Mercy models the latest in oxygen fashion. She sits perkily in her bed, her heart too weakened by nutritional deficiency for her to walk, her rickets-enlargened head looking heavy on her small body. But she smiles at us, after surviving a debilitating pneumonia, she is almost ready for discharge. And her oxygen prongs pointing uselessly into her eyes instead of her nose show us she's improving.
Naomi is only a couple of weeks old, but has already had neurosurgery to relieve the fluid pressure damaging her brain at birth, then struggled with infection until the drainage had to be externalized, and most recently started treatment for a nasty pathogen in her urinary tract as well. But I find her matching pink spiff outfit heartening, the love of a mother who sees her as a valued baby rather than as a severely damaged being.
Abondo was brought in by a community health worker who found her abandoned by her family. Her age and history are unknown, but she seems to be about six and also had a ventriculoperitoneal shunt at some point. She chills with fever, and can barely stand on wobbly legs as she leans on her bed. The community health worker is staying with her in the hospital as a surrogate mom, which amazes me. We're looking for the source of her fever, but mostly trying to feed her. She's hungry, and who knows what other abuses she has suffered, how many days she has spent lonely and neglected.
Most kingdoms boast of those who have explored territories, won battles, written books, passed laws, made speeches, succeeded in elections. Jesus' Kingdom stars the Mercies, Naomis, and Abondos of this world. The overlooked and neglected, the mentally and physically dependent, the fragile. And these three were just cute enough that I snapped pictures on my phone yesterday; there are many more whose appearance conjures more pity than hope. I confess that sometimes as I move from bed to bed, and see these little wasted bodies barely clinging to life, I become frustrated. I want someone with a simple defined problem that can be treated and cured. Yes, I miss malaria, odd as that sounds. On our service of thirty-some patients, few are straightforward. Many will never reach adulthood. Some will never walk, or even talk. We're excited when we can get a child weaned from oxygen, and don't expect a lot more.
So I need to remind myself, of such is the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a holy and awesome privilege to walk the halls of those welcomed by Jesus.