Wednesday, January 30, 2013


               "I have gifted you with amazing freedom." 

As I read those words in my devotional Jesus Calling I couldn't help but think of the women in Africa.  Freedom means something completely different for them.  Right now as I'm on the cusp of making decisions that will affect the next year of my life, I have the freedom to choose. I have the freedom to choose where I live, what my profession is, who I marry, what I spend my money on, etc.  Many women here don't have the luxury of many of the freedoms I do.  They don't have the freedom to choose who they marry; currently there is a 16 year old patient on the ward who was married at 10! She got pregnant by age 12 and was in obstructed labor, her baby died, and she was left with a fistula.  She did not have the freedom to say "No" to marriage at 10. She doesn't have the freedom to go to school and get an education. She doesn't get to choose what her profession is, or where she spends her money. 

So all that to open your eyes to what you think freedom is. It opened mine. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The new ten

     Ten upcountry ladies arrived tonight. I was sitting with a group of nurses recounting a conversation one of them had with a patient.  The patient, not dry after multiple attempts to repair the hole in her bladder, was telling the nurse that although she isn't healed physically, she is beginning to heal emotionally.  That is a major feat when you consider what these ladies have been through. They are absolute survivors in so many ways. What continually amazes me is the amount of love they offer us so freely.  When asked 'why,' she said "We don't have money, or anything to repay you, so we are paying you with love."  She just wishes her family, many of whom abandoned her after developing the fistula, could see how much "the white people" love her and care for her.

    It has been my prayer from the beginning that despite whether they are wet or dry, they would sense and know the love God has for them.  It's not about the surgeries, or whether they are wet or dry---I just want them to realize how much they are loved by the King.  "If the next surgeries succeeds or fails, what is more important is that I can go back to my village with confidence knowing that I am loved," said Nana when asked how she would feel if she is never healed.

    Today as I thought about starting up another round of VVF, to be honest, I was burdened. It seemed like running uphill again when I just reached the bottom.  I've known the 20 ladies that are on the ward right now for over a month now. I've grown to love them like they are my proverbial children and I can't imagine loving any more ladies like I love them.  That is, until ten beautiful ladies showed up on my doorstep this evening.

     As I answered a page that would notify me that there were VVF patients on the dock, my excitement grew tremendously.  One of the nurses and I excitedly ran to the gangway and as we looked out we could see the ladies congregating around the taxi.

      I could smell them as I approached---no doubt they were my ladies.  There was a mix of emotions in the air. As we walked up to them, we were bombarded with hugs, kisses, and greetings in local tongues. The sense of desperation was tangible as I checked everyone's name to account for them all. Some began to cry---afraid they would be turned away because they didn't bring ID and their name wasn't on the list.  The tears dried up and smiles returned when I sent the taxi driver away and one by one led the ladies toward the gangway.

     As they stood near the foot of the gangway many of them pointed in the direction of the gangway platform---through charades I informed that indeed they were going to walk up that giant ladder-like apparatus, up a couple stories, to their new home.  Some forged ahead fearless, but the older ladies were reluctant and scared.  One of the translators, a young man, lovingly noticed they were scared and took them by the arm to lead them up the gangway.

     Chitra, one of the Gurkha's--a soldier in the Nepalese army--pantomimed that they must use the hand sanitizer before entering the ship and one-by-one as the ladies passed by the hand sanitizer machine, hands were cleansed.

     We mounted the stairs that would take us into the belly of the ship and their home for the next few days and hopefully weeks as they have surgery and are healed.  I wonder what they're thinking as they mount the stairs; some pause at the top unsure, and others gallantly forge ahead. We reach the corridor that will take them to C ward--a transitional ward, it most recently housed the screening team and hopefully soon will open as a full fledged ward bustling with new life, but for now it's the women's hope center. The ladies will stay here until the next surgeon arrives and examinations begin on Monday.

    As they take the long walk down the corridor to C ward in the quiet of the night I can feel their sense of relief.  I open the door of C ward and find 10 beds all made up and ready for them; Each stocked with a gown, a bag of goodies and a blanket for warmth. There's a warm glow emanating from the ward; the once harsh florescent light has been covered by African fabric giving off a warm cast.

    What happens next is one of the many reasons I love these ladies so much.  One-by-one the VVF ladies on B ward--also awaiting the arrival of the new surgeon--wakes up, gets out of bed and excitedly comes to greet the new ten.  The calm of C ward has been replaced by excitement as greetings and hugs are exchanged, food and water passed out and showers commenced.
     As I leave them to settling in, my heart is so full of thankfulness as God replaces my original fear with utter joy and love for these new ladies.