Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Thankfulness, an attitude of the heart

December 4, 2013

My joyous rafiki (friend) named Anto
Happy Post-Thanksgiving from the Congo!   The theme of this post will be ‘thankfulness.’

Do you ever struggle to see the bright side of a situation, especially when you see a lot of suffering?  I know I do.  Sometimes I think being thankful is a choice.  Every day is a gift from God.  Simply having breath is no guarantee.  This past Sunday I started to see the Genesis account of creation of the world with new eyes.  Everyday that there is light in the morning, there will be new growth on the earth to give us food.  God also created water to fill the earth, filling our cup.  It is with this same water that keeps us clean and therefore healthy.  This water feeds the earth and the plants therein.
 Let us not forget the
My other little "rafiki" who greets me on the way to church
animals that walk the earth, birds that fill the sky, and fish that swim the seas (including our fuzzy, fun-loving African grey parrots).  Perhaps the greatest gift of all is that of each other, our abundant family and friends.  We are extremely blessed.  No matter the circumstances, or suffering there is something to give thanks for.  I have more of a keen awareness of how precious life really is (and so fragile) since coming to Congo.  When I see someone going through suffering/trials, I try to say ‘thank you God’ for this precious person made in your image.  A joyful heart is good medicine. 

Cultural Things
Indeed, it was National Cicadia Day in Congo last Friday.  Who knew?  Kids were excused from classes and scoured the surrounded hillsides looking for bugs.  It was absolutely a show!  I came home for lunch only to find a few hundred kids hooting and hollering on the hill by our house, scurrying around lighting fires in the tall grass.  Apparently, fire gets the cicadas out of hiding.  It was pure chaos and felt a bit dangerous!  Maybe this is equivalent to our snow days in America!  There were no injuries that we were aware of.

It is also the beginning of dry season here in Congo.  This means that everyone (not only the kids) is burning the fields in preparation for the next growing season.  It is a little unnerving to be out on a hike and come across a spontaneous fire with no one around, or to hear the cracking of fire all night long through our open windows.

Did you know that bathtubs are useful for more than bathing?  Here in Congo bathtubs are also useful for cooking.  Foo-foo is a staple food made from manioc flour.  Manioc (otherwise known as cassava) is a food that really fills your stomach, but is not so rich in nutritional value.  I was walking home the other day when I encountered a group of girls carrying a bathtub in which they would cook foo-foo over a 3-day period.   Who knew?

Burning the hillsides in preparation for the next growing season

Home in Wisconsin
I (Lindsey) had the privilege this past month of traveling back to Wisconsin to be in my dear friends’ wedding, Josh and Kristine Hoiland.  It was such an honor to be part of seeing two friends make these promises to one another before God and man.  I had the real sense of heaven rejoicing with them, almost transcending the moment.  A foretaste of heaven perhaps?  It was so clear that God had brought these two together and had designed this day.  I look forward to seeing what they will be doing in 5 years.  My trip back to the US was quite short, taking advantage of frequent flyer miles.  Still it was great to spend time with my family, visit with my grandma, see my friends’ expecting babies, shop at Target, buy new sheets.  I carried back to Congo lot of fun toys for Warren …even a couple of small Christmas trees and curtain rods.  You would be surprised how difficult it is to find curtain rods…you end up making them out of rebar around here.  Rebar isn’t quite as elegant.

Hospital Work
These last few weeks have been difficult at the hospital.  We continue to receive more and more
patients for care and surgical consultation.  They are coming from farther and father away and are quite sick.  We recently received a woman from Chad!  Pediatrics has seen the passing of so many lives from malnutrition and other causes…I would rather not say how many.  Suffice it to say that we the degree of malnutrition is on the level of a crisis by world standards.  We have supplemental milk (F75), the means to resuscitate, give blood transfusions, etc.  Sometimes it is just too late to go back and the energy deficit is just too great.  I have never seen anything like this.  If there is one area of medicine here I feel most passionate about, it is nutrition and all the medical sequelae.  Pray for our work and us.  Pray for the Congo.  Pray for the broken families.  Pray for Godly leadership of families.  Pray for hope and spiritual awakening.  Pray for people to work the land.  Pray for people to know Jesus.

We look forward to a few physician friends who plan to visit soon, including an orthopedist.  There are so many opportunities for teaching and for specialty surgeries.  Warren is currently studying up on how to perform a total laryngectomy for a man with cancer of the larynx.  More and more complicated cases are coming.  Currently there is a professor of internal medicine from Kinshasa with his entourage of physicians.  “Nyankunde village” is becoming more and more known for the work that is going on here. 

I have been caring for a very special girl named Anifa on and off for the past 6-months.  She has a
Anifa watching Barney& Friends on an iphone
skin condition called Pemphigus Vulgaris which has required strong doses of steroids, an antibiotic called Dapsone (usually used for leprosy), and special steroid creams.  She has basically moved to our village for medical treatment, as it is very difficult to follow a home regimen.  It is my hope to get her off steroids eventually, but so many of the medications that are typically used to control this condition are not available here.  I also have been caring for a young boy with a cyanotic heart condition which would require a curative surgery.  I have been learning how to do echocardiograms.  We are hoping he can been evaluated by cardiologists in Uganda in February.  He is a very special young boy and reminds me of Anifa, in that he also lives with a serious disease.

Thank you to all of you that have contributed to the hospital mattress project.  We were able to purchase 150 new mattresses for the hospital that are sorely needed.  We don’t currently have 150 beds, but anticipate that they will be needed eventually.  I will post photos soon.

Other things
Our days here are full of visitors, cooking, shopping in the market playing with Peterson, our dog, being
Julia, visitor from the UK buying an escabo (local chair)
entertained by our parrots, gardening, local friends…Warren is always adapting something around the house to be more functional or fun.  I (Lindsey) am making new duvet covers for the beds and decorating for Christmas.  Warren recently overhauled a fancy ice-cream maker, so now we are living large and making ice cream and passion fruit sorbet.  We plan to try out coffee ice cream soon.  We are roasting our own coffee and making our own peanut butter.  I can honestly say that I know where all my food comes from.  Life is full and quite fulfilling.  
Any guesses on how many kilos Peterson weighs?
Chaco trying to steal from the horse's mouth

We need your prayers for our work here.  We are becoming quite well known for our medical work.  Pray that even before our medical care, that Nyankunde would be a place where Jesus lives, heals, and walks with people in suffering.  Pray that the staff would be known by their love.  Pray that we would not be discouraged as we witness the passing of many lives. 

Thank you for loving us and your interest in our lives.

Lindsey and Warren

A packed market

Buying local