rotating header

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Dec 4th

Four years ago on this day, Dr. Jonah Kule died of ebola.  We were in Bundibugyo, and he had admitted himself to Mulago Hospital in the capital, where he had gone to pick up his daughter from boarding school before he fell ill.  He died alone, in a tent pitched on the hospital grounds for isolation, with his last words being that no one else should die of this terrible disease, and that he was now going.   That is a long story for another time, but suffice it to say that that night when we got the call from the MSF team that night, in the darkness of pre-electricity Bundibugyo, we were stunned, grieved, frightened, bewildered, numb, disbelieving, crying, despairing, praying, a gamut of emotions.  Standing outside to maximize the weak cell phone signal, talking to the doctors, then being the ones to call and tell his wife, all of us in tears, Scott and Scott Will and later our neighbor Tibererwa, recounting how this happened.  And wondering, what was God doing.  How could He allow such injustice and suffering.

Tonight we sit in cold soggy Kenya, just below the equator, with unseasonable rains drenching us, waiting to hear if the Kenyan doctors will all go on strike at midnight.  There are issues of justice and corruption here as well, though a strike seems like a far cry from a doctor who laid down his life to serve the sick.  We hope that the government will negotiate and avert the collapse of the public hospital system.  If they do not, we will find ourselves being the only functioning hospital in the district, working without any of our interns and some of our consultants, and adding onto our already-stretched capacity the overflow of patients who can not find care in their usual places.  

Two thousand years ago, God chose to show up in the darkest time of the year, in obscurity, and in danger.  One of my advent meditations pointed out that He did this to show that if He can be present there, in Bethlehem, He can come anywhere.  To Bundibugyo during ebola, to Kijabe during a doctors' strike.  Because our hope is not in God changing our circumstances immediately, but in God Himself.  In His ability to bring light into the darkness, redemption into death.  Unlikely though it is, it is in these places of dense night, of loss, that we find Him choosing to be with us.

I talked to Dr. Jonah's wife Melen on the phone today. She is a strong and admirable woman who has endured too much.  Yet the nursery and primary school she founded are thriving.  Her oldest daughter is entering her last year of high school.  Her son, born after his father's death, is a joy to her.  Five young men are now in medical school because of Jonah's death.  Three have written to us in the last week with good news of classes passed, of learning, of eagerness to serve.  Our team in Bundibugyo works hard, too hard, to keep that small light  burning.  But they have moments of beauty too, of connection, of redemption.  Because we are still in the story, we can't fully make sense of today, or of the 4th of December 2007.  But if we look all the way back two millennia, perhaps we begin to see that the light shined in the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it.

No comments: