different group!), sitting together at dawn outside of our clinic, thousands of people receive basic instruction on improving their physical health and they hear the good news of Jesus affection for them. We estimate that nearly 50,000 people have joined us in these small meetings over the past six years! Thousands arrive ill and are legitimately healed of life-threatening diseases, wounds are mended, broken hearts are encouraged and those dying are cared for with dignity and love… and you can be a significant partner in this work.
We are developing a list of needs for our simple Cavango operation (which serves so many hurting people every day) which will include the following over the next few years, all of which will serve these rural people for a long time. Please contact us via email so we can meet and discuss how you might contribute to one of the following, or a part, and partner with us in whatever large or small way you can… so many will benefit…
Chain-link Fencing surrounding new hospital buildings $30,000
Container x 2 $30,000
Pipe to bring water from the spring to the village and the hospital (2km) $5000
Paint for current clinic, which will become a TB sanatorium $3000
Paint for the new buildings x 2 $6000
A solar energy system, 7Kw, 3Kw, 3Kw $45,000
Drop Ceiling x 3 buildings $15,000
A portable solar x-ray unit $30,000
Outdoor “camp showers” x 3 $500
Laundry facility (wash by hand) $500
Chalkboard for teaching $100
Simple lab machines $10,000
Air conditioner for the one-room lab $1000
Wheeled cots $500
Chairs next to beds $1000
100 Hospital Beds $50,000
Curtains, rods $500
Morgue refrigeration unit and small building $5000
Water cisterns x 3 $3000
Building 1 materials + shipment
Building 2 materials + shipment
Building 3 materials + shipment
Commercial doors x 3 buildings
** Urgent, life-saving surgeries (cost includes surgery and transport via MAF to CEML, averaging about $500/patient): $30,000/year
I will update this list over the next months and keep you informed as to ways you might further benefit those we serve.
Please see “Contribute” in the menu above or contact us via email.
Also, please contact us if you would like us to share about our work at your church or small group, or feel free to arrange a gathering of interested friends and we will gladly join you. We would also love to meet with you individually and address any questions or suggestions you might have.
We are also looking into agribusinesses that could be developed here and benefit the people of this region, through employment and selling their product. We have close to 15,000 acres of land that we can cultivate. We are investigating coffee (high elevation) and various types of fruit trees, as both are rarely found in Angola but could flourish. We are also open to exploring other opportunities that might benefit the local people, but we need input, expertise and other help. Where there is great need, there is great opportunity and physical needs always present opportunities to raise awareness of our Father’s eternal Kingdom, as demonstrated in the life of the One we follow!
We need partners, members of the same body, to serve these folks, who have nothing. Betsy and I can be the hands, but we need elbows, shoulders and legs to get us to the point of need (along with more hands). All contributions will be guarded and devoted to their intended purpose. Betsy and I are cutting our (already pretty small) salary and also doing all we can financially to see the above projects come to fruition. Would you join us?