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Return… Airstrip… Blood… Imagination… Fantasies… Contributions…

Our return to Cavango after six weeks in the US has been eventful. It was so good to reunite with Eduardo, Jocelyn, Laurel and our friends in Cavango.

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We and the DeSouzas hosted a beautiful team of missionaries and Angolans who came to encourage the youth here to follow Jesus.  We are hosting three men from MAF Canada who bring an incredible work ethic to complete our 1000m dirt airstrip.  Beautiful men who are now our forever partners in this work.  The dirt is moving well, in spite of using a small bulldozer and skid steer which look like toys on the large airstrip.  So much back and forth as they move mountains of the dirt around and into place, level and grade the same.  The dozer is operating from 8a to midnight as the men work two shifts.  Local men are removing many two-car-garage-sized, rock-hard termite hills with hand tools (too hard for the dozer!).  It’s been raining a lot, making the work quite sloppy, but the results are beginning to take shape and look amazing (photos).  About 1/6 of the strip is complete.

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Two beautiful kids (photos) arrived almost dead from heart failure, teetering on the brink of death for days before turning around and overcoming their acute illness. Martinho is a 10y/o with us for the first time and suffering from Rheumatic Heart Disease secondary to untreated strep throat. Our wonderful visitors, a medical student from OH, Nathan, and Sarah and Esther, EMTs from MN sat with him and held his hand through one afternoon, comforting him on what we were sure was his last day alive. The next morning he greeted us with a smile, breathing normally, and accepting a sucker. He is since wandering the grounds with no difficulty and bringing joy to those he encounters on his walks.

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Cristina (photo) is one of many here who are very special to me.  She came to us in severe heart failure at six months of age, near death, with a heart with virtually no ability to squeeze (ejection fraction of < 10%).  We have seen her monthly now for six years as she has remained alive, taking every heart medicine at our disposal.  She arrived a couple weeks ago worse than she has been since her initial visit.  She remained barely alive on high flow oxygen for this whole time as we tried everything we know.  Just yesterday, she turned the corner, breathing easily and beginning to eat.  Today she walked a few steps.  I don’t know how much more time she has and I love her as my own.  She has been with us so many times over her short six years of life.  Her parents are faithful, caring and they completely trust us, based on the care they have seen us render for so long.  How I want to both see Cristina thrive and her parents’ trust honored…

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Laurindo is twenty five and weighs 70lb, after suffering at home for three months with abdominal pain and vomiting. He has perhaps one of the largest abdominal tumors I’ve seen, cause unknown. I sat with the family and explained that Laurindo needs to fly to Lubango on Saturday’s scheduled flight with MAF for further assessment and likely surgery for gastrointestinal obstruction and removal of the mass, as he cannot swallow liquids or solids and continues to vomit multiple times/day. His brother informed me that they are Seventh Day Adventists and, because they honor the Sabbath, they won’t travel on the same, so he refused transport for his brother on that day. He received an animated “sermon” at the bedside about Jesus, the Sabbath and Jesus’ care for people and, especially, for his brother. My passionate confrontation, which is rarely encountered in this what-will-be-will-be-Angola culture, drew quite a crowd. Afterward, I explained to Nathan that my “sermon” and “anger” were directed at this man, but also at our workers, who are still trying to figure out Jesus, my relationship with Him, and how they are to relate with Him. Jesus was angered by the same idiotic religiousness. The patient’s brother relented and apologized and they flew to Lubango this morning.

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On Friday, we had three kids arrive with malaria and Hb < 3 (normal > 12), meaning the parasite had destroyed > 75% of their blood volume.  All improved remarkably with a small transfusion of blood.  Our hospital culture has been transformed in recent years as, just a couple years ago, no one would donate blood for fear of how the loss of a small amount of blood might affect them.  They knew nothing of how our body replaces blood and how virtually all of the cells in our body are turning over all the time.  Now, after many examples of us and volunteers stepping up (because of the constant presence of this hideous and destructive parasite, almost every visitor here has an opportunity to donate to save the life of a child near death).  This day Nathan volunteered to donate and everyone saw the enthusiasm with which he offered to help.  We prefer to transfuse blood from matching family members, but are sometimes unable to and, today, virtually all of our workers enthusiastically volunteer to give, recognizing its value and lack of risk. 

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This week we used our oxygen concentrators, solar energy and generator to save Teresa, who is 11mo/old and arrived, along with three other kids under 2y/o, with oxygen levels in the 60s (normal > 93%).  In this one week, eight people (!) benefited from the concentrators, arriving with oxygen levels incompatible with life.  They arrived with heart failure, pertussis, pneumonia, meningitis, bronchiolitis and severe anemia.

