Far outside our comfort zone
Dust billowing behind the LandRover, obscured the two other LandRovers behind it. We have been driving for over an hour through the bush, not on a road, and by dead reckoning. The pastor who was hosting us, had been living in this area for over ten years, building small churches in the remote villages that were far from each other, but open for some semblance of a God. We were going to one of these small villages, bringing with us medical supplies and God’s grace. Pastor was excited. We were nervous.
Sometimes we are put in positions that are far outside our comfort zone. We shy away from the challenge and retreat back into our circle of protection from the outside world. It’s safer there. No need to worry about the unexpected, the intrusion, nor the fact that we may not be able to handle what is given us. I find myself there often as well. Safe, protected and sure of what is. However, this time, on this dusty road to who knows where, I didn’t feel safe, protected, and I did not know what “is” was. So, I gave it all up and asked for protection from the One who has the greatest security force in the world: trust in Him. I felt better, but ashamed just a little bit, that I had some doubt as to His protection. Shame on me.
A familiar place
We arrived to a small gathering of villagers, mostly women and children, all singing welcome songs, dancing and greeting us with outstretched arms and hugs. We were dirty from the drive, sweaty and dusty, and when partnered with the hygiene of the villagers, even a HAZMAT cleansing would not have been enough. We set up the clinic and began. Hot, dirty and happy now that we knew what we needed to do and where. Fear of the unknown is often that which paralyzes us. We were good now. We were in our comfort zone, practicing medicine, praying with patients and doing His work. Until it happened.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the child fall to the ground. Her mother quickly picked her up and began running towards us. We have contingency plans for emergencies and went into an emergency mode, the identified emergency team members quickly surrounding the child, emergency medications brought and we began the resuscitation. The child had had a very complex seizure, wasn’t breathing all that well and was quickly fading. We breathed for her, gave her medication to stop her seizure, placed an IV and gave her fluids. After a few minutes she stopped seizing, began breathing on her own and was stable.
But she didn’t wake up. Her mother was continually crying, pleading, villagers also, and the scene was getting tense. Our interpreter said that the villagers believed that we brought a curse into their village and that that the child was evidence. Not a good thing to hear and a place to be in. The pastor who spoke their language tried to reassure them, but to no avail. I stood and asked the pastor to translate for me.
“This little girl has had a convulsion. She is stable now and it will be awhile before she wakes. I don’t know what caused her convulsion, but I will do my best to find out. It is not a curse. If it was, why did it only affect her? I ask you to trust us, to help us and to give us time.”
The villagers were skeptical, some afraid of the “curse”, others afraid of us. The medical team gathered around the little girl, placed our hands on her, and we prayed. And, in a few minutes, she opened her eyes and looked around. The villagers were silent. They did not understand what had happened. But we did.
God’s Hands, God’s Grace
We are simply God’s hands and serve those who come to us for help. It is He who decides the outcome. We are expected as medical professionals to do our very best, to use our experience, our training our gifts and talents to diagnosis and treat illnesses that are presented to us. Above all we are asked to be present when present. To be there for our patients, assured of our intent to serve and comforted by God’s hand.
The little girl over the day, recovered, and we found that she had malaria and her fever is what caused the seizure. We treated her malaria and fever and gave her mother additional medication for seizures if more occurred and instructed her on how to use it. As we were leaving, there was again singing and dancing, embraces and promises. Promises of prayer for each other. We gathered around the little girl one more time, the medical team and the villagers, hands raised high above her, and we prayed, each in their own way and ours. It was not what we brought, but what we left behind. God’s grace was all around us.
In all things give thanks,
Fear of the unknown is often that which paralyzes us.