Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Community Life in a Village

August 2015

Greetings from Nyankunde!  It is a peaceful and rainy Sunday morning.  Our baby is sleeping,  Warren is roasting coffee, and I am catching up on correspondence.  We have found our lives to be very full with a very active little boy.  Emmanuel is starting to walk and is gaining strength and agility.  He is very curious about everything and seems to be decoding his world.  Here is a list of his top daily activities:

1) Open and close doors.  
2) Drop everything and then pick it up.  
3) Hide and then "pop out." 
4) Climb over and go under.
5) Eat and then spit it out (or gag oneself).  
6) Play with puppy and crawl all over her.  
7) Unplug the nightlight.
8) Turn on all the buttons on the fan.
9) Take a bath and then roll in the dirt.
10) Hide under the hamper with a flashlight
11) Splashing in the outdoor puddle pool
12) Hugs!!!  
It is a real joy to see him learning and growing everyday,  He hears Swahili everyday and has learned to wave when he hears “tutuanana” which means “we’ll see each other later.”  Now if we can only coordinate our nap times so I can get some rest too.

We have welcomed a new family, the Larochelles, and an obstetrician to Nyankunde.   They are integrating and learning about life in the village.  It has been been pause for me to think about “village life” and real community as we talk about realities of life.

Village Community Life
First in a village everyone knows everything.  It is hard (impossible even) to keep secrets and private life just looks different.  This was a reality when Emmanuel was born…everyone knew I had gone into labor and that I was having some health problems.  I could be lying in bed and hear people in the fields outside talking about my son and how I was doing.  One of the single doctors who lives alone was sick recently.  People came to her house daily to check on her, as they were genuinely concerned for her especially with her living alone.  It is nice to know that people really care and want to be involved in your life, but it can be hard to rest at times.

In a village your identity is in relation to others.  No one lives in isolation.  I am known as “Mama Emmanuel,” Warren’s wife, just as much I am known as “Doctor Lindsey.”  And it’s true- my child and my husband very much define who I am.  My relation to others is more important than what “I do.”  In a tribal society like the one in which I live, you really are who you are (customs, language, values) based on your relatives. There are a lot of orphaned children in the hospital right now so I have been thinking a lot about how their sense of identity must change.  Who do these children become?  Do they marry?

Interestingly, The Bible says that we are all orphans and aliens in this world.  So our identity in the earthly sense is less important.  Scripture tells us that there is “one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to one hope when you were called-one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all” (Ephesians 4:4-5).  We belong to God the Father, to the body of Christ, and to the Spirit.  Someone could refer to me as “Lindsey, child of God and sister in Christ.”  This fact is even more important than that I am a mother, wife, or doctor. 

In a village you really need to find a way to get along with others.  In a village you rub elbows with everyone everyday.  There are people you get along well with and people you have differences of opinion with.  Sometimes in the west I think we become good at avoiding people and situations that we don’t want to deal with.  We probably also avoid conflict whenever we can.  Extended family may be estranged to one another.  In a village this does not work and is not good for the health of the community.  Paul says, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).   It is important to work on relationships and work through differences…this is to the benefit of the entire body. 

In a village, people need each other to survive and men and women fall into more “traditional roles.”  In this culture as a woman, you really need a man to do the hard work of field preparation for crop planting.  As a woman your role is to work in the fields, harvest, prepare food for your family, and support your husband.  Can these gender roles change?  Yes, they can adapt to the situational needs.  I fall much more into these traditional roles here.  But the fact that Warren helps me cook sometimes or that I have a Congolese man helping me in the house is unusual and definitely makes me more “western.”

In a city, you can hide easier from others, associate with whom you like, and not need to depend on  
Our growing ex-pat medical community at Nyankunde
Don’t get me wrong.  I am not saying that village life is better.  In fact sometimes I wish I could hide out a little.  But village life does illustrate life in close community which is a positive thing and very Biblical.   It takes intentional effort to create community and foster relationships.  May the Lord awaken our spirits to living in close relationships with others.
others. You might not even realize that there may be another way to live.

News from Pediatrics
Have you ever struggled to be in the “in crowd,” to feel like you are understood and belong?  Living overseas puts you out of your element on a daily basis.  But I can honestly say that I “fit in” here now.  I am a foreigner and will always be a foreigner, but I feel like I am part of the family.  As I walked into the pediatrics building the other night to check on a patient I was greeted warmly by everyone in the room with waves and “Hi Doc.”  It warmed my heart.  The room was full of people sitting on the floor, the beds, and kids walking to-and-fro.  There was a lot of interest over the patient I had come to see on a Sunday night. 

Recently I felt very appreciated by a mother for taking care of her 1year old daughter named Zawadi. She was hospitalized in May with “failure to thrive,” in other words malnutrition.  After a month of increasing her calories I could not get her to gain weight.  Then she developed pneumonia.  This led me to believe that she had tuberculosis.  After weeks and weeks of treatment for tuberculosis she began gaining weight, playing, and doing developmentally normal things.  This is why I do my job.  There are daily frustrations.  There are families that disappear from the hospital during treatment.  There are patients that continue to get so sick despite everything you do.  There are patients that you can not diagnose precisely.  There are people who simply don’t believe they have the disease and don’t follow your advice….or maybe start to believe it after the third hospital admission for the same problem.  But then there are kids like Zawadi who achieve a cure.  We give God all the glory for these victories.

A New Addition
Building a fire together
I am not sure if I announced the completion of one of Warren’s projects, a wood-burning oven.  It is outside off our back patio.  It is perfect for baking breads and pizza and would be absolutely perfect for cooking a turkey.  I like it better than my wimpy indoor oven.  This one gets so hot that it cracks the thermometer and singes the hair on your arms if you reach in too far.  There is always a new project underway for my husband.  He also just completed a geodesic dome out of metal for Emmanuel to play in.  
Warren's geodesic dome and homemade swing

That’s all for now. 

Thank you for your prayers and interest in our lives. 


Lindsey (for the Coopers)

Just having fun
Rehabilitation of the old maternity building at Nyankunde is underway!


  1. I love hearing your updates, getting a glimpse into your world, and seeing how you are doing. I am giving a talk in January wherein one of the major points is that we were/are created as relational beings. So, I am very interested in examples of how we can thrive and flourish best when we rely on others. Miss you and hugs!

  2. I enjoyed reading about your life in the village and comments about community. Love the bright smiles on your precious son!

  3. Thanks for the post- always so much fun to read what y'all are up to!