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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Of saints, beginnings, endings, and a present help

Two friends got married on Saturday:  Agnes, one of our hospital chaplains got married here, and from the reports of friends they pulled it off well even though the Kijabe contingent was delayed half the day by the mudslides.  And Matt Allison, who showed up in Uganda in 2004 fresh from college, an intellectual historian taking a pause before his PhD to teach, preferably high school, and gamely allowed us to hand him the preschool and kindergarten.  Matt married Rachel in Philadelphia where he now works for WHM, and we are enjoying the smattering of photos starting to crop up on facebook.

Two weddings, two beginnings, four saints embarking upon lives of commitment and service and reflection of God's glory.

And one saint reaching the end of her life.  Though we missed the weddings, this afternoon we did attend a funeral.  We never met Martha Pontier in this life, but we know her siblings, niece and nephew.  A four-generation missionary family whose paths have crossed ours here and there.  Martha was my age, and as an adult had served in Africa almost the same span of time.  She was a healthy woman until a mosquito bit her in Mombasa where she worked, the same week I was there.  She came down with what was later diagnosed as dengue fever, a viral infection that 98% of the time results in a full recovery.  But in a few people, it progresses to a fulminant fatality.

We went to pay respect to a family who has laid down their lives for the good of Africa and the glory of God.  To honor a woman who loved this place and these people, whom her family and colleagues characterized as a person of generosity and dependence upon God.  To remember God's purposes and power when the worst happens.

The mudslides missed our house.  The dengue mosquito bit Martha, not me.  Cancer has struck those who paved the way in Bundibugyo (Betty) and those that followed us (Travis), not us.  Today Pat called, and we marveled again at the underserved mercy of being spared all these years the suffering that our friends quietly endure.

In worship this morning, the pastor read Psalm 46, very relevant to those of us at Kijabe where the earth gave way:
   God is our refuge and strength,
   A very present help in trouble.
   Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
   Though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
   Though its waters roar and foam
   Though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

Praying that for our community tonight.  The earth moved and the mountains gave way.  Our fearlessness is not based on the absence of those things happening, it is based on taking refuge in God.  Please join us in praying for the Kijabe community digging out of mud, for the Pontier family burying a daughter/sister/aunt, for the Johnsons facing chemotherapy, for our college kids swamped with papers and exams, for us turning the corner into another week of challenging patients and stretching work.