“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…” Hebrews 12:2
As I sit here trying to decide how to begin this update, many things are whirling around in my mind, making it hard to choose a direction to go in. It’s been awhile since I’ve written and much has transpired. Patients have come and gone; our missionary team shrank dramatically and only now begins to grow again; the hospital staﬀ I work closely with continue to push through times of slow growth and uncertainty; Nigeria as a country remains stuck in economic recession and political apprehension as the president is hidden out of sight unwell; and in my own heart I see signs of maturation, proof that life has not been static! Yet as I write out details, hoping to draw you into the going-on’s of Egbe, I find myself hitting the delete button and watching the words erase in reverse, specifics that can’t capture the essence of what I want you to see.
As in life, there are times when details blur the bigger picture, when particulars distract from the central message. There are times when the only perspective that genuinely reassures is the one that comes from above. So what is that view? From my current position, I think it’s this: God is active and on the move!
He is operational and hard at work; up to his elbows in the messy but eternal business of changing hearts, shining light in dark places, and bringing to actualization his perfect intent inside of human beings. Some days I catch a glimpse of this work happening in me or the people around me and other days there isn’t much to convince that greater things are taking place.
Into all this reflection enters a simple life-tested truth. It is written as a single word which perfectly captures what it means to live with a heaven-centric view in the middle of human-filled earth — FAITH. Oh, sweet faith! That willful act of trusting completely in something that you can’t fully see. The decision to remain convinced even when the physical evidence is scant to none. It’s true that a living faith isn’t always easy. When what I see, hear, and experience buzz around the surface consuming the majority my thoughts and emotions, when the great hubbub of details and the daily nuances of life, although necessary and beautiful become distracting. In truth, I’m finding it takes eﬀort and focus to continually re-adjust my sight upward; up to Jesus, the one actively writing my story of faith. With all this said, you’ve probably already guessed my message this month! Life in Egbe = A labor of faith.
“I just admitted another one! How many more times is this gonna happen until these people stop?” Frustrated and needing to vent, I plopped down in a chair in Sue’s oﬃce having just admitted a 4 year old girl, Rachel, who was comatose. It wasn’t just malaria she was fighting against, oh no, her little body was also engaged in a critical war against the toxins circulating in her system. I didn’t want to accept it, yet here she was, another child felled by the dreaded cow urine concoction.
(CUC) given to parents by local “herbalists” to treat seizures. I’ve written about this awful stuﬀ before, and it continues to haunt my practice here. Now that we are in the midst of rainy season, cerebral malaria is at its peak and parents are seeking out the cheapest way to cure their kids, but it’s not curing them it’s killing them.
I’ve already certified the deaths of three children this month who all succumbed to the eﬀects of CUC. So far the stat sheet isn’t too cheerful — cow urine concoction 3 : life 0. With this track record nagging at me, I continually prepared myself for the inevitable as I saw Rachel over the next few days. Our wonderful pediatric nurses were giving it their all, but her condition wasn’t improving. By day three, however, I was forced to admit something, she wasn’t improving…but she was still alive. In my limited experience treating CUC, being alive by day three with such a heavy burden of poison is very unusual. I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of it. She was just barely hanging on, so we hung on too.
The following morning as I made my way around the pediatric ward, the nurses and I stopped at Rachel’s bed last, she was still lying unmoving and the head nurse explained that nothing had changed overnight – she was no better/no worse.
Squatting down so that I could be close to her face, I proceeded with my daily routine of a greeting this little girl — it was a greeting I will not soon forget. “Good morning Rachel! How was your night?” Before I could continue, her little eyes opened! Heavy lids sluggish but determined lifted to reveal a beautiful set of serious dark eyes, staring back at me. I wish I could have seen her thoughts right then, mine where ecstatic!
Rachel was awake! So sure that she would die, it was only yesterday that I let myself begin to hope that she might recover. What a lesson, a challenge really, to my faith! I had prepared myself every morning to see her bed empty, but God was preparing a very diﬀerent story. I thought she was dying, he knew she was just sleeping. He saw past all the lamenting and complaining going on by myself and those around me, he saw past it to the moment when he would say, “Talitha cumi (little girl, arise)”. He did that for Rachel! He did that for me. He allowed me to witness an incredible moment of healing. It was a moment that tested my faith and revealed exactly where my focus had been. Rachel continued to get better, much better. Today she visited me for a follow-up appointment and she was smiling and chatty, we are still fast friends from her time in the hospital.
As the spirit leads you, I am asking that you’d pray for me and the team here in Egbe. Pray that God would continually refocus us to remain in-line with his heavenly view. I also ask that you would pray for the nurses, pharmacy techs, laboratory techs and all the other staﬀ that I am working with (my prayer for them is Eph. 3:14-19). And of course pray for the patients who come daily to our facility seeking medical care and hope. It’s so sweet to know that you are praying and supporting the work that is happening here in Egbe! Your prayers and encouragement have been a blessing, and I wish I had words besides thank you to show my great appreciation!