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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ka-Celebrations and The Celebration

In the midst of sadness, we still have some ka-celebrations. Ka is the Lubwisi prefix for small, and though my heart is heavy on many fronts I will allow it to sing out on a few others. Today Masika went home. Many people have prayed for her. She was admitted on the first day of October and discharged on the last day of October, and in that month she slowly but steadily transformed from a skeletal, barely alive, 6.4 kg little pitiful being, with open sores and peeling skin, to an alert, smooth-skinned brown little girl who could stand and hold a doll and even, today, smile. Mid-month I took her a Raggedy Andy from my kids’ stash, and it rarely left her side. The first week her mother seemed to barely touch her, as if she were withdrawing from this child who would almost certainly die. So her mother’s broad smile and tender holding of Masika today was almost as much worth celebrating as Masika’s improvement.

Then there is Mumbere, one of my favorite HIV positive children, who has grown 7 cm longer since the last time I measured him. His tiny little grandmother who brings him for care on her back complains of neck pain—no wonder, he’s growing on his ARV’s. A ka-celebration. And there is another dear patient of ours, Annelise! I heard her voice briefly tonight before my phone ran out of airtime . . .she sounded weak but herself, somehow a relief after major surgery on her neck, to know that she is still she, her own self and own voice. Another celebration, that her troublesome thyroid was removed by careful surgeons in just the right timing, and she’s recovering in America.

And then there is the help that God sent my way. I somehow thought I’d take it a bit easier from mid-October to mid-November, sort of focus on my family, on good meals and early bedtimes and scheduled study habits as Luke progressed through exams. Instead it has been an intense period of both team distress and severe malaria/anemia/overcrowded wards/staff shortage/lack of medicines at the hospital. . . All the things that make work stressful. The main nurse assigned to Paediatrics for the day shifts during the month of November has managed to be present for 2 of 20 shifts. God knew, and without any effort on my part sent me Mary Irungu, Rachel Locker, and Scott Will. Mary is a very sweet and quietly competent nursing graduate, who worked briefly for Kwejuna project which led to a friendship over the last few years. She finished school but is not yet posted in government service, and about two weeks ago just showed up to volunteer on the ward. Rachel and Scott are two American physician assistants from Baltimore, who contacted us and asked to come and help. They’ve been tremendously active, evaluating patients, dispensing medicines, organizing the work for the 30-40 inpatients on the paeds ward as well as antenatal and HIV clinics, not to mention filling in and teaching at nutrition outreaches. Rachel leaves tomorrow to continue a residency program at Hopkins, while Scott will stay until mid-December.

This morning at prayer meeting we read John 20 and Scott Ickes led us in a meditation. When Mary saw the empty tomb she cried, thinking Jesus’ body was stolen. The empty tomb was the best news ever, but she couldn’t grasp it! She saw reality, but did not interpret it correctly. I wonder how often we do the same thing. We see Chase’s developmental problems and the Grays’ anguish, Annelise’s surgery and changing team plans, hungry children and overwhelming work. We feel the story is not working out the way we thought it would, and it seems like the wrong side has emptied the tomb. Then Jesus can come and say our name, and just His voice and presence changes the meaning of all the events around us. That’s what I sense in Masika’s smile, or Mumbere’s bulk, in Annelise’s voice, in Mary, Rachel and Scott’s hard work. They are the ka-celebrations that remind me of Jesus, of The Celebration, of the empty tomb, the old order of death being reversed. So pray we’d hear His voice in our day to day encounters, that we’d wake up to realize that the empty tomb is not a disaster but rather good news.

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