Author: Kubacki’s I Angola

About Kubacki’s I Angola

Missionary Physician in rural Angola

Kimbandeiros, Opportunity, Service, Good News, One for Many…

Katarina’s husband stayed with us for two months last year, after suffering from abdominal pain and weight loss for a year. He had visited shamans and “clinics” and continued to worsen. We diagnosed him with abdominal TB and he improved radically. Katarina had a miscarriage about two weeks prior to her arrival and presented to us with severe pelvic pain and fever. An ultrasound revealed fluid in the lining of her uterus, supporting a suspected diagnosis of a uterine infection following her miscarriage. We began treatment and the next day she began improving, but then began experiencing bouts of confusion and agitation, followed the next day by coma. Her symptoms just didn’t fit her diagnosis, as her pelvic symptoms improved rapidly. Her husband greeted us every morning last week with concern as her coma continued and we hydrated her with IV fluids and continued treating her infection.

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When I arrived yesterday, her eyes were bright yellow, indicative of liver inflammation/injury. I asked her husband if she had visited a “kimbandeiro” since her miscarriage, as they use liver-toxic plants in their mixes (they have no clue) and when they add too much of a certain leaf or root, they destroy a person’s liver. If you have followed us for long, you know that we always have several people in our hospital dying from this malady, after visiting a shaman with a minor complaint and leaving with a death sentence. We endeavor to care for them, honor them, introduce them to our Father and, perhaps extend their life, even a little. Of course she had, multiple times. I was incredulous. After all we had been through with this man and the complete healing he had experienced after a year of failure with shamans, he had taken his wife to one of these salesmen, who had killed her with his mixes of “sure thing”, “all-natural” herbs, roots and leaves. Almost all of our patients, who have had symptoms longer than a few days, arrive having already received an expensive “cure-all” “treatment” of the kimbandeiro. Their frequent treatments are often perceived as “successful” because the people take minor complaints to them (not real illnesses) which resolve naturally and/or because the placebo effect resulting from a persuasive “sell” will cause about 30% to “feel better”. They kill many because they have no idea that plants are made of chemicals which, depending on the “dose” administered, might range in effect from none to toxic/deadly, but they never actually cure illness.

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When/why did “modern medicine”, developed with a benevolent, evidence-based motive and model, become repulsive?  How often I hear exclaimed, “I/He/She got better without medicine”.  I think the answer is quite simple and the same in Cavango as in the US and Europe.  Human beings are vulnerable to deception, persuasion and marketing.   We remain as gullible as Adam and Eve, when a persuasive being offered them an attractive alternative with an empty, deceptive promise and encouraged them to “be their own person” and to rebel against reason and good judgement.

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Kimbandeiros are alive and well in every culture. The marketplace of the west is full of great salespeople, attractive advertisements, propaganda, and embellished, anecdotal “evidence” supporting their product.

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Historically, medical practitioners didn’t advertise, admirably and humbly seeing their work as honorable service and not “for profit”. This has certainly and sadly changed, in virtually every area of medical care, including among practitioners. But their “product” loses consistently to attractive, unproven remedies sold for-profit, though marketed otherwise – under the deceptive guise of “all-natural”, beneficial, and safe. The kimbandeiros in the jungles of rural Angola practice no differently than they have for the past 2000 years, and they use the exact same marketing scheme as that used in the west. They are even slyly critical of modern medicine, just as are the salespeople in the US. Said directly or implied, “Developed medical intervention is unhealthy, and our (undeveloped, unproven) “all-natural” product is better for you…”

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I know people in the US who are alive only because of modern medical intervention who resist going to a doctor and taking medication because the “unnatural” medication is risky, but the unstudied “all-natural” ingredients in the oils, supplements and mixtures they enthusiastically consume are healthy(!)  Similar to what Eve heard from the serpent, a common phrase used by the shamans is something like, “Can you really trust them (Him)?”  “Not everyone who goes to the doctor gets well!” “You can feel/do better.” “Take this and you will be well.”  They prey on the minimally ill and healthy, as the results can be debated and rationalized.  When in crisis, people, here and in the US, finally go to someone in the medical profession.  Katarina and so many arrive in Cavango far too late for us to help for, as they delay seeking knowledgeable care, the (real) illness advances while they experiment with the always-ineffective-in-the-face-of-real-disease, all-natural, shaman “cure”.   In genuine medical care, the motive has always been a patient’s well-being.  In the marketplace, the motive has always been profit.  These are becoming sadly mixed today as there is greed both within and outside of the medical community.  Humble service is no longer always the prime motive in health care service and products…

