Greetings from Nyankunde!
We're long overdue for a little update of life in our little village. We are doing well and rejoicing, despite the various trials we endure.
The most recent of these trials was a security incident which took place a few days ago. We were enjoying dinner with a doctor who was departing the following day. I heard in the distance the unmistakeable sound..."pop..pop...pop." I was pretty sure that the gunfire was coming from the center of Nyankunde town. Over the next 15 minutes we heard more gunshots. I made a few phone calls and discovered that bandits had broken into the shop of a well-known businessman here at Nyankunde, and killed him. The gunshots continued for a couple of hours. They came from different locations and were accompanied by shouting and clanging bells. At one point, after a hiatus the shots rang out closer. We turned off all the lights and got on the floor. The hardest thing was that we didn't know what was happening or why. Thankfully we were able to communicate by phone with the medical director of the hospital who provided some details and assured us that we were not in danger.
The upshot of the event, as I now understand it, was that there was a planned hit on the businessman. It is still sad to think about this, as we all knew him and liked him. Two days before the incident, I bought a few supplies from his shop. I took Emmanuel with me and we chatted a bit. Strange to think he's now dead. Anyway, following the hit, the assailants fled. The local youth then turned on the military, angered that they had witnessed the event, and had done nothing to stop it. Two soldiers and a policeman were killed. The military then arrived from Marabo and they fired into the air to disperse the crowd. One civilian was killed, bringing the death toll to 5. The next day I went to the hospital and sorted out the aftermath. There were six or seven injured individuals, mostly from stray bullets. Two of them had bled profusely, and would likely have died without care. There was a rather disturbing trail of blood leading up the walkway to the OR building.
I'm not going to dwell on this event, but it does remind us that we live in an uncertain and dangerous world. The local population knows what it is to live in fear. Still, this is a chance for us to trust in God in a practical way. Are we crazy to live in a place like this? I don't think so. The safest place we can ever be is in the hand of the Father, even in the midst of confusion, violence and evil. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me..."
The debatable positive of this incident is that the number of patients coming to the hospital has dropped off. This has given us some time to work on other projects. I've spent a couple of hours trying to move a 40 foot shipping container. This was accomplished with the help of a tractor, chains, jacks and two courageous helpers. We finally got it done, and we didn't injure anyone in the process. I have found that driving a tractor is pretty good therapy for me. I have a very old Romanian-made tractor. I move dirt, push things and pull things. Lindsey thinks I'm crazy, but it does help me unwind. Emmanuel loves to sit on my lap as we bounce around.
Last weekend we went to Garamba National Park. This is a game reserve north of here. A group of us chartered a MAF plane and we flew up there. It was a wonderful chance to relax and see some animals. The park isn't exactly teeming with wildlife, or tourists. The staff have struggled greatly to keep the poaching at bay. Conservation in Africa, especially Congo, is a huge challenge. This park was the site of an African Elephant domestication project, which was the crazy brainchild of King Leopold II. Mostly it was great to just get away for a bit and spend some time together. Emmanuel had a ball. He fears nothing and we had a little scare when he went charging toward the hippo pool.
Emmanuel is a year and a half. He is on the cusp of using language. This has probably been delayed by constant exposure to English, Swahili and French. He is probably going to end up speaking "Swafranglais" but that's ok with us. He'll figure it out. He is such a wonderful little guy and sometimes we look at him with amazement. He is quite independent and strong willed. We are trying to figure out how to work the whole discipline issue. If anyone knows how to do this the right way, please let us know. I was sure I know how until I had a kid! On the whole he has been an unspeakable joy. It is a reminder of just how much God loves us.
The hospital has been busy, with the exception of the past couple of days. Not a day goes by when we don't face some new challenge. The hospital has become well known. I have a patient now who has been to Kisangani, Nairobi and Kinshasa for care, and now has come to our little village. We continue to see lots of trauma, mostly from motorcycle accidents. Lindsey has enjoyed a little reprieve from malaria, as it is now the dry season. She continues to deal with malnutrition, AIDS, tuberculosis, meningitis, etc. It can be so hard to take care of sick kids. We have been treating one poor little guy who is so sick, but we haven't quite figured out why. He has had problems with almost every major organ system. Now he has developed abscesses all over his body. He family has almost given up hope, but we continue to encourage them and help this poor little brave guy.
We are so grateful for the many people who have supported us, prayed for us and encouraged us. Without this support, we wouldn't be able to live and work here. The hospital continues to have needs. We are supporting the malnutrition program and helping to feed destitute patients. Other missionary staff here have begun rehabilitating a facility for the care of patients with tuberculosis. We are looking at a project to increase the electrical capacity of the solar system of the hospital. This might lack glamour, but it is so important to have power at night for patient care and oxygen. It continues to be a dream to renovate the hospital chapel. In each of these endeavors, it has been our concern to work alongside the Congolese hospital management, and not undertake some independent project. We firmly believe that this is Congolese hospital and we work alongside of them.
We are looking forward to taking a little trip later on this month. We will be traveling to Greece to attend the CMDA medical conference. It will be great to get away for a bit. We're going to take the opportunity to travel through Switzerland on the way, to visit my folks.
Please pray for peace in this little corner of the world. So many things take place that are just incomprehensible to us. All we can do is trust God.