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Friday, July 09, 2010

D-Day minus 2

Last NHC Staff meeting: We liked Deuteronomy 29-31 so much I did it again. It was very encouraging to me, and to all I think, to articulate what God has done at the hospital, which is why so much of the Bible keeps repeating those stories of God's victory: a pediatric and maternity ward, clinic buildings, operating theatre, lab, staff housing, protected piped water, electricity, cessation of cholera cases, staff growth from 3 to almost 40, one of the first PMTCT programs in the country, a national quality-assurance exercise in which this was rated as a top health center 4 in the country, innovation in nutrition programs, partnerships with UNICEF, NuLife, WFP, a mama-kit program that became a model for Uganda, escalating health-unit-based deliveries, innumerable life-saving blood transfusions, longitudinal preventive care for sickle cell disease, countless mosquito nets delivered, more than a decade in range of rebels but staying safe from attack, staff increasing their qualifications as many have been able to go back to school, and even answered prayers when people ran into walls of corruption. The list went on an on as long-term staff had their say. My favorite, though, was the sense that our staff Bible studies gave people staying power, that the encouragement of sitting together to be fed spiritually and heard communally had value. In the middle section on today's challenge: choose life, we went over the spiritual challenges they face with witchcraft, fear, greed, pressure to do evil, and looked at the way Moses tells the people that they are not powerless, that their choices have consequences, but that the road to life is always open through the return of repentance. And then again, chapter 31, looking ahead. I asked what people fear about the future: the demoralizing effect of trying to treat patients but not having the medicines and supplies that we've provided over the years to fill the gap; the loss of the referral service of connecting patients to help and programs elsewhere in the country, the ever-growing responsibilities with ever-smaller staff (due to study leaves, maternity leaves, no-shows to work, etc.), and lastly just missing each other's counsel, exhortation, CME, Bible study, friendship. Moses points to Joshua, and I did point to Heidi and Travis, to the hope of Jessica coming, to the stepping up that Assusi and Biguye and Costa and Olupah and Rose have done, to the young men in medical school. But the real answer is not to fix our fears by handing them on to the next leaders, but to say that GOD GOES BEFORE YOU. I mostly wanted to leave them with a vision for prayer, for their direct access to the power of God, so that they turn to Him to solve the sorrows and problems of life at a small rural underfunded health center. I think they got it, because as I said my goodbyes, they were encouraging ME that GOD GOES BEFORE ME too.
Last visits from hopeful people: everyone still has one or two problems they'd like Scott to solve. Hard. Keep praying, especially for him. Last yard sale: well, almost the first, though Debbie F did one once. Quite successful actually. Though it has been mentally exhausting to decide what is so worthless or potentially harmful it should be burned, what is nice enough to be presented as a gift to a specific person, what is potentially useful to our team to leave here, what we might want to use in Kenya, what we might save (yes, the doll-house made by Scott's dad and the rocking chair made by my great-uncle are in storage for my grandchildren now), what we need to travel with to America . . . and what we want to purge out but might be useful to someone else. Over the last few weeks we've filled a large side room of the community center with the latter. Team added and subtracted a bit. Then Friday morning we opened, and cleared within 30 minutes (!), ALL the junk. And raised just over 100K shillings ($50) for book shelves in a new library. Not a bad start.
Last day of RMS: Miss Anna put together a brief and sweet commencement, with certificates and a speech and funny awards in honor of Jack and Julia's nine (?!!) years at RMS. And more importantly, made chocolate cake! We are so grateful for, as I put it, the great cloud of witnesses, the many other RMS teachers represented by Anna. We could not have lived here without them. I am grateful.
Last dinner with Melen: darkness falling, then rain falling thunderously, drenching, lightening and thunder, as we dug into hot kahugna and matoke and chicken and sombe, sitting in the building she has constructed in Nyahuka. Melen presented us with a whole bag of gifts, outfits for all, and we hugged and cried and prayed. We will miss each other, greatly. It has been an honor to walk this hard road with her.
And last hairstying session: I am being plaited. That is the term used for hair-braiding. It is a celebratory way of entering this culture and showing I value their sense of beauty . . and also a great slow-down way to spend a day with friends. So for about six hours today I sat on a woven reed mat on the cool floor of Assusi's house while Olupah's house-helper patiently teased out tiny stands of my thick long hair to tame by braiding it into long neat strands. Olupah sat with me with her kids, and we prayed for staff and patients. Assusi joined in the braiding, and we talked and reminisced. At other times I was alone with the hairdresser, and read my Bible and thought. A patient and his grandmother visited, and a young woman whom I paid one years' school fees for many years ago who is now a primary school teacher, just coming to sit with me. Three of the staff little-girls whom I enjoy sat close, watching, for long periods. Except for my scalp being tugged and the floor getting a little hard it was a lovely, African-women-way to spend one of my last days. Only problem is, at 5 pm, Olupah checked in and shook her head, and said "oh, doctor, I don't want to discourage you, but . . " and then I knew that there was no miracle coming, that the six hours invested had brought me 2/3 or 3/4 of the way, but not quite far enough. So tomorrow they're all coming up to my house to finish.
Three roosters, six outfits of clothes, and a pineapple. . . Packing gets trickier by the hour.

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