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deep hunger

18 Jul

“the place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”  frederick buechner

it is a beautiful thing: to feel like the thing you are doing is exactly what you were made to do.  i have felt it this year, in my first year as a doctor to children, and i have felt it even more here, being the doctor for children in a developing country.  the rhythm of waking up to go see patients in the pediatrics ward has been surprisingly fulfilling, despite all of the sadness and frustration we have faced.  the ability to show people i care about them, the intellectual stimulation of thinking through a patient’s disease, the opportunity to witness the joy of a recovering child and also to sit beside a mother who is grieving a loss, experiencing the thrill of a new culture and language, basking in the natural beauty of the world… these are the moments i expected, as i followed God’s call on my heart to medicine and to missions.

and yet, even as we feel those moments of sheer joy in doing what we were made to do, i imagine that many of you can sympathize when i tell you about the moments when i question His plan.  i know you created me uniquely for this call, God, but… why did i have to be the one you chose to go through the grueling hours of medical school and residency?  why did you have to choose me to give up the comfort of the western world to eat goat meat and cabbage salad?  

no matter where we find ourselves — whether in places of growth through hardship, or even in places where we are envied by others — the question comes, often at times of exhaustion.  why did you call me to teaching high schoolers?  why did you choose me to minister to the homeless?  why did i have to lose my father to gain a ministry to others who have lost their loved ones?  why do i have to struggle with infertility?  why did you call me to be a stay-at-home mom? 

i don’t mean to imply that God imposes pain and hardship on us.  the problem of pain is much better detailed by c.s. lewis and others… i am ill-equipped to go there.  but i do think that each of us can see the good that God has done through our sacrifices and sufferings.  and to that extent, we can say that he has called us to that ministry.

so as i ask that question, wondering why this “deep gladness” in me (as i care for pediatric patients in ghana) has to be so challenging and difficult… he reveals to me one answer.  an answer that, while not always enough, is undisputable.

and the King will tell them, ‘i assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me.’  matthew 25:40

the least of these.  yes, it is hard for me to be far away from my family.  it is difficult for me to sacrifice the comfort of a beautiful home and my favorite foods.  but it is so very hard for that mother to walk four miles to arrive at our clinic.  it is incredibly exhausting for her to keep all three children calm, while the white doctor examines one of the them and the other has an accident on the floor (no diapers here).  and it is heartbreaking when her beloved child, who was playing with his friends two days ago, takes his last breath because malaria has taken his body hostage.

that is why he has called me here.  that is why he has called you there.  he knows the hardship we endure — he gave up his only Son.  but he knows that the trials we endure pale in comparison to the wonder of His love.  the love that we will experience and “the least of these” will experience, if we only heed his call.

i once thought all these things were so very important, but now i consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.  yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  philippians 3:8 


a little reflection

17 Jul

It’s getting to the point where I feel anxious to go into the peds ward sometimes.  All the death we’ve witnessed is taking its toll on me, I guess.  This morning, we were rounding as usual when Courtney was called to the bedside of a young boy with cerebral malaria who was noted by a nurse to have “respiratory distress.”  When we started assessing, it was actually agonal breathing.  We initially started trying to resuscitate, but then checked his pupils and found them to be fixed and dilated, so we called the chaplain without further intervention.  On rounds, I saw our little boy with multiple abscesses and pancytopenia – he came back to clinic after being discharged with new abscesses and persistent fevers and so was re-admitted.  He continues to do very poorly, even though his WBC has improved.  His abscesses are progressing despite IV antibiotics and for some unknown reason, his hematocrit is very low (12-15%) everyday despite transfusions (any ideas medical people out there?).  We’re planning on taking him to the OR for further I&D, but we’re not sure what else to do at this point.  He’s so precious and his mom is incredibly caring and attentive towards him – it’s so hard to not have good answers for her.  Tonight when we went back to the wards to see new admissions from the day, a child came in unconscious.  He was initially seen at another health center in a village down the road and was given valium and quinine (malaria medicine) and then sent to us.  By the time he made it to the peds ward, he was breathing hard with deviated eyes and was completely unresponsive.  We started an IV and were in the midst of checking his glucose when I noticed that he had stopped breathing.  I listened to his chest with my stethoscope and heard nothing – he had no breath and no pulse.  We gave rescue breaths and compressions for about 10 minutes, but he did not survive.  His mom cried briefly, and then picked him up and placed him on her back to take him back home.  I just cried as they walked out of the peds ward.

