The CoVid illness is arriving in Angola later than in the rest of the world, and Angola is joining in the world’s radical precautions. They have four reported cases, but Angola will never know how many they have. Testing and statistics here are all propagandized, under-reported and skewed. Judging by surrounding countries, though, I believe the virus is just arriving, and the preventive measures will be beneficial, though perhaps extreme. All gatherings of more than 50 are illegal. Church gatherings are prohibited. Almost all stores have been forcibly closed. Every open store must disinfect the hands of all who enter. The police are out in force in the larger cities, where no one is permitted on the streets. One of our missionary colleagues was stopped while out to buy food and told to return home or be arrested. No recourse. We’ve heard there are firecrackers, gunfire and drunkenness. Idle hands…
But we have none of that in Cavango and it’s good to be in Angola at a time like this to lend perspective and to serve. Rumors abound. Among the rural people, ears, hearts and minds seem more open to receive. I spoke at a meeting with about “50” community leaders yesterday from villages within a perimeter of maybe thirty miles, and spoke for an hour about CoVid. It was well received and all were quite engaged. I told them I have been all over the world (Asia, Europe, South, Central and North America, Africa and even Canada and that they, of all people anywhere, have no reason to fear. I emphasized all the good precautions, such as hand washing, distancing, not shaking hands, covering our mouths, etc and they accepted it well, but I told them that, with what they live with daily (malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia, malnutrition, hard labor, none of the technology common in other parts of the world, etc), they are among the heartiest people on the planet, and this was no time to fear, but a time to be wise. I emphasized about what it meant to follow Jesus and we each could run, hide or serve. You could hear a pin drop. They had many questions and it was a great time of interaction. It was good.
We had a meeting of some of our hospital workers Friday and I told them the virus was likely a couple weeks away, and would likely arrive. I told them that no one in the region is at higher risk of getting the disease than they are because of their frequent interactions with all of our ill arrivals and inpatients. I also said that we had very little to offer for treatment for severe cases, and some are likely. I spoke of how we must ration supplies because the country was running out of masks, gloves, etc. They also had many questions, and responded well.
I invited all workers to take the month off if they thought it was best for them and their families. These are tough decisions for all involved and there will be no hard feelings either way. I wanted them to count the cost before the sickness arrived. The older among us responded with stories from the war, when they faced these decisions before and during each battle. They saw many abandon, many stay and many die. They spoke of losing children to illness and living every day with the threat of many potentially fatal illnesses. They will each give their decision to our hospital director in coming days.
I shared at each meeting that we, as foreigners, were all free to leave during the last month but we stayed to serve. The US embassy invited us all one last time in recent days to leave this weekend and I told them that they will see me in the clinic on Monday. I don’t know of one missionary in Angola who has left. With all the suspicion about our motives re our presence in Cavango over the past eight years (no one in government believes we are here to serve the rural people – they think we have an ulterior, self-serving motive which they haven’t yet uncovered), this made quite an impression. I emphasized that our staying was a combination of the fact that the risk was minimal, though real, for all of us and that we are called to serve those ill, no matter the cause. Real motives are revealed during times of stress. Any of us can die from this, but I emphasized that they were each more likely to die of malaria, pneumonia, or diarrhea. I asked them how they want to die? Fleeing, hiding, having illegal church services (some see as courageous), or serving? Referencing the Good Samaritan, I told them we could take a pass, but there is no better way to die than serving, which is what Jesus did during His life and in His death on the cross. Are we His followers (living as He did) or just religious “Christians”? Jesus said, “The greatest will be servants…”
Normal… This is Sunday and I just got called in to see a one-month-old with severe pneumonia. In an all-day rain, the baby’s mother (who gave birth one month ago) and her mom left at dawn, walked for twelve miles and arrived at the hospital at 2p. Can you imagine?! The baby is critical, breathing over 100x/minute, but we will treat her aggressively and seek our Father’s touch. The same hour, a barefoot, 80 y/o man arrived by motorbike (hired a man from the area to drive him) soaking wet, from the same distance away, with severe pneumonia. Neither are likely CoVid but we’ll never know. We are in the middle of Influenza season, and this was likely the catalyst or actual cause of each pneumonia. We’ve had perhaps 10 new cases of pneumonia in the last several days. We are sadly averaging a death per day in our hospital, mostly children from malaria or pneumonia, along with the majority healed and discharged. One nurse with a beautiful servant heart is covering the hospital this Sunday, with more than forty inpatients and several new arrivals. He greeted me with a smile and said he was keeping up well. Not a bit of complaint from him.
I’m reminded today that contentment is largely about expectations and this week my morning walk/run has been a struggle in maintaining a focus on Jesus and His kingdom. He hears a lot from me, as would anyone else if they passed me along my running path to the river and back. After every walk/run I have a different perspective. This is the miracle of relationship with Jesus. He takes our broken and dirty few loaves and fish and transforms them into something that benefit many…
If we expect this life to be like heaven, all should be pleasant, easy and fun and we will be content only in such circumstances, but…
If we expect this life to be a battleground, where everything will be tough, we will be able to find contentment in pain and difficulty.
The challenge of this CoVid illness is another opportunity to love and to serve those hurting, sowing Kingdom seeds, some of which will germinate, but we will likely never know…
Thanks Tim and Becky – good update. I’ve stayed in touch with Mark Faus – and was hopping it won’t make it to Angola – but now it seems like this will be completely world wide. blessings to you two.
Right on Tim and Betsy! Thanks for your example to stay the course and serve Jesus!
Hi Tim and Betsy, we returned to Angola, just in time to be able to travel. Joanna arrived February 27, I arrived march 10 after a visit to a project in Tchad. I was able to travel “just in time” to Caala. We will stay till there are possibilities to travel elsewhere in a regular way. Reading your block, we pray for you guys each day and we want to express our respect. May the Lord bless you and safe you each day of this voyage. With love, Minne & Joanna.
Happy birthday, Timbo! You and Betsy are our two favorite fools for Christ! Praying for you to have a day, deep in His delight. We love you. Terri and Rob
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Hi Tim and Betsy!
Happy Day After Birthday, Tim!
Reading your post reminded me of my time in Honduras, and in Haiti after the earthquake. People living with little seem to have a different perspective on the relative importance of things. There is an acceptance that comes out of poverty. I think of the word “despair” but that is not appropriate, since despair usually is associated with hopelessness, at least for those with affluence. In Latin America, it was often referred to as fatalism, but I don’t think that is the correct word either. Realism may be a better term.
I have been cringing at the American approach: despite warning individuals against hoarding toilet tissue and hydroxychloroquin, instead the US government is seeking to buy up supplies and materials for our wealthy population (from places like India) without regard for the poorest countries in the world that have so little. Money seems to be the “god” that will provide American salvation!
In the US, there has been a huge emphasis placed on the need of ventilators, yet half of the patients who are put on ventilators die anyway. The emphasis on ventilators seems to be a distraction; something to focus on, to derive some hope from. If we find more ventilators, it will be a “victory”!?
I am praying for you, your health, the health of the people you serve! May your love and commitment to the people be so radiant that they see Jesus in you!
Thanks for your service,sacrifice,wisdom and perspective,loving involvement.God bless you Tim and Betsy and the staff
The challenge of this CoVid illness is another opportunity to love and to serve those hurting, sowing Kingdom seeds, some of which will germinate, but we will likely never know
So much of what I hear/read is run and hide. It blessed me to read love/serve. I pray for your service, I pray for those you serve, I pray for seeds to germinate, sprout and grow!