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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

5 countries, 15 days, Grace at the Fray

There and back again, by budget sketchy jet, reliable MAF prop plane, canoe, 4WD truck, taxi, motorcycle, foot.  From Kenya, to Uganda, to Congo, to Uganda, to Rwanda, to Burundi, to Kenya. The Area Director portion of our life got short shrift for over three months during the 100-day doctor strike, squeezing in emails near midnight, stepping away from the ward to make phone calls.  But we left two weeks ago by faith to complete a planned visit to several of our teams and a potential new partnership in the DRC.  We left with the promising hope that the strike was ending, but the doctors actually returned just before we did.  It was agonizing to walk away, but we saw God's hand in the journey and believe it was the right decision.  We returned with a great potential for a new team in a new place, with having witnessed some supernatural reconciliations, with a solid Memorandum of Understanding with one of our main partners, with hours of conversations and prayers and connections with people we love.

A handful of Scott's amazing photos can be sampled below; he has not yet downloaded most of them.  But they will help illustrate a few summary points about Serge in East and Central Africa in 2017, what we do and why we go to those fraying edges to testify to God's grace.

The land and the people, the rain pouring green into hills and rivers.  We work in some spectacularly beautiful places, where creation has not been drastically altered by the exploitation of humans.  The humans are there though, in force, the paradox of rural density, curious children popping out to accompany us, to greet, to observe.  God made the thousand shades of green from banana stalks to cassava leaves, and the thousand shades of people with their unique reflections of the Trinity.

Binding the Fray
The unraveling of peace by the forces of evil takes many forms, so teams work holistically in diverse ways.  Drying soy beans, corn, and sorghum to make a porridge to treat malnutrition (above).  Using surgical skills to restore sight to the blind (below).  Building wards.  Translating the Bible.  Teaching school.  Piping clean water.  Sitting with the sorrowful to pray.  Celebrating weddings.  And burials.  Investing in church leaders.  Living out the good news on the sports field.  And on and on, threading grace through rough edges.

Projects and people
We love engineers.  Because we know that the same roads, water, health care, schools that we all took for granted growing up are part of the way God's blessing flows.  So sometimes we need the skills and tools and funds to put up a new 80-bed Paediatric ward, or create low-tech incubators.  But most of our time and effort has been poured into people.  When God wanted to rescue us, He sent His Son.  At Serge we primarily send people to work and live and pray and sweat alongside those who are struggling.  As we put our shoulders to the work together, as our lives intertwine, we are all transformed.

As Area directors, we work most closely with the Team Leaders.  So it is our joy and privilege to listen to them, to pray with them, to wrestle with difficult decisions and ask God for wisdom together, to share meals and family news.  Serge now has 8 teams in 3 countries in East and Central Africa (plus South Sudan on hold because of war).  

We serve at the invitation of our national partners, and part of our job is to honor and maintain those relationships.  In some places we work with a particular church, or a Christian university, or a coalition of churches for health work, or a local government.  But we are always guests.  This era of missions means we collaborate, we walk alongside, we listen to each other.  While we don't hesitate to politely strive for what we believe is best, we have to keep pace with our hosts.  You can pray for all of us in this regard.  It is so easy for cultural chasms to divide us, for our own pride to trip us up.

When families relocate, kids get caught in the nebulous universe of the "third culture".  They are not quite your average North Americans like their parents, but they are not fully embraced by the local culture either.  Enter the MK teachers, who enable families to live in remote places but keep their kids on a grade-level-appropriate pace for eventual schooling in their country of origin.  Concern for kids, their health, their sanity, their safety, their connection to extended family, their adjustment to the new language and culture, their traumas, their learning disabilities or speech delays, their friendships, their development . . . fills a big portion of our Area Director hearts.  Ours looked like these two just a blink of an eye ago.

And the Real Center of it all:  Bodies and Souls, loved by God

1 comment:

Charles Woernle said...

A wonderful post. Thank you. Just met a student who wants to become a medical missionary. I suggested she read your blog posts.