Malaria, Mud and Ministry

Saturday I arrived from Uganda and immediately went to work sorting and labeling the Christmas presents I brought back for the children, mainly clothes. I remember the Christmas lists I used to have when I lived in the USA. I might have had about twenty people on it and at that time it seemed unobtainable in a timely manner. I smile now because my kid-Christmas list has 120 names on it, and ages, and there are many columns on it – pants, t-shirt, dress shirt, skirt, dress, underwear, toothbrush, shoes… I also have 120 bags labeled with these same names and ages. They are strewn all over my living room so we can toss the right sized clothes on the matching child’s bag and then labeling all the clothes, in case they get separated from the bags! I feel like an elf in Santa’s workshop. Shopping for us is a full on, month long venture. Today I sent the mamas out with their respective house of kids to go and purchase a new outfit that fits properly. Last year I sent the teenagers off on their own and they came back with mini dresses and low cleavage blouses and skull and rap-star t-shirts… There are no returns here. Once you buy it it’s yours. This year I am working smarter, not harder!

Sunday night we found ourselves rushing one of our missionaries to the hospital with malaria and pneumonia or some upper chest infection. The next morning one of our neighbors came with her little boy, Francis, who was barely breathing and delirious. The quickest way to the hospital here is by motorcycle so we put him and mama and papa on the bikes with drivers and off they went. Before reaching the hospital he was gone. When mama first brought Francis to us I asked her why she waited until he was this critical. She said that the father was working. One thing sadly that I have learned here in this culture is that no one is in a hurry and nothing seems emergent to them.

We know this family very well and so some of us missionaries followed to the hospital in our Land Cruiser. We made a brief stop in town as we did not know that he had died. When we arrived mama came wailing out to us telling us to come see, that she wanted to die with her son. He was only six/seven years old. We were all crying and bleary-eyed as we stumbled to the room. Francis was wrapped up in a flowery cloth with his little chin trussed up in a white cloth like a bunny. I laid my hand upon his little chest and it was still warm and I began to pray in earnest for him to raise up. I persisted for at least 15-20 minutes, speaking to him like Jesus did to Lazarus.

My faith was so big through my tears. I really wanted him to come back to us. The mama came to me and said, “Why are you praying? It is finished, he is gone. You stop.” I saw the papa and he had stopped crying and I really feel that he was ready to believe with me that Francis would come back to us. People kept coming in and crying and I understood at that time why Jesus asked everyone to leave the house when he raised that little girl from death. It is so very hard for faith to operate in the midst of all that grieving and crying. I stopped praying. I tell you I was so very sad that entire day. We had to bring Francis back to our compound in our Land Cruiser and the mama wailed loudly the entire way right behind my ear. There was a literal funeral procession through our compound with all of the neighbors and it was such a sad, sad site to see Francis being carried away, folded within his dirty and torn mattress, like a sandwich, like this was his life’s end result, a dirty little mattress.

In the west everything is so clean and sterile, unreal in a sense. Here it is all so very real, the nit and grit of it all. The mama unwashed and unkempt, as is the custom for mourning, even rolling around in the dirt. Just the day before, Francis and his twin sister Viola were sitting in our church, singing and smiling and even eating lunch with us as they do every Sunday. Twenty-four hours later he is wrapped in a dirty little mattress being carried through our compound. What do you do with that? We hired a vehicle to transport the family and Francis to his village for burial and we sent them with food. We asked if Viola and the older brother (12 years) could stay with us for the week while they traveled and held the funeral. Funerals here are very depressing and most times even demonic. There are always manifestations and demon possession. We see it all the time. I didn’t want these two kids to go through that. So they have been with us all week, being fed and clothed and loved by all of us and have been playing to their hearts content. It has been really good for them, so good that I really think they will have a problem going back to their house once mom and dad return. It’s a good thing they live right up against our fence and can come any time they like.

Our amazing community building is being finished today even as I type this update, and we are now just waiting for furniture to come. Here everything is built as you order it. There is no Ashley’s Furniture or The Room Store. You have to come with the measurements and a picture or at least a common idea of what you want built, custom ordered and delivered. The only thing is, if the builder is building the tables and benches on the dirt ground, which most are as their workshops are little shacks, when you place it on a newly leveled and finished concrete floor, everything rocks and teeters. So we cut legs or sand them or whatever it takes to make it level. Tonight we dedicated it by worshipping the Lord in it, no rain beating down on us and finally having real light and not a bunch of headlamps lighting our evening celebrations! We are beyond excited! God is so good to us!

On Thursday our big tipper truck left in the morning to bring a load of bricks. By 7:00 pm it had not returned. Also at this time another of our missionaries was being rushed to the hospital for malaria and IV hook-ups. The driver of our truck is not reachable by phone nor is his assistant. No one knows which road he has gone down or where they are so we don’t even know where to look. I sent some of our older boys to the driver’s house and we found out where the truck was, stuck deep in the mud. It took two days to dig it out and get it back here! This IS Africa. Can’t call Tony’s Towing Service. The driver has to sleep in the truck, getting food where he can or not eating. This is normal and even expected here so no one gets frustrated. We just press on and get the job done. I sent six of our older boys to go and help with the final push.

The Lord has been so, so, so good to us and He always provides everything we need so I never ever worry about our provision. Sometimes I do worry about criminals and I have to do a lot of self-talk to keep my peace. I have been praying for ways to help where I can. I told the women at our Friday morning Women’s Fellowship that we would buy all of their greens from them. This will save them a long walk to town just to compete with all of the other women trying to sell the same greens and they would have a guarantee that we would purchase all of it. We will buy from them what we can. We also help them with their medical needs by paying their bills when they go to the clinic. I have many ideas running around in my head on how to help these women become more self-sufficient. I am just waiting on the wisdom of God to see how it should unfold. Some have husbands who would drink away their profits. We can’t be every answer to everyone but we can be an answer to someone. One day at a time, one person at a time. Trust me, I always have to remind myself of this. It’s not always easy to narrow our focus.

I pray that this week brings us, you and I, more and more of Jesus’ glory in and through our lives so that we can help to bring His glory here in the place where He has called each of us to.