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Living in rural Africa has given me great appreciation for the value our Father has placed on women since His guidelines for living have been recorded via faithful men and women.  Monogamy with one man and one woman honors women and limits a man’s ability to use his physical prowess to use/accumulate women as commodities.  Virtually all men here have 2, 3, 4 women who serve them (and do all the work).  It is a slave mentality that did not originate in Europe and the Americas and is still quite present today.  Self-serving men here (the majority, with no sense of surrender to the God of monogamy) are confounded by the thought of limiting themselves to one woman and laugh when I sometimes tell them the reasons it is personally and culturally healthy for them and for their children (as I tell them the reason all their women need treatment for their sexually transmitted disease).  Women see it differently and are not pleased to be used/abused, but have few options in a culture ruled by men and ignorant of our Father and His guidelines/commands.

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Historically, and today, in cultures not prioritizing a Judeo-Christian ethic, polygamy is the norm, either overtly or covertly, sequentially or non-sequentially.  Sequential polygamy is becoming more and more the norm again now as the larger cultures of the world move away from recognizing our Creator Father’s wise and loving authority over us.

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As frequent readers of this blog know, I am fascinated (and disgusted) by the difference between “Christian” religion and following Jesus.  One practices religion to better his/her life.  One who follows Jesus abandons the pursuit of personal improvement like the One he/she follows.  In Cavango, I communicate daily with those who practice religion and those who have no knowledge and/or care for God and His ways, but all are interested in improving their own lives.  I often share a contrast, in that a religious person is like those on a journey who must constantly watch their feet so that they don’t misstep, while a Jesus-follower is encouraged to look up and focus not on his/her steps but on the One they are following and those journeying with them.  Jesus’ message is the most radically unique ever heard on this earth and encourages us to die to self and follow Him, to seek first the King and His Kingdom, yet the religions bearing His name promote the same as all other religions – practice our rituals, watch your steps carefully, and earn our created god’s favor to better your life… 

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When we think of “imagination”, we think of Cinderella, Shrek, Hobbits, Harry and unreal “fantasy”. We use our imaginations to create fanatical fables about how everything came from nothing and then became more and more complex, to a degree we cannot even reproduce. In all of our 2023 sophistication and “intelligence”, we have yet to even create one living cell (!) – and we know/have all the ingredients! Yet it all originated and “evolved” by chance and without direction! If you had told me when I was ten years old that virtually the whole world would believe in a godless origin and evolution of life when I was 60, my faith in humanity would have prevented me from believing it. The people of Cavango are too smart to believe such nonsense but they have difficulty believing that whoever created this world might be interested in them. Jesus and His followers spoke about both – our Father as Creator and His beyond-imagination care for those He created, yet we live in palaces we think we have earned (we weren’t born in Cavango!), with severe disregard for Him, His care for us and for those He loves and calls us to serve…

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Why are we created with “imagination”?  Perhaps so that we could empathize and “imagine” what it might be like to walk in another’s shoes and to “imagine” and create solutions to help those hurting?

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Many beautiful people are using their imagination and resources to creatively serve those in rural Angola. If only you could hear Eduardo’s imaginative, stories about His Father in our morning meetings with our patients and their families! What a delight he is as he tells of the Father he so loves and serves!

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We have a new expensive x-ray unit, we have costly ultrasound machines, we are soon to purchase costly lab equipment, we have an expensive ambulance that transports people to life-saving surgery via a costly plane via a beautiful organization run by volunteers who have given their lives to serve, MAF, we have swing sets coming on a container for the children here who have nothing to do all day at the hospital, we have a solar system and a generator for electricity, we will soon have an airstrip to more easily transport people to Lubango for necessary and urgent surgical treatment, performed by volunteers who have given their lives to serve…

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Beautiful people are sacrificing their hard-earned income to put beds in our hospital for our patients and roofs over the beds and walls around them… Others are coming to boost agriculture abilities for those in the area, others ship clothes and shoes… Others are sending money for small loans for the local people here to begin projects which will give them the means of earning a living, others are providing ways for people to have potable water, others are interested in improving the education and knowledge of the people here, others are visiting to explore more ways to serve, others are training nurses and teachers… others are sending money to serve these beautiful people in so many other small ways… many are praying…

On behalf of the many who are benefiting every day… Thank you!

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How can we use our creative imagination and resources to serve those lost and hurting today?