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Saturday, March 07, 2020

Numbers Matter: on leadership, sacrifice, and the God of details

Numbers is the book for early March in my read-through-the-Bible plan. 
Numbers are also required by our Serge leadership as we monitor and evaluate our work.
This is my Bible and it happens to be sitting on a document about metrics . . . 

And my computer this am.

And numbers are a big part of our daily life in a world of epidemics. We are looking at data on Ebola, measles, influenza . . and COVID-19, frequently, writing guidance for our Area, interacting with other leaders, making travel decisions, part of two different crisis committees.

From this particular read through the biblical Numbers, I am struck by the incredible attention to detail. Individuals matter. Persons count, one by one. The exodus of a nation of hundreds of thousands of people through a desert required attention to public health: rules about rashes and molds, rules about hygiene for sex and burials and animal slaughter.  Numbers alternates between repetitive counts, poetic blessings, and gripping stories.  There is artistry in the golden candle stands and tragedy in the attempted coups, lament in the plagues and provisions for the parties.

And chapter 7 details a leader from each of the 12 tribes bringing their own specific sacrifice to the newly dedicated mobile worship tent, the artistic tabernacle. Each day for twelve days, a specific leader from a specific tribe brings a sliver platter of a specific weight, a silver bowl, fine flour and oil, a gold pan filled with incense, a young bull, a ram, and a male lamb, a kid goat, two oxen, plus five more each of rams, goats, and sheep. And like a children's book, each day the same tally is repeated and recounted.  It's a very long chapter. At the end the entire twelve days of offerings are tallied up, and the final verse describes the voice of One speaking from above the mercy seat to Moses. I have read a lot of very helpful and good resources about leadership, but this chapter rings most true. A foundational aspect of being a leader is being required to offer to a level where we feel the impact. For us, that is rarely silver or goats (though to be honest this week the we donated a goat to the CSB staff for a party to celebrate exam results!). But it is time, attention, walking down to someone's house, prayer, study, research, advice, lugging boxes or cooking meals.  It is distance from family, or uncomfortable circumstances.  It is lack of freedom to do what we want. It is downward mobility in the organizational chart, or late nights still at a desk. It is absorbing blame or dissatisfaction, it is letting go of the expectation of justification. It is a lot of things more difficult to count, it is the tears that God numbers in the bottle (Psalm 56:8). 

At the end of it all, it is the presence of God that we long for. That presence is convicting and exacting; even Moses who sacrificed more than we can imagine, who was offered multiple times by God to just give up on the recalcitrant mob and start over, paid a high price in the end being denied entry into the promised land. But the One who asked so much spoke to Moses of mercy, met him in the desolate places, "gathered him to his people" (which is the most beautiful word for death, and should be on more tomb stones).

So this week I'm thinking about numbers and leadership and sacrifice. There were between 137 and 180 patients in our theoretically 100-bed hospital this week (which we now know because we started having morning reports), 60 or more of whom are on the theoretically 25-bed Paediatric ward (rounding on 1/3 to 1/2 of the hospital validates the feelings of exhaustion?). We had two deaths on our ward this week, one because we could not transfuse fast enough when a very sick baby with malaria came in anemic and we lacked the blood type needed, the other because we could only give oxygen to a few of the kids with pneumonia and not all. Clovis and I have been retelling the Jonah story to our inpatient families, and I counted 75 on Friday morning listening to the Gospel of faith from the fish's belly, hope while still in the darkness before healing is sure. We have 357 students now at CSB, and those numbers have meant a lot of Scott's time sucked into projects to make new beds, new desks, new budgets. Our team now has 14 adults and 15 children.

And while the COVID-19 numbers explode around the world, East Africa remains a territory where either the virus has not reached, or the testing is not being done. Our health systems are fragile and stretched and it is entirely possible on this continent to not distinguish one viral epidemic from the next . . . I think. But we are bracing for the impact of another wave of illness and death, soberly aware that there may not be oxygen to go around and we KNOW there won't be intensive care. Meanwhile it is now 16 days since the last positive Ebola case in DRC over our border, and our team there starts to breathe a cautious sigh of relief. The background of bigger problems remains: malaria, more malaria, sickle cell, AIDS, road traffic trauma, diarrhea with dehydration, malnutrition, premature births, obstructed labor. These will kill many times more people around us in the coming months than coronavirus will, but all are important, all are worth fighting against.

In all of this our hope is in a God who sees us, who knows the numbers, who cares for the details, and who is at work in all things to bring good and glory.

Team tweens hanging out on the slack line

Dr. Ammon and his wife Nurse Esther, preparing the new NICU to open (gulp!!)

Anna is a real woman: carrying two at a time . . . 

B from the McClure fam making friends at CSB

These two devour books

Numbers we don't like to see--plummeting weight in a malnourished child

Our newest team cuties with their freshly imported colors

The above-mentioned goat party, celebrating good exam results with the teachers who made it happen!

The number 4 is approaching for this one next week

National supplies of medicine, much delayed, much welcome

Helped a tiny bit as Dr. Isaiah moved to his new apartment (one of the doors in this courtyard). He is one of the dozen Kule Leadership Fund scholars, now blessing us all.

Burgeoning student numbers means more desks had to be constructed!

This clinical officer was teaching our weekly CME on HIV care for adolescents. The highest risk age group for new infections? Adolescent girls. 

She's just the cutest, and this rug makes me happy. Babysitting team kids is a perk of the job.

When you invite a team kid to help you paint a shelf, good idea to choose this one.

Just snapped this because the snowmen in USA-flag gear juxtaposed with a mom showing me her baby's distended abdomen was so . . . paradoxical?

Thankful that Jessie's mom Janet came for a visit, and thankful for the delicious Ugandan food cooked by my neighbor Asita.

A view from the back of chapel of what 357 students looks like

One of Uganda's favorite numbers: two. Twins abound. And when one gets malaria, better check the other one.

Scott found our old dominoes this week, which made it into several fun kid times, and reminded me of my Dad.

1 comment:

Jill said...

I don't know about anyone else but your updates keep me grounded in the whole world reality. It's sobering but healthy to see outside my bubble. I also always deeply appreciate your insights into God's word.