On my way to the clinic, I offered a ride to a man carrying a stack of dead branches on his head, wrapped and tied in strips of bark. We loaded the wood on the top of the car and he said that there are so many people staying at the clinic needing wood for their open cooking fires that he had to wander “the mata” for more than 2km to find enough wood for his evening fire. A (paraphrased) African proverb – “The white man builds a big fire and sits back and the African woman builds a small fire and sits close.” These days there are more than thirty fires each evening around the clinic. It’s quite a sight in the complete darkness…
A twenty year old young woman hadn’t become pregnant after three months (!?) of trying. She went to the local “Kimbandeiro”, or shaman, for an “all-natural” remedy – yes, even in the African bush, the “all-natural” remedy is more attractive than “unnatural” medications – to the simple-minded. She developed liver toxicity from the “all-natural” roots and leaves, while pregnant. She delivered a healthy baby girl at our hospital while in fulminant liver failure and died a few days later…
Our afternoon classes twice weekly are a joy as the interest continues to grow in our clinic workers for learning initial treatment for those arriving after hours. We have one person who sleeps at the hospital each night and is the “first responder” for late arrivals, which are usually serious as virtually no one travels after dark, then calling me when necessary. Being put on the spot in the wee hours has greatly raised the interest in our workers for how to administer appropriate, initial treatment, and they are learning and progressing well. We used to say in residency that sometimes it took peeing one’s pants during a scary medical encounter to stimulate one’s desire to learn… Most of our 20 or so clinic workers don’t have a high school education but, especially several newer workers, are eager to learn ways they can help the hurting. They are beginning to see that they can intervene and make a difference. They are learning evaluation and initial treatment for everything including trauma, deliveries, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, chest/abdominal pain, coma, etc…
Our washing machine broke and we replaced it with one we bought and brought from the city, ten hours away, strapped to the top of our car. “There once was a story ‘bout a man named Jed…” We asked two men to take the broken machine apart and bury it. They took it apart and divided the spoils, each taking home various parts of the white, shiny metal box…
“If God gave you a watch, would you honor Him more by asking Him what time it is or by simply consulting the watch.” –Tozer
The more people rowing, the lighter the voyage, especially in rough waters…
From our Father’s perspective there is little more important than unity. Jesus addressed this in one of His few recorded conversations with His Father, in Jn 17, when He expressed His desire to be one with us as He is one with His Father and that we would live similarly with each other. The Trinity is our example and we were made in His image. The Trinity is three, totally different from each other, but completely united. People from different cultures and backgrounds will never have the same perspective, but they can be united. It takes humility, maturity and radical surrender to the ways of the Trinity to pull it off. The fruit produced in those surrendered to and, united with, the Trinity is listed by Paul as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These are the character qualities of the Trinity, all necessary roots for the perfect unity found in Him, and all growing/developing characteristics in those connected to Him. As communities, cultures and the church, so much in the natural world, within and without, works to divide us (from our Father and from each other), often identified in the bible as “sin”. Unity that overcomes these “natural” dividing forces is beautiful and quite unique. It is a joy, (though often not easy) to unite with rural Angolans to serve people from various cultures in rural Angola and, though there is much I don’t understand about them (and they, me), we choose to be unified in order to benefit those we serve.
We met last evening on Zoom with our SIM Angola team to pray and share struggles and joys. We are from every different background imaginable, from different countries and different cultures, and with different theologies, passions and gifts. We have conflicts because where there are two or more, there will be conflict. But our unity is demonstrated in support, encouragement and appreciation for each other. Unity isn’t sameness, agreement or even equality, it’s deeper and richer.
The unity on our SIM team is beautiful to be a part of, and our Father says marriage is about unity, as well, of two completely different human beings (including gender). He designed marriage to give us the opportunity and privilege to learn the beauty of unity and to become more like Him and His perfect unity in the Trinity. Marriage today, however, has become about “compatibility” and emotional happiness, rather than about unity. Anyone married will learn eventually what should be obvious at the beginning, that the two are far more different than alike and that our emotions will always wax and wane. Where there are two or more, there will also always be conflict, but unity is chosen, and always possible, no matter how different the participants…
We live as though easy is best. Our Father says healthy is best, and healthy isn’t always easy. Years ago there was a movement detailing that foods easily digested were better for us. Then we discovered that fiber and other foods difficult to digest were healthy. Often what makes intuitive sense to us is unhealthy! Easy is not better, in food, in marriage, in life. Exercise isn’t easy, but is life-giving mentally, emotionally and physically. Conflict isn’t easy but is necessary and healthy (we can make anything unhealthy by how we respond to it). Living in unity can be crazy difficult, as can “Love your enemies”. Those I admire are people who run “to the fire”, and confront difficulty with self-abandonment and loyalty to our Father and to people (unity).
