Three patients….One Cure
There are literally hundreds of Christian mission hospitals in Congo but less than a handful have missionaries on staff and few still receive support from churches in the United States. The transition from partnership to national management was a quick one, precipitated in part by the wars in Congo and a decreasing focus on foreign missions. We are thankful for faithful support from churches & friends and for God’s grace which has allowed us to serve for over 15 years in this country as well as the current peace which allows us to travel safely to visit many of these ‘orphaned hospitals’
I made rounds yesterday while visiting one such ‘orphaned’ hospital and was pleased to see the hospital was full. The Congolese doctors and nurses were doing an exceptional job with limited resources, but sometimes, like doctors in the U.S. we are so focused on the disease that we risk not treating the patient.
A young doctor led me to the bed of Mr. Lombo, a 60-year old gentleman who was having a hushed argument with his wife. The doctor showed me a sizeable lump on his collarbone. I was told that someone came in his house the night before and hit him with a large stick. “Were they trying to rob you?” I asked. “No”, he said. “Did you know the person?” “Yes”, he said. It turns out that his 20-year old nephew who this man had taken in and raised following the death of his father years ago attacked him. The young man learned that he would not have the same inheritance acre-to-acre as his uncle’s own sons. In anger he came to his uncle’s hut late that night and struck him. The man, whose injury would heal in time, wanted his sons to deal out the same punishment to his nephew blow-for-blow, despite his wife’s insistence that a wrong for a wrong does not make a right. The pain this gentleman felt that morning was not in his collarbone but in his heart and unless he could release such anger there was no amount of medical or orthopedic treatment that would remedy the problem.
“Let me show you the young girl whose life we saved”, said the other doctor as he led me to the bedside of 17-year old Lenga. Lenga had gone into labor a month earlier but her baby was too large for her small frame and despite intense pain and pushing, the baby never came out. She was brought to the hospital by her mother several days later; a dead baby in her womb and herself, septic and in shock from infection. An operation saved Lenga’s life and she had now been in the hospital for nearly a month and was ready to go home. There was no family member by her bedside which is unusual in Africa (the family provides meals, changes linen, and does personal care). “Where is your husband?” I asked, “…or your mother?” “He is not my husband anymore”, she said, “and my mother went home to sell our peanut crop so we can pay the bill and leave the hospital”. It turns out the man she ‘married’ was already married, and when his wife returned home after attending to her sick parents during the greater part of a year, she found her husband with young Lenga then 4 months pregnant. She beat the girl mercilessly and forced her out of her home. Lenga’s mother took her back but her father was scandalized that his daughter went off and married a man whom she knew little about and became pregnant. Her father would neither speak to her nor allow her to return to school as it would be ‘wasted money’. Apparently the family didn’t want to pay for prenatal or medical care either so when Lenga went into labor she lost the baby and nearly her own life. Lenga was fearful of what her father would now do to her, especially after having to surrender all the family proceeds from the season’s crop. She wondered if she would ever be loved by anyone again. “I’m not a good person” she told the nurse. Sadly it will take more than sutures and gauze to make Lenga whole again …but there is One who can.
Lastly there was Luti, an 8-year old girl who was brought in with a swollen belly and threadlike arms. Her brother brought her to the hospital two days earlier after she fell off a bicycle. The young doctor wanted to operate on her for fear she had ruptured her spleen. That made little sense as the child was neither anemic nor had any external sign of trauma. What was alarming was the story they told me of the child’s father who had been a truck driver until he became too ill to work four years ago. The child now had some of the same worrisome symptoms; weakness, malnutrition, fever, and swollen glands. My fear was that the fall from the bicycle had nothing to do with her illness, and if my supposition was right, we had no cure for the underlying problem which would take her life at a very innocent and early age
If our focus is only on the superficial we will never see beyond the lumps, the scars, and the falls. God knows us from the inside out and has provided a remedy for our anger, for the injustice we suffer, and from the perils of sin. His prescription is perfect peace, perfect redemption, and perfect healing when we surrender our all to him.
His strength is made perfect in our weakness
(2 Corinthians 12:19)
Bill and Ann Clemmer