This has been a rich Easter season, so thankful to be here with the raw and tangible combination of cross and resurrection. Sacrifice and New Life. Blood and Glory. The way of the cross, apparent defeat, willing laying down of life, working, moving through hard places, grief, loss, effort. Then the waiting, the uncertainty, the hiddeness of God's work. Finally the dawn, the surprise, the glimpse of power, the righting of wrong, the healing and hope.
Our celebration started on Thursday night with what has become possibly our family's favorite holiday, Passover. We use a "Messianic Passover Haggadah" full of Scripture readings and responses as we gather to imitate Jesus' last supper with his closest friends, remembering the deliverance from Egypt, the unleavened bread and bitter herbs, the cups of wine. As we meditate on these things we listen to music by Michael Card. Our Kijabe team now includes the Massos as well as Bethany Ferguson and the Maras. Just like Jesus, we had 13 at the "table" this year. This is an evening full of concrete, edible, touchable lessons, geared towards the children, warm and deep, with delicious food and fellowship.
Friday shifts gears to a day of worship and fasting. After early morning hospital rounds we went to the local AIC church service, then back to the hospital. It is a holiday but both of us were on call, so spent a significant part of the day and night caring for patients. Plenty of evidence for the world as a broken place in need of miracles. At one point I was making space in our HDU for a toddler who had been injured in a car accident; his mother had been killed along with six other people, and his father was in surgery. Then I was called to see a little girl with advanced AIDS whose mother had brought her to be checked but was reluctant for admission. As a single mother living in one of Kenya's most notorious slums in Nairobi (Kibera) she did not have the funds. At first I was trying to accommodate her desire to be treated as an outpatient back in Kibera, but then I thought about what would reflect Jesus' work on this day. This little girl was crying from hunger. I could not send her home. I handed her mom some money to buy food and arranged for our Needy Children's Fund to pay for the admission. Later in the evening our family watched Mel Gibson's "The Passion" which is artistically and Biblically rich, overwhelming, and helps to make the history of Jesus' crucifixion real.
I got back from resuscitating a baby who had a difficult delivery about a quarter to 1 am, then Julia and I joined a small group of missionaries up at RVA from 2am til almost 9am for the Secret Church. A pastor in Birmingham Alabama with experience ministering in places where Christians are persecuted and come together for intense hours of Bible teaching offers this marathon of teaching and prayer for Americans on Good Friday. In our time zone the simulcast falls in the middle of the night. Lots of Scripture and solid instruction; the focus of giving up sleep for something more sustaining, the camaraderie of spending the night with friends.
Saturday, an interim day, between the intensity of Friday and the celebration of Sunday. Rest, preparation, cooking, anticipating.
Then Sunday, the day when history shifts, the inevitable decay to chaos turns back towards renewal, beauty, life.
We arose with the first hint of daylight, to read the story of the resurrection and have breakfast outside as the clouds turned pink. After a long Lent of drinking only water, our first cup of coffee was a bit of a taste of resurrection, and I made pain au chocolate
for the first time, quite a treat. Then up to RVA for their 7 am Easter Sunrise service, a good sermon and fellowship as the sun peaked over
the ridge. Then over to the Kenyan church for their Easter service, familiar hymns, beautiful music. And then home to cook up a feast to share with friends, gathering in another dozen or so guests to join our family, visiting residents, a new Rwandan/Burundian family, team, friends.
And so we live the Good Friday and Easter Sunday, both this weekend and throughout our weeks. And we get foretastes of resurrection over and over. This week I returned (after our sojourn in Uganda/Rwanda/Burundi) to find some of my sickest patients, kids I had struggled to keep alive, improving and going home:
Baby H has spina bifida and other problems. The general consensus was that he would not survive an ICU admission. But when I talked to his mom, and prayed, we decided he deserved a chance to overcome his pneumonia. So glad we did!
Sweet little M came to us almost two months ago with a rapidly progressive paralysis due to Guillan-Barre syndrome. She spent a month on a ventilator, unable to move or breathe, the tube entering a tracheostomy. Now she can sit, move a little, and SMILE. While she has a long way to go until she's running again, we are very encouraged by her recovery, and her mom is now able to care for her at home.
And R, a teenager who came to us severely wasted, with intractable fevers and lung disease. We reviewed his records and treated him for every infection known to man, investigated for cancer. His heart nearly gave out, he developed blood clots, we thought he would die. Thanks to consults-by-email, prayer, trial-and-error, we finally decided to try stopping all his anti-infective medications and treat him as a patient with auto-immune disease. And finally, he improved, and went home for Easter.
This weekend another little girl who was having a stroke from sickle-cell-anemia got a complicated all-night partial exchange transfusion, and the next morning I found her smiling and able to talk and eat. A baby with severe lung damage from inhaling meconium who was not improving with maximal ICU care (I prayed with his weeping mother at 2 am, asking for a miracle without much faith or hope) . . . suddenly improved, oxygen levels climbing from the 30's to 100%, and looks like a survivor.
These are the stories that keep us plugging on, the places where the all-things-new power of Jesus reaches down into real life. Long nights, lots of cooking, house full of friends, work, and worship, the fabric of daily life, suddenly shimmers with glory. He is risen indeed.