We, and the people here, often forget that church services, bible study, and worship are a means to an end – to walk more united with, more devoted to, and, more surrendered to, our Father. We confuse the cart and the horse, and put more emphasis on what we do in our gatherings, and on Sunday, than what we do the rest of the week and with the rest of our lives. The church hasn’t been closed and is not “reopening” when permitted. Formal, scheduled gatherings of “the church” are helpful means to the end, but such a small part of the life of a Jesus-lover/people-servant…
I’m reminded this morning that, in Cavango, we are, like the farmer, humble seed planters, and nothing more. So many other factors are key to the seed’s germination and the plant’s growth, such as seed quality, water, sunshine, soil, weeds, insects… We can micromanage, coax and even try to pull the plant taller, but without the healthy influence of all of the many factors outside of our control (but within the control of our Father), that which we plant will not grow and produce fruit…
Cavango Thursday. Thursdays are usually lighter… In our daily morning meeting, we spoke of Peter and John performing a miracle to restore a man’s ability to walk – a miracle we all experience daily! This man was grateful to be able to walk and we can choose to be grateful to our Father every day for the same miracle (and so many others that we take for granted until without)… We talked of the emotional and physical health resulting from recognizing the many miracles surrounding us every moment and frequently expressing our thankfulness/gratitude to our Father… Then… (photos) a beautiful 4y/o girl returned to us, who had aspirated a bead and we transferred her, via our ever-available MAF colleagues, to our tireless surgical colleagues in Lubango, to have the bead skillfully removed from her lung via bronchoscopy… a 1kg premie looks like he will survive after a rocky 48hr and a girl is ready for home after remarkably surviving an orbital abscess and maintaining her sight. Some sick people this day, as we admitted 10 of our first 12 arrivals (to our simple hospital without electricity), saw 20+ new patients, rounded on 30+ inpatients, reviewed several of our 30+ TB inpatients and medically treated a woman with an ectopic pregnancy, resolved the severe hemorrhaging in a woman after delivering at home several hours away, induced delivery of a fetal demise, aggressively resuscitated a severely cachectic woman in shock with HIV/TB (who was smiling and walking the next day), and saw two toddlers with difficulty breathing from supraglottitis (from dental abscesses), a child with severe pneumonia and a severely dehydrated infant with gastroenteritis. Gladly, we are outside of malaria season and only saw a few minor cases.
If you are one of those who sacrificially support our work, you participated in caring for each of these!!!!
On the lighter side…
Common statements from parents in the US, that kids in Cavango will never hear:
Clean your room (the houses are one room, used only for sleeping and getting out of heavy rain)
Close the windows (no glass or screens).
Turn off the light (no one has indoor lighting)
Brush your teeth (no stores with tooth brushes/pastes – we give talks on which plants can make brushes using soap)
Finish your meal (they eat once or twice daily and eat everything served)
Wipe off your feet (the house interiors have dirt floors)
How long since you’ve bathed? (they bathe once weekly, usually on Saturday)
Only an hour of TV, computer (no electricity)
Your clothes don’t match (each have a shirt, pants, and coat)
Remove your shoes in the house (few have shoes or sandals… dirt floors)
You need to spend more time outside (indoors is for sleeping and escaping a downpour)
Close the fridge (no electricity)
Change the channel.
Where’s the remote?
No sleeping in (no such thing everyone is up before dawn and at the warm, outdoor fire)
You are making us late (time is by the sun)
Buckle up (no cars here)
Do your homework (most kids don’t attend school and, if they do, there is no homework, no books, no paper, no writing utensils, etc)
Get off your phone (if anyone has a phone, it is the most basic, and there is no cell service here – the only cell service is on a mound in the woods, about 6km away)
Eat your vegetables (it’s rare to have them and they are a treat)
Flush the toilet when you finish (no indoor plumbing – the “bathroom” is the woods)
Comb/brush your hair.
Smile for the photo (no photos, cameras, phones with cameras).
Will you run to the store for me? (no stores)
Close the door (most homes are without, sometimes a curtain)
Don’t play in the mud (best “toy” around when it rains)
You’ve had enough sweets today (a very rare treat)
Stop playing with knives (all kids have a machete and most meals are eaten with their hands as there are no utensils)
Don’t put that into the outlet (no electricity)
You’re using too much toilet paper (no indoor plumbing and most kids have never seen TP)
Turn off the stove (only outdoor cooking fires)
Open the curtains (no such thing, except maybe for a door)
Turn down the music (no electricity)
Turn the thermostat down when you go to bed (no HVAC)
Your hot showers are too long (most wouldn’t know what a shower is – bathing is at the community faucet, by bucket, or at the river)
Bundle up (only one coat in the winter (30s at night, 70s day)
Turn off the water (no indoor plumbing)
Get out of bed (they sleep on grass mats on the floor – when we ask them to get into a bed for an exam, they are often confused as to how to climb up)
Stop yelling in the house (never in the house)
You need to iron that dress (smile)
It seems life is simpler in the bush (as we experienced in 2002 in Ghana) in many ways. We complain about more complex things but forget the simple things to be thankful for. In some ways the Covid virus (or Chi- Com virus as us veterans & conservatives like to call it) has slowed things down to a lower common denominator. It’s a shame some on the far left have taken advantage of the virus to create chaos & disunity around the country. We pray for peace & unity and return to order. Many people in this time have become unhinged and lost their way. My bro-in-law & wife have isolated themselves at home living in their “cave” not to emerge until Trump & the virus is gone. Many people are living in fear, anxiety, & anger against the current leaders in the Whitehouse. Our own kids seem to be in this camp. We pray that the elections will be peaceful and things will return to normal or a new normal. Jesus told us in this world we would have tribulation. Never fear, He has overcome the world!