It’s hard sometimes to focus on the all the children that get better when we see a child die nearly every day.  And I’ve never had to pronounce a death before – it’s terrible and makes me sick to my stomach.  The eerie silence of a chest with no heartbeat or spontaneous breath has to be the worst sound I’ve ever heard.  It leaves you empty too.

But at the end of every day, Courtney and I remind ourselves that we are helping so many children live who would have otherwise died.  And really, our purpose is not necessarily to even save a physical life, but to share the love of God with the people we’re treating through our work here.  So I pray that the patients and their families have seen that love in us during our time here – that our tears as well as smiles and laughter along side of them have been meaningful and full of grace.  As my dear friend Jenny said in an email she sent to us, it’s our job to let them see that they are worth suffering for and loving because God loved us first.  Pray that we would continue to be faithful servants to Him, relying on his great love and peace and always showing grace to those around us.  And pray that we would continue to work hard at what we’re doing – that we would expect miracles even though we have to give up so often here.  Because God is bigger than all of this and is powerful over all things, and at the end of the day, none of this is in our hands alone – and that is so comforting.

This trip has been so good for me – to remember who is in control and to draw close to him again after a long, busy year as an intern.  I am so thankful to get to be here, even though it’s hard sometimes.  Because it’s so much easier to see our need for his grace when we truly feel that need and see deep suffering.  It’s sad to me that it takes such drastic surroundings to make me cry out to him regularly and crave his word, but again, I’m just thankful for this time.

– Rachel

i am because we are

13 Jul

When we walk anywhere in Ghana, our feet, socks, and shoes turn an orange color from the clay / sand soil. The orange soil is everywhere and is impossible to remove. If we wash off the layer of dust in the shower or if we sweep and mop our rooms, we can find the orange dust there in what seems like a matter of minutes. The removal of this orange dirt is a constant task that will never be completed. This is how I look at the soil, as a nuisance, something that needs to be removed in order to feel clean. The Africans look at the soil as their means of survival. They plant their crops in the soil and hope that the rainy season will make for a plentiful harvest. The soil provides food for their animals and can be tied to much of the movements of life. In America, unless we are cultivators, we rarely think about the soil. Our food comes from the store, pre-packaged and washed, not from the ground laden with soil.

Adam and I have had several discussions about tradition. I have strongly considered what this term means while here in Africa. In many of our conversations with different African people they will inevitably bring up the word, tradition. Africans use this term as a way to identify who they are with their past and relate their future to their traditions from the past. They will tell us stories, proverbs, and parables that take into account their tradition. In Africa there is a not a sense of, ‘I think therefore I am’. They instead will say, ‘I am because we are’, a statement with deep roots in the tradition of those who came before them.

The connection here between Africans and tradition is like the connection between Africans and their soil. They are content with the soil being a part of their everyday movements. In fact, they are more than content, they understand the connection so deeply that no thought would cross their minds that soil was not an important part of living. The same can be said of tradition that no thought would cross their minds that tradition was not an important (if not the most important) part of living.

I should find it intolerable to think that, as an American, I rarely consider tradition. I should hate to fathom that I needed to remove or clean up my tradition in order to feel clean. I should detest thinking of tradition as a nuisance. I should recoil from the idea that my tradition needs to be prepackaged and washed. But this is how I think, I am because I have made myself to be something. But this is not how the Africans think, they continue to think, I am who I am because we are grown out of tradition.


p.s. The internet has been pretty poor lately. We are trying our best and posting with pictures is getting more and more difficult. We will keep trying and thank you again for all of your encouraging comments. We love them!