rotating header

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Kenya Doctor Strike: on gardening, and thoughts of the heart

Some days I think of this as my garden.

Rows of babies, growing.  Attention to the watering and weeding, the IV's and Ng tubes and fluids, the blood draws and (yes it's true) lancing abscesses and exams.  The temperature regulation.  The atmosphere, just enough oxygen, not too much. 

And every day, the weights, looking at who is growing and how much.  When they hit 1600 grams they move into a crib under the heater, when near 1800 into the cribs in the next room.  Tonight I noticed we're back to doubling up babies in the cribs as we hit 31 babies admitted.  There was one nurse on duty.  So we each fed one of the twins whose mother bled to death in an ambulance on her way being transferred from a government clinic with no doctor.  Another strike fatality.  Three babies like that in the nursery now, only a tip of the iceberg of strike-related maternal mortality.

The steamy heat of the Newborn Unit and the rows of growing little beings . . . and my daughter's passion for soil and plants, had put this analogy into my mind this week.  So this afternoon as part of a mostly sabbath day (before problems pulled me back in anyway) I was reading Tim Keller's Every Good Endeavor, and this paragraph on work as cultivation jumped out:

We are to be gardeners to take an active stance towards their charge.  They do not leave the land as it is.  They rearrange it in order to make it most fruitful, to draw the potentialities for growth and development out of the soil.  They dig up the ground and rearrange it with a goal in mind:  to rearrange the raw material of the garden so that it produces food, flowers, and beauty.  And that is the pattern for all work.  It is creative and assertive.  It is rearranging the raw material of God's creation in such a way that it helps the world in general, and people in particular, thrive and flourish. 

Active stances, aiming for thriving and flourishing.  Yes.  

This period of work intensity on the one hand, and trying to understand the motivations and goals of the strikers on the other, pushed me to Keller's book.  Also Romans 8 came in my Bible reading today, all creation subjected to futility, waiting for hope.  A lot of my days seem subjected to futility. How can my work become more like God's, creative and assertive and perfectly producing goodness, instead of falling hopelessly short?  How can I invest my heart and soul into this little garden without losing sight of the real Gardener when too many deaths lead to discouragement?  

And how do my Kenyan colleagues see this whole thing?  I can't fully answer that (comments welcome) but I've come to see a few things.  For most Kenyans, equality of sharing, fairness, a wide and inclusive disbursal of resources is a high value.  For them the strike is about rectifying the government's refusal to share the national bounty.  They look at the corruption and say, why shouldn't we get more out of these jobs?  The fact that people are dying is not seen as so directly related to their work.  People die all the time, and the forces which cause that are not always considered to be under our control.  There's a certain amount of fatalism here.  So while I agonize because I feel like my job is to keep the patients alive, even though almost every day I fail, I am not sure my colleagues overestimate their power or responsibility in the same way.  So they don't necessarily directly connect their strike to the poor outcomes.  In fact I think many see the strike as a way to get more resources not only for their pockets but for the hospitals (even though only 2 lines in the 27-page CBA really talk about this, I do believe that it is on the heart of the best docs).  Most people are more motivated when they feel less futile.  Me too.

Please to pray tonight that the strike will end.  And that more strikes will be averted (mission hospital nurses threatening at midnight tonight, similar disgruntled dissatisfaction with obscure accountability of resources and a sense they have been short changed; government nurses threatening to re-strike March 3.) . But while you're at it, pray that we grow in a godly view of work, and understand this culture's views with grace and empathy as well.  

Here's someone who would like all of us to work with heart and passion and skill, as human beings tending God's garden!

1 comment:

Cindy Berkland said...

Jennifer, Your potent words leave me yearning for more...More help for you and Scott, More accountability held for the corrupt county and national government who spent the money that was designated for health, More understanding and compassion for the Doctors to return to their patients, More strength and compassion for those Nurses caring the load that has been put on them and More prayers for this strike to end and for those involved to return to their professional responsibilities.
May God encircle you all with his love,