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In Cavango, one can excuse the ignorance of the isolated, war-savaged people as to the radical effectiveness of scientific advances in medicine.  But in the developed world…

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Reason and wisdom have been disregarded as antiquated and irrelevant in our “enlightened” culture which lauds the pursuit of fulfilling basic appetites/desires. Small observation: on our recent visit to the US, I was struck by how often in benign conversation I heard, “I feel like…” vs “I think that…”

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Humans demonstrated long ago that cultures and individuals are destroyed by doing the same, but they weren’t as enlightened as we are (?!).  We are influenced by shaman marketing in the west for the same reasons.  Studying and thinking through the risk/cost/benefit of our endeavors requires effort, is beneath us and is unnecessary. We have also lost relational community with our providers and we are treated medically by people we don’t know. This entails risk re a practitioner’s motive which, in our pursuit of progress, we have discarded as irrelevant and the consequences of placing our trust in systems, rather than people who earn it with their lives, may be severe.

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The radically unique American experiment will be destroyed not by climate change but, from within, if we continue to pursue pleasure, ever-greener grass, and independence from our loving Father, as did Adam and Eve and so many before us. The profit-driven, fatherless, opioid-addicted, porn-saturated, government-dependent, chance-worshipping, baby killing, all-truth-is-relative, self-adoring/serving, God-rejecting American culture has more knowledge, nutrition and technology options than any before them and yet, without gratitude to the Provider, ever thirsts for more, via behaviors long ago recognized as unhealthy and destructive (coveting, envying, lusting, lying, dishonoring…) but embraced by today’s chosen-to-be-ignorant. It’s painful to watch so many throw away this one life we have been granted by a loving Father/Creator…

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One of the most radical privileges we possess today is the ability to study history and learn from the same.  Instead of learning from it, we use it, alter it and manipulate it to justify our superficial biases in our pursuit of independence and self-“improvement”.

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As our volume in Cavango ever increases (averaging about 120 daily inpatients), we see more people who arrive late in their illness (many) and more people who arrive earlier (a few).  We have more people than ever die within the first few hours/days of their arrival.  We get to know them, pray with them, tell them the truth, embrace them and their caring families… and hold them while they die.  It never gets easier.  Sheep without a shepherd, desperate, helpless and dependent, arriving barefoot in rags, and cashless, arriving after many hours by foot or on a rattling, bouncing motorbike.  Their last attempt at helping their loved one fails, as we cannot help their disease-ravaged-over-time body.  We serve in such a sad place…. 

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Yet we bring good news!!!  The majority (thousands) who arrive ill, leave well.  They and their dilemma are presented to our King, they hear of our Father and His affection for them, they learn how they can improve their lives in real and practical ways – every day.  They are served with knowledge and technology developed over generations.  They are truly cared for, for no profit.   And we can do so much more to serve them, but we need help.  We need people interested in serving and loving people, in any and all ways. 

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We now have 60+ TB patients who stay with us for their first two months of treatment and 50+ patients with acute illnesses who stay with us for days to weeks… and have literally nothing to do but take meds a couple times/day. They would love any attention given them! Would someone be interested in coming to Cavango and loving people and having conversations with them about their Father? Wide open opportunity! We have all kinds of mechanical needs. Is there someone reading who has mechanical skills/knowledge and would like to see your skills put to use in an area where there are no others? Teachers are desperately needed as we hope to have a solid school in four years with four local people trained as teachers and these teachers would benefit greatly from a mentor with experience. Preachers, church planters, disciplers…?

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We had a visit from a beautiful man named Karl, who works/lives in the Angolan capital of Luanda and is from Austria.  He found us on the internet, reads our blog posts and wanted to visit Cavango and see it for himself.  He traveled for two days, spent Saturday with us and returned home Sunday.  While touring the hospital and observing our many patients sleeping on the ground and the more than forty open fires around the clinic at dusk, he was surprised by the crazy number of people on our simple campus and verbalized praise for the incredible work going on to serve so many in the absolute middle of nowhere – not possible without those of you who sacrificially support us and make possible every interaction.

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Several hundred people rotate in and out every day, most knowing nothing of a living Jesus and little about the genuine health knowledge gained in the world over the past fifty years. The opportunities for Jesus-followers to serve in Cavango are varied and unlimited, but will require your life as you know it. One life for many…

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Karl brought cans of soda and boxes of cookies to distribute among those patients and their families currently staying with us.  Many have never tasted the same. They devoured them! He also contributed extravagantly to the work. 

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This life is full of difficult and challenging days… and rich in both the surprises that our Father brings to us along the way (in those who visit and in those who join us in support from the other side of the world) and the good news and caring service experienced by so many…

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