Medical Intervention for the Gospel's Sake
The Gospel is the focus of all activities, both in Ethiopia and here. At least it should be, if we are Kingdom Christians. Because of the extreme need, this connection is more easily seen in Ethiopia. There we are literally surrounded daily with people living on the edge; it is a blatant need. But meeting those needs requires wisdom. God works through needs, and if we remove all the needs, then a powerful tool is removed from His hands. Needs can be very productive in terms of spiritual life.
The other side of the coin is that we are to work with our hands (i.e., gain an income) so that we have the resources to give to those in need. This is clearly taught in 1-2 Thessalonians.
Three days ago I returned from another trip to Ethiopia. It was the shortest trip we've made....only two and a half weeks. (Usually our trips are 4-6 weeks, but we needed to get back to continue my chemotherapy treatments.) Almost every day we thought, "Lord, now we see why You wanted us to come on this trip!" Many things were dealt with, many problems were solved, many people were encourage, and these could happen only with our physical presence.
Three of these situations were medical. And I'd like to share the details, so you can see the glory of the Lord as He arranges Life.
The first is Akee. While traveling on a rural dirt road, going to meet Christians who had gathered to see me, we passed a group of people walking towards Soyama Town. They were carrying someone on a stretcher. We stopped, turned around, and offered to carry the person in the back of our vehicle. The person they were carrying was about 22 years old. She was greatly emaciated. Her eyes were glazed over. She was so weak, she couldn't lift her hand. We got her story as we drove her to the government clinic.
A year ago the Gujis raided the cattle of their family. Her father went out looking for the cattle. (These cattle represented his entire net worth!) She was carrying food to him when the Gujis attacked her. They shot her in the stomach, then began to knife her. Finally they left her as dead. She was found some time later and taken to a government hospital about 8 hours away. She and her brother are the only Christians in her family. The Burji Church took an offering to help, and she received care at the hospital as long as that money flowed. But when her father ran out of money, she was discharged home.
Her family tried to care for her as best they could. But she continued to deteriorate. She had a Foley catheter draining her urine; it hadn't been changed in a year! She had 3 inch diameter decubitus sores on her right hip and coccyx. She was grossly malnourished. She was obviously in septic shock.
The diagnosis of the government clinic? "She has a thrush infection in her throat. We are treating her for thrush." No IV fluids. No decubitus care. No nutrition.
We transported her, prayed over her, and gave her father 2,000 birr to help him in the cost of her treatment. We considered carrying her to a hospital, but I really doubted she could be helped; she was just too far gone. Oshe (a Burji church leader) was afraid she would die in the car en-route to the hospital; it is rough road. (In that case, there would be a government investigation and much trouble for us.) His concern was valid, and in fact, she died two days later.
Although she died, the Gospel was clearly shown through our kindness, prayer, and financial generosity. But a person cannot come to a saving knowledge of Christ only through kindness, prayer, and financial generosity. So outside the clinic we talked with the father (an unbeliever) and explained very clearly WHY we were doing what we were doing. Many people gathered around us to listen in. The story of Christ's salvation, freely offered to all who believe and follow Him, was laid out before him. He was obviously considering the message, but to our knowledge, he hasn't yet "come over" to Christ.
The second medical case is Tiblett. As I turned around after praying over Akee, I saw in this same clinic room a mother holding a little baby. I immediately recognized the mother. She is Bogalech, wife of an evangelist and past director of the women's ministry in the Burji churches. I had med her twice before.
Here she was, sitting on this dirty bed, with a 4-yr-old boy beside her, and a small little baby in her arms. Her face told the burden upon her shoulders. Her husband was far away. She had 8 children at home. She and her husband had volunteered to sacrifice for the Kingdom. They were joyful in this work.
But what should they do with this little baby. Her name is Tiblett. She was now 1 year old. She weighed about 10 pounds. She had no teeth. She was very under-developed, with poor muscle coordination. When other 1-yr-olds were walking around, she could barely roll over. Despite her physical delay, her eyes were bright and she had a good suck. There was hope.
Bogalech had brought her little child down from the mountains to the clinic many times. It was a 4-6 hour walk downhill, and another 6-8 hour walk uphill. The clinic staff had given Tiblett antibiotics and had put her on a nutrition program. But she continued to fail.
"There's got to be something else wrong with this child," I thought. "We need to have a specialist doctor see Tiblett," I spoke aloud to the mother. Then we developed a plan....we would take Tiblett and her parents with us in the vehicle when we left Burji. We would take them to the big city of Awassa, and visit a pediatrician there.
