Being in Togo for close to a year has taught me a lot about myself. It has made me really rely on God every day because frankly there is no other way to make it here. It is definitely not by my own strength or “spirituality” that I can be here. The fact is being here is hard. I had been here before on short stents but something changes in your mind when all of a sudden you don’t have a fixed leave date. There ceases to be that “light at the end of the tunnel.” All of a sudden this is where you live. All of the cute things about a new culture wear off quickly when you live somewhere and suddenly the “cute” becomes frustrating.
But, here I am…..trying my best to do the best I can every day. I have experienced such highs and such lows here. I also continually show my sin to those around me. I know I fail daily. My sanctification process is very much ongoing and frankly it hurts and gets messy at times. The first time I came to Togo, I joked with the other missionaries here that being here was like being at adult summer camp. That has become a very true statement including all the good and bad that comes along with it.
In my last post, I wrote about a sweet baby boy that had become very close to me. Nicknamed Puddles by us, he had been in and out of the hospital for most of his 1-year life. He endured several painful and difficult surgeries and with each one he prevailed against all the odds. However, he continued to have trouble growing. After his last surgery, he lived in the hospital and went back and forth to my home as well for care. His mom would stay for a time and then return to her village to take care of her other kids.
He started gaining weight and things were looking better and better.
He would sit in his bassinet at the nurse’s station and just laugh and entertain the staff and the other patients. He was a joy and I loved him dearly.
Then over the course of 24 hours he decompensated and was gone. This precious little boy was gone, just like that. His death cut a wound in me so deeply that I still feel it today. Why did this happen? Why did he make it through all of those surgeries, start gaining weight, and then the Lord took him? What did I miss? I could play the why game even today and the pain is still there.
One of the other doctors and myself have been out to his village a few times to visit his Mom and Dad. We took her a few photos of him recently. Photos here are a very foreign idea. They are not something people have of each other much less of a child that has died. We had asked if she wanted some and she said yes. I think it was very difficult for her to see her baby boy but my prayer is that the pictures will eventually bring her happiness because she can better remember him and not sadness.
Their tribe is Gangam which is a very spiritually dark tribe here. However, with our visits to their village and talks of Jesus and our hope in Him, they seem more open to hearing and have asked to have the Jesus film shown in their village sometime soon! I will continue to go and visit them to let them know Jesus’s love for them despite their loss and sadness.
I came across this verse the other day and even in its simplicity, I found so much power.
“He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 24
In my opinion, no truer words have ever been written or read. He, being the Lord, who calls you, his child, is faithful and will surely do it.
It here can mean so many things and for me it has taken on many meanings as of late.
It…..is sustaining grace to work day in and day out here when so often the diagnoses are vague and outlooks are grim.
It……is wisdom to say “I don’t know” to a family or your colleagues but continue to try.
It…..is a strength to keep going and keep loving when death comes all too often
It…..is seeing a child, who a week ago looked like she would die, laughing and playing with a new stuffed animal.
It……is traveling to the village of a child that you loved to build relationships with his family and to tell them about Jesus and His love because your mind still cannot wrap itself around their son’s death.
It…..is looking at a schedule and knowing that there’s not enough providers for the work to be done and trusting God to sustain you or provide more people.
It…..is a better understanding of hard situations and difficult diseases like Lassa fever and how to best approach them as they impact the community you live and work in
It…..is crying with the mom of a child that just died and trying to give her some hope in Jesus in the midst of that impossible situation.
It……is waiting and waiting for the details to be worked out so a child can travel to the US for heart surgery and someone donates the exact amount of money needed for all of the airline tickets.
It…..is seeing a patient in clinic doing well after you and others fought for weeks in the hospital to keep her alive and being able to rejoice with her and her husband.
It…..is getting unexpected news from home and deciding to leave knowing that you are adding work to your colleagues.
It means a lot of things to me right now and I am sure in a month, in a year from now it will mean other things.
I don’t have any magic words to say. Whether in Mango, Togo or anywhere else, whatever the It is in your life right now know that He who called you to himself as his child is capable and able to do it.
This blog was written several years ago during my work and time in Togo, West Africa. However, the truths ring true today. I am now privileged to work with CHSC and to oversee a quality improvement initiative to help mission hospitals define their “It” and to bring about positive change. The program is called Iron 2 Silver and we would love to work and partner with you on your journey to better care for the least of these around the world.