Saturday, October 27, 2012

A bilateral cleft lip means more room for fingers!
This patient was the last cleft lip of the project.

A happy reunion.  This is me with Moses (right) and Joseph (left), both nurses from Lui Hospital.  I operated on Joseph over 10 years ago.  He came as close to death as I have seen anyone ever come and survive.  By God's grace he is doing well and working as a medical assistant.  He might be the reason that I ever came to Sudan in the first place.  
Lindsey with a cute one.
In surgery.
One of the many Nyancheks.
Me with the boss-man checking my work.
It has been an interesting time here in Juba.  We finished up the cleft lip camp.  78 patients were operated on.  It was a good chance for me to scrub on a bunch of these cases.  I mostly assisted, but I did more and more of them as the time went on.  It is so different from the cases that I usually do.  Only about an inch or so of the body is involved, but it is in such a visible area that it changes everything.  The surgery is technically exacting, as you want to do everything in your power to make things look as nice as possible.  There is also a lot of art in it.  You are workin on someone's face, and the face is your identity!

Many or these patients were named "Nyanchek" (or some variant). This word means something like "deformity".  Imagine what life would be like to named Deformity.  In many of their eyes we could see the shame and misery that they had suffered.  The most exciting part of the camp was watching these patients as they looked at their new faces for the very first time.  Some of them just seemed stunned, like suddenly looking in a mirror and not recognizing yourself.  Others were so full of joy and burst into spontaneous songs and praise to God.  I operated on the oldest patient, a woman of 60 or so.  At that age, I would think, "why bother?"  When she was asked why she wanted surgery, she said that she just wanted to be able to hold her head up and not be ashamed.  

Many of the patients chose new names for themselves.  The chaplains spent a lot of time with these folks, explaining that their physical change was only a part of the real spiritual change that they could be theirs by following Jesus.  One of them changed her name to Grace.  Another changed hers to "Amore."  She said it was the name of a beautiful cow that she remembered.  "Beautiful Cow" might not be the name we would all choose, but it is pretty amazing to think that someone could get a new face, a new name, a new identity.  It is even more amazing to think that someone could even be born again.

The cleft lip camp coincided with the Franklin Graham Festival which took place over the last two days in Juba.  The place was packed and you could feel the excitement in the crowd.  The message given was the same simple gospel message that is preached around the world. We are all sinners, but Christ died to save us.  This message is delivered in a straightforward, no frills manner.  There was no persuasive arguments and no promises of any kind.  It was the simple gospel message, but when it was over and the invitation was given, the people rushed forward to receive it.  It was so powerful to see this in action.  

So it has been a time of change.  We have seen changing faces, changing names and changing lives.  It has been a thrill to see it and to play a small part.  Tomorrow morning, Lindsey and I will leave for Maban.  We will be working in a small hospital near the border with (North) Sudan.  Samaritan's Purse is working there to care for refugees who have fled from the conflict across the border.  Please continue to pray for us as we serve in this difficult situation.  

Warren (for the both of us)

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