To make a long story short, we saw a general doctor first: diagnosis: Down's Syndrome. Then we saw a pediatrician: diagnosis: Edward's Syndrome. Then we took her to a big hospital in the capital for an echo-cardiogram. The pediatrician's diagnosis: Down's Syndrome. The echo-cardiogram was not done; the one and only cardiac surgeon was gone from Ethiopia for 6 months!
In the meantime, I was teaching Bogalech about her nutrition. We stopped feeding Tiblett solid food; she couldn't navigate it in her mouth and she was getting repeat cases of pneumonia. Instead, we focused on Bogalech's nutrition: vegetables, protein, carbohydrates, and lots of good water. Within days she improved, and by extension Tiblett improved! Amazing how God has created the mother-child relationship.
At first Bogalech and her husband Wolde were shocked by the news of Down's Syndrome. But within hours they began to see the reality of the Lord in the whole situation. "We are at peace. Even if Tiblett does not have surgery, even if Tiblett dies, we are at peace because we know what the problem is. We know that God made her in this way, and His way is always right." What a testimony! And we witnessed in their faces, their smiles, their laughter, their manner that the peace of which they spoke was more than just words.
So today, little Tiblett is back in her distant village, high in the mountains of Burji, Ethiopia. A pediatrician is coming with our Team in July; we will have an ultrasound at our clinic. Perhaps we can do our own in-house evaluation. If the heart condition is easily repaired, there are 2,000 people on the waiting list for surgery. We're still praying about where to go from here.
But in the meantime, God has gotten to Himself glory, as Bogalech and Wolde have joyfully yielded to His plan for their little girl.
The third case is Melesse. He is about 35 years old. He's been an evangelist for about 10 years, sent by the Alaba Church to the rural areas that are full of active, aggressive Muslims. Many, many times they have chased him, beaten him, etc. But still he is radiant with the love and joy of Jesus, a radiance the Lord reserves for those who fully surrender themselves to obedience.
For 8 months Melesse has been struggling with serious illnesses. He's been to many doctors in Alaba. The diagnosis is malaria, typhoid, typhus, and gastritis. All 4 of these diseases are very, very common in the Alaba district. It's just a very unhealthy place to live. Often the doctors see these diseases so often that they fail to do a full analysis; they just automatically diagnosis these diseases and prescribe medicine.
When we first heard of Melesse, he had been moved to a quiet room. He was lying on a mattress on the floor, groaning in pain. His head had ached severely for weeks! We gave him some pain medicine, and the next morning 80% of the headache was gone. Then we began to feed him healthy food. (This is not possible on an evangelist's salary.) Over the next few days he seemed to improve. But it was clear that he needed a good doctor. So we decided to take him with us to the capital city of Addis Ababa.
But which doctor in Addis?? The city was full of doctors, but the quality of most was highly questionable.
So I got out my Ethiopia Database -- .8 pages of names, emails, and phone numbers. As I looked over the names, I was praying "Lord, show me the right doctor." My eyes fell to Dr. Akeza. Instantly I sensed that he was the one for Melesse. I had met Dr. Akeza only once....in North Carolina, over supper, in the home of Molly and Jason Evans! He was working in the Emergency Department of Roxboro Hospital, but his dream was to return to his home country and establish a medical practice in Ethiopia. Two years after that supper I phoned him. I reminded him of who I was (he remembered easily), and then I explained about Melesse. "Bring him over! I'll look at him." Early the next morning, on the morning of Good Friday, Dr. Akeza came to his office just to see Melesse.
His "clinic" turned out to be a 6-story hospital, complete with pediatric ward, neo-natal intensive care, adult intensive care, CT scan, full radiology and laboratory, ultrasound, echo-cardiogram, and a full array of physician specialists! It is by far the best medical facility I've seen in Ethiopia.
After lab, X-rays and full exam, Dr. Akeza diagnosed Melesse, gave him a prescription, and then gave me a tour of the hospital. We talked a long time about joining forces, medically speaking. Their tele-medicine room isn't yet complete, but we could access their services for our little Galana Clinic. Also, he needs assistance in some education projects.
So where is the glory of the Lord in all of this? His providence! Two years ago, He prompted Molly Evans to invite me to supper to meet an Ethiopian doctor she worked with at a local hospital. Two years ago, God was laying the foundation for His intervention, both in our clinic and in the life of Melesse! We've seen this type of situation many, many, many times! God does indeed take care of His own work and His own people!
What seems like a small thing today becomes the strong foundation for some important thing down the road. How important it is for us to be always Kingdom focused, even in the small things of Life!
Yes, for Kingdom Christians, the Gospel is the focus of ALL activities in life....both in Ethiopia...and here.
And the full peace, joy, energy of the Lord Jesus is reserved for Kingdom Christians who are living the Gospel.
April 8, 2010
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.