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Friday, March 15, 2013

Swallowed, stinging

Then shall be brought to pass the saying "Death is swallowed up in victory."  O Death, where is your sting? (1 Cor 15:54-55)

Our community is feeling the sting, even though we wait for the swallow of victory.

And from a source we don't usually count in our top ten Africa worries. Cancer.

As I write, two women in my age range, both former missionaries here who are wives of former Kijabe doctors, are dying of metastatic breast cancer in the US.  Both are surrounded by friends and family, both have passed beyond the possibility of anything but an 11th hour miracle to delay their final journey.  Both are women of faith who will leave behind teens and older kids who still need them, much as Betty Heron did over 12 years ago.

As I write, I know of a team of 20-30 somethings with the second diagnosis of cancer in two years.  This is a small team.  This is a relatively cancer-free age group.  Both were diagnosed because of persistent symptoms that may or may not have been related directly to the cancer, but led to life-saving investigation.  Both should recover with surgery and medical care, but not before a road already marked by suffering becomes a lot harder.  And not before the people they went to serve miss them, terribly.

As I write, a family from the other major mission hospital in Kenya holds a memorial service for their 13 month old daughter who died from a brain tumor.  She went into cardiac and respiratory arrest Tuesday night, had a CT scan revealing a large aggressive mass, and was brought in critical condition to Kijabe on Wednesday for surgery.  Her family had only arrived in Kenya five weeks earlier, a doctor dad and a mom with 3 boys and this little girl who kept vomiting.  Their eloquent journey of faith is told here:  In spite of excellent surgical and ICU care, we could not reverse the damage this tumor had already done, and she died yesterday morning.  This dad's blog response is absolutely worth reading.

That's five saints in a week, ages 13 months to 50-something, one dead, two dying, and two figuring out life with surgery and chemo and radiation and delays.

Which just reminds us that this world is a broken place, where innocent people are caught in the crossfire of evil.  But where community and love and prayer and hope bring beauty all the same.

I'm way on the periphery of all these stories, praying for the ladies with breast cancer in my Thursday prayer group, emailing and talking with missionaries on distant teams, and helping coordinate and mobilize the less-then-24-hours of intense effort for the toddler.  When she arrived in a flurry of doctors from her own mission hospital and our normal ICU staff, I could see pretty quickly that extra hands were not needed.  So when the surgeon asked for a donor for O+ blood, I jumped on giving the one thing I could offer.
Which wasn't enough.

But which symbolizes pretty powerfully all we do, be it prayer or diagnosis or surgery or baking or driving or fundraising.  It's our life, our blood, sweat, and tears, pouring out for redemption, an imitation and partnership with Jesus.

Because God didn't rewind the world to erase evil.  And He doesn't stop evil on every front at every moment.  But by the blood and by word (Rev 12:11) we are part of that death-swallowing victory, the one that overcomes evil in the end, that writes a good ending to all these stories that look pretty dismal at the moment, that transforms five cancers into a weight of glory.


lisa said...

Thank you, Jennifer. When I read yesterday of Hannah's passing, I said bad words to God. I asked Him what the point was, only I added some language in and around that sentence. I'm not proud of my response but I'm thankful he is big enough to take my rants in his stride, comforting me by simply being such a good listener.

mama mpishi said...

I've had 2 thoughts this morning: God hates cancer even more than we do. AND His greatest desire to to bring glory to Himself. I must confess that I cannot see how these 2 fit together in any way, as miraculous HEALING is how I would prefer He show us His glory. But I'm grateful for a God beyond our comprehension and looking forward to "light bulb" moments in heaven when we will see clarly HIS glory eternally.

Carrie said...
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Carrie said...

I am constantly being amazed by God and how he works. I found your blog through a search I was doing for Good Friday devotions for our family. I stumbled upon a blog that had a great little devotion. I glanced over to the list of blog links to the right and for some reason yours caught my eye. I decided to click on it and after reading a few entries I suddenly found myself reading a story that was very familiar to me. I have been requesting prayer for little Hannah and her family for the past few weeks. I don't know the Kelley family personally (they are friends of a friend). Aaron attended the same medical school as my husband, we were starting when they were finishing. I am the mother of 5 and have been so touched by this family and there testimony. We serve an Amazing God. Thank you for the work that you and your family are doing for the Lord. My husband and I have always had heart for missionary work but we are still waiting to see what the Lord has planned for us. We will continue to pray for the Kelley family and the work they are doing and for your family as well.