Sensationalism, Parenting/Missions, Throwing Stones, Crazy Friends, Easter…

 

CoVid and sensationalism… During our morning meeting re CoVid yesterday with our patients and their families, I asked if anyone had questions, and one very bright clinic worker asked, “With all the death in the world from this virus, how is there space enough to bury all of the dead?”  The US news programs and their sensationalistic “click-bait” and unexplained soundbites reach the world.  Many in the world don’t have the capacity to put numbers and statistics in perspective, as even the “educated” in the states are shocked to see the CoVid mortality numbers next to other forms of death in the same time period.  Many more people in the world will die from infectious diarrhea in 2020, than will die from CoVid, for example, but this isn’t “novel” or “shocking” enough to be “news”.  No one thinks of the daily/monthly/annual mortality of diarrhea, let alone pneumonia, malaria, TB, etc (all will kill more) and yet the world is in lockdown because of CoVid…

 

“Be afraid!”…  I would never minimize the tragedy of any illness, disability or death, as I’ve devoted my life to serving those battling the same, but wisdom requires perspective, and this illness has demonstrated that wisdom and perspective are severely lacking today.  How many people will die, for example, because of government “lockdowns” enforced around the world, preventing people with “normal” illnesses from getting care and forcing people out of the work which puts food on the table?  People in rural Angola are severely afraid and shouldn’t be.  They face far more dangerous killers every day which, for them, have no treatment (malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea, TB, HIV, hepatitis, meningitis, childbirth deaths, measles, heart failure, asthma, etc) and do not fear them.  But with these other illnesses, they don’t have the media constantly in their face, as they do with CoVid, screaming,“Be afraid!”.  In our outdoor, crowded (well-spaced) morning meetings (more than 100 people daily) I have encouraged wisdom rather than fear and they have received the message (I think).  But this man’s question, based on what he heard on radio news programs, emphasized to me that perspective is lacking in much of the reporting of this illness.

 

Police… are everywhere in this “police-state” during this “crisis”.  Our rural hospital is on the border of four provinces and interprovincial travel is prohibited, which makes already challenging travel (by foot or motorbike on dirt) for any patient now illegal.  One of our discharged patients returned to the hospital today after hours on a motorbike, trying to return home and being turned back by police on a rural, dirt road connecting two provinces.  I had to write a document for her to return home because of receiving treatment for a medical emergency, otherwise she would be given an exorbitant fine, which then would be waved, like all traffic fines, for a hefty bribe.  It’s difficult to describe how remarkable it is that police were on this “road”, literally in the middle of nowhere, monitoring travel of people between provinces. Freedom and common sense are not honored here.  How many will die in their rural Angolan huts from the other illnesses mentioned above because of the restrictions in place for an illness that now has nineteen cases and two deaths in Angola?  On the upside, a culture completely ignorant of disease transmission of any kind is becoming aware…

 

Parenting and Missions… I’ve had the immense privilege of being dad to four beautiful people, who were, for a time, kids placed in my care, with purpose, by my Father.  Being a cross-cultural missionary is much like parenting… You serve, care for, and hurt with, those you love.  You advocate for them, prioritize them, dwell on them, pray for their well-being, cheer for them, defend them, protect them…  You hurt when they hurt.  You desire their benefit over your own. You long for their peace and joy before your own. You want them to discover their given unique beauty and have their own, unique relationship with their Father and you want to help them but, in no way, do you want them to follow you. You rather long for them to see Jesus as He is, and follow the only One worthy of our devotion.  Loving someone is about prioritizing them, not ruling over them.  Like our Father with us, love is invitation, not coercion.  A missionary and parent encourages far more than demands and builds up more than criticizes.  He/she asks our Father to guide those loved, reveal Himself to them and lead them in their discovery of Him, His beauty, His goodness.  Kids and young Jesus-followers have much to explore and learn, they fail and succeed, and make poor and wise choices, but the missionary/parent knows that beauty has nothing to do with perfection and doesn’t focus on error or wrong-doing, but rather on loving and embracing the “learner”, always forgiving, encouraging and offering new beginnings.  The missionary/parent seeks the release, freedom and independence of the beloved, to pursue their own intimacy with their King, to chart their own course and make their own impact on the world into which they were placed, by their real Father, with purpose.  And, like Jesus and His followers, missionaries and parents are often most appreciated when they are gone…

 

Throwing stones…  In our village, our hospital director’s brother traveled to another village, over the course of a year, and had an affair with a married woman, whose husband was away working in the capital.  She became pregnant and had a child, all while her husband was away and, when he returned, he became immediately aware of his wife’s obvious infidelity.  He reported the father to a group of village chiefs for justice.  Marcus, the new father, was ordered to pay a crazy, impossible fine (about the equivalent of four years of wages for a common laborer).  Our director came to me for help and counsel and I sat with the “perpetrator”, a nice man, about 30-years-old, who I’ve been acquainted with for years but didn’t really know.  There was no way for me to weigh his degree of sorrow, or whether he was sorry for the affair or sorry that he got caught.  And he now has a son, living with another family, hours away from him. Virtually no man in this culture remains faithful and all those judging this man, as well as the husband himself, were undoubtedly guilty of the same, but hadn’t been caught.

 

Rescue…  Marcus came to us for help  and we were told that the “law of the jungle” is that, in situations like this, likely similar to the law in Jesus’ time, the man responsible pays the fine or, under the authority of the village chiefs, the man “disappears” in the woods.  The situation felt to me much like Jesus and the woman caught in adultery and I was grateful for His example.  There are so many things in that story unaddressed, but Jesus had compassion on the woman and gave her a new beginning.  We had compassion for this man and offered him a job, working for us personally, to pay off part of the fine over perhaps a year. We never would have imagined this as a way to “minister” to those we serve, but our Father involved us and He knows how He might use us to be an influence in this man’s life, an opportunity we never would have had apart from his “sin”.  The Kingdom of our Father so often transforms ashes to beauty…

 

Women…  We are living and working in a godless culture which adheres to few principles which many Jesus-followers consider basic.  No one in history was more radically honoring to women, for example, than was Jesus. and the objectification of women, though still quite real the world-over, is not a characteristic of a real Jesus-lover.  Most men here have several wives, for example, who are considered their property and whose purpose is to do everything – plant, harvest, birth and raise the (many) children, keep the house, prepare the meals (after gathering the wood for the open fire), and serve the husband’s every need and desire. The husband would be best seen as the supervisor or ruler of his “property”, and one who is “above” doing virtually any real work.

 

Infidelity… is the rule, as it is believed that men should have their physical “needs” met every three days, whether at home or traveling, whether by his wife or by someone else.   Many on our team in Cavango have created dilemmas for me and our leadership because they seem to desire to follow Jesus, but the cultural norms are difficult to overcome, so many of our workers have children with several women, for example, and we are forced to make repeated decisions re their trustworthiness and devotion to Jesus in light of clear deviance from His priority of honoring women as people rather than man-servicing objects… and then consider, after yet another episode of unfaithfulness, whether they should be part of our “mission team”…

 

As in parenting, missionary work is a journey of honoring and respectful guidance of imperfect people not toward following a religion, life style or set of rules, but rather guidance toward health, toward life, and toward relationship with the living Person of Jesus.

 

Humble servants…  Sometimes missionaries find themselves doing things they didn’t “sign up for”.  Our mission leader and someone who I greatly admire, Steve Foster, has been prohibited from work in the hospital because of the CoVid lockdown and his age (his ability to surgically save lives daily hasn’t changed) and he and a fellow missionary, Areni, went to an outdoor market this week and bought vegetables to send out to Cavango, while a nurse from Holland, Irene, went to a grocery store and endured long lines to buy other food and supplies to put food on the MAF plane for us.  Our Admin Director, Norm, navigated police stops and crowds to purchase meds for our clinic.  MAF mechanic, Basilio, did the same to place our med order and pick up the meds.  What an unexpected service for all of them, and such a huge blessing to us.  Thanks, Steve, Areni, Norm, Basilio, Irene and all involved!  MAF, our aviation partners, flew out to Cavango, after filing much paper work needed to fly during this lockdown, picked up patients with life-threatening surgical needs in three trips and transported them to CEML and they also made several trips to pharmacy warehouses in the city to buy >100kg of meds to bring out to Cavango.  And they delivered the groceries to us!  Thanks, Marijn and Brent!

