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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Reminders of War

Ten years ago today . . . we were in Bundibugyo, the day seemed normal, until friends who were tuned into the ubiquitous local-language radio station told us that America was at war.  In those days we had no cell phones, infrequent and poor communication.  I remember wondering, was this the beginning of the end, a massive world war that would erupt.  On one hand we felt safer in Bundibugyo than our relatives near Washington DC.  On the other hand, it was unsettling to imagine all our known world disintegrating, not knowing what was happening to our extended families, feeling stranded.  And we were pretty conspicuous as the only Americans for many many miles in any direction, in a district already known for rebel activity from an Al-Qaeda trained group.  It was not until weeks later that we saw the unbelievable images that everyone else watched on September 11th (sent on VHS tape in the mail from friends).  We did have a satellite radio and I remember all gathering to listen, and to pray.  But for once, we were in a SAFER part of the world.

Ironically, today on the 10-year anniversary, a google-alert popped up in our email.  Wikipedia added an entry today on Bundibugyo ebolavirus.  What appropriate timing, linking disasters.  All the world ebola epidemics combined have not killed as may people as 911.  Yet the two, 911 and ebola, have much in common.  Unstoppable, random, destructive violence, frightening in its sheer evil.

On this day, it is hard to deny the existence of evil.  And even harder when one spends the entire day battling it.  4 am, beeper goes off, power is out, stumble through the house to find a light to see what is happening . . 6 am phone rings, our tiniest preemie is not breathing.  I spend several hours hovering over this 1 1/2 pound fragility, and call everyone I know for help, and end up jamming the smallest endotracheal tube I can through his tiny glottis with some damage.  I pretty much give up on a happy ending to this story, bring his mom in to hold him (another lady with no living child after several pregnancies), and then for want of anything better to do put him back in his incubator on oxygen by cpap as I rush off to another critically ill baby in the casualty department at 9.  This new child consumes the rest of the morning, stridorous, cold, shocky, poorly perfused, marginal.  Thankfully there is an ICU bed, and as I'm reviewing his very abnormal labs that don't quite fit together and make sense, I wonder if he has congenital adrenal hyperplasia, and look up the treatment. I pass back by nursery and the tiny preemie is, miraculously, still alive.  Off to the ward to check on those patients, back to ICU, back to nursery to see a newly admitted baby who sucked in a bit of meconium in the birth process, and just as it looks like I might get to go home we get a call that the OB team is taking a 32-weeker to C-section.  The mom is in her 4th pregnancy after 3 early losses, and now she's in labor, with a foot presenting.  I watch the intern struggle (and I mean struggle) to extract this baby (it turns out the mom has an anomaly of the uterus) and by the time he pulls this girl out she is limp, pale, lifeless.  By the time we start to give her breaths we lose her heart rate.  I don't think I can face another desperately bereaved mom.  But a few minutes of CPR and we have her back, and we set her up with all available therapy.  It's now 3:30 and I have yet to drink, sit, eat, or take a personal moment since dawn.  Meanwhile Scott plows on through his call too, intubating a trauma patient, consulting on the unstable adults.  A lot of evil out there today, grabbing at defenseless babies and elderly refugees alike.

So this evening, in an hour of quiet between running back and forth to the hospital and giving minimal attention to kids and dinner, I pause to remember 911.  And to remember, we are in a war, a war against evil, not against people of any particular ethnicity or cultural background.  A war against the evil diseases that plague our patients, not against the patients themselves (though we can feel beaten down in weariness by this time on a weekend call).  Grant W from WHM posted a link to a Christianity Today article by Russell D. Moore, called the Gospel at Ground Zero.  In it Moore argues that the legacy of 911 is the reality of evil, the insistence that we not gloss over it or package it in muted form:

Where there are no demons, we demonize. And without a clear vision of the concrete forces we as the church are supposed to be aligned against, we find it very difficult to differentiate between enemy combatants and their hostages.

The Scriptures command us to be gentle and kind to unbelievers, not because we are not at war, but because we're not at war with them (2 Tim. 2:26). When we see that we are warring against principalities and powers in the heavenly places, we can see that we're not wrestling against flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12). The path to peace isn't through bellicosity or surrender, but through fighting the right war (Rom. 16:20).

1 comment:

Christy T. said...

Very poignant. And a great reminder.