 

Jesus and Easter…

Showing Himself alive after being dead for three days… proved… that Jesus wasn’t a good teacher, a charismatic leader, a passionate revolutionary, a deluded psychopath, or a skilled liar…  He was exactly who He claimed to be and, like every person since… we… can journey with Him or reject Him, serve Him, betray Him, adore Him, spit on Him, love Him, hate Him, serve Him, bow to Him, use Him, believe Him, ignore Him, trust Him, belittle Him, embrace Him, make Him a religion, follow Him, mock Him…  Whether we accept Him for who He is or not, and no matter how we respond… He proved… once and for all… that He is who He claimed to be… that all of His words are true… that He can forgive absolutely anything and everyone (“Forgive them Father…”)… and that He is alive today…

 

Those dying with Jesus… One was proud, independent and strong. The other, broken and humble. One demanded evidence, answers, understanding, and rescue. The other surrendered his demands and desires. One mocked. One bowed…  Both were forgiven…  Which will I be today?

 

Jesus said before His death that His freely shed blood would be the sign of a “new covenant” between His Father and mankind, a new era of relationship with God.  How do we process this?  What about the “old” covenant?  Jesus said that the old covenant was completely and forever fulfilled in Him and the new covenant with God, established via His blood, was “the Way, the Truth and the Life”… Him. Jesus established His authority as God through many evidences while He lived, demonstrating authority over natural laws, weather, illness and death… and then He did something no one else ever did through His own, personal and unassisted resurrection from death.  His resurrection validated everything He said, and His new covenant invited all people– Jew, gentile; man, woman; black, brown, yellow, white; young old; sick, healthy; poor, rich; condemned, free; Muslim, Hindu, African animistic; conservative, liberal; those have heard, those who haven’t heard; sinful and sinful; slave, free; confused, wise, etc to relationship with Calunga or Nzambi (tribal names here for God).  All men have the opportunity to walk with the risen Jesus, who said He desired relationship with us, and we can shed preoccupation with the old covenant and (my) performance to earn God’s favor, putting all of our focus outward, on our relationship with Jesus and serving our “neighbor”.  Once highly religious Paul, after encountering the living-after-dead Jesus, encouraged us to focus on the leading of Jesus’ Spirit rather than focus on following the laws and rituals to which he was once so devoted.  Obedience in the new covenant is following a living Jesus rather than the obedience of the old covenant which was defined by following written laws and rituals.  Jesus freed us from the law!  We are free to lift our eyes off of ourselves and our obedience of laws and rituals… and instead abandon preoccupation with our own lives/performance and fix our hearts on Him and join Him in His affection and care for others…

 

Jesus presented to us the opportunity to again walk connected with God as Adam did, and He revealed again what was God’s father-heart from the beginning, that our focus would be on loving Him and appreciating His character and beauty (revealed in the actions and words of Jesus), while partnering with Him in all things on the earth, serving wherever needed, unconcerned for our own well-being while passionately concerned for the well-being of others.

 

At greatest risk for “itching ears” are those passionate about their own spiritual well-being and growth, the focus of many churches who claim to follow Jesus.  It’s difficult to tickle the ears of those focused on the person of Jesus and spending their energy, thoughts and time helping, serving, loving, praying for, and caring for others instead of themselves…

 

Those who abandon themselves to following the living Jesus, worshipping their Father, serving their brother, loving their enemy, and giving their life for another… lack the time and energy to debate intellectual doctrine, law, ritual differences and preferences…

 

Jesus is alive, available and worthy of our attention and devotion.  He continues to call each of us, to abandon ourselves to Him… and find Life.

 

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