The aroma of limes, potatoes, cabbages and a mix of other vegetables mingled with the body odor of the guy sitting next to me. My right shoulder and arm dangled out of the car window for comfort as we three men sat smashed together on a seat designed for two, bouncing down the bumpy road. This was the only taxi I could find that was willing to drive the four-hour journey to the capital city after dark.
I make this trip nearly every week with various patients whose health problems are beyond my ability to help—mostly medical emergencies as well as chronic problems that require diagnostic testing and special therapies. If I have just a few patients, I often take a taxi to the hospital and have the patients pay their own fare if they can afford it. This ends up being cheaper than taking my own vehicle when wear and tear and diesel fuel are factored in.
These patients have problems such as thyroid disease, incarcerated hernias, traffic-accident trauma, dangerously high blood pressure, hepatitis, tuberculosis, stomach disorders, mental and behavioral issues and many more. Some of the people we have helped would have died had we not helped them. Others died despite our best efforts to save their lives.
Just last week I received a call about a patient with end-stage liver disease. I had taken this impoverished woman and her husband to a hospital that could provide her the best care possible for free. Unfortunately, her blood had been too toxic for too long, and her brain was damaged, leaving her unable to communicate or care for herself. I figured there wasn’t much the doctors could do for her, but it meant the world to the husband and family that we try.
The doctors looked her over and said there was a chance that her body could go on living with IV fluids and tube feeding, but they offered little hope that her brain function would return. At this news, the husband decided to take his wife back to the comfort of their own home.
I prayed for the sick woman in the presence of about 30 villagers who were crammed into her small house. “Father in Heaven, this family is hurting right now as this precious woman is very sick. God, I pray that Your healing power would come to this woman and make her well. But if, in Your wisdom, You instead lay her to rest, we trust Your plan. Please be with all of the family members here and comfort their hearts with Your presence and love. In Jesus’ name, amen.” The husband told me that if God healed his wife, he would believe in His power, too. I replied that, in His perfect knowledge, God sometimes chooses to heal and sometimes chooses not to. But if we have faith in Jesus now, He promises us eternal life in a place where there is no more disease or death.
I imagined myself in this man’s place. How would I feel if my wife of many years—my friend and the mother of my children—was terminally ill? What if we lived in poverty like this and had no hope of resurrection in Christ?
Tears welled up in my eyes, and I walked over and hugged the man. “This must be very tough to see your wife like this,” I said. He didn’t reply, but his eyes brimmed, and he squeezed me tightly. The family was touched with our effort to help and sent me home with a bag of mangoes. The husband called me three days later to thank me for my help and to tell me that his wife had just passed away.
As medical missionaries for Christ, we don’t always get what we think we want. I wanted to see this woman recover completely and give glory to God. But God in His perfect wisdom saw fit that this woman rest in the grave. Somehow, for her and for those who know her, God knew this situation would in some way be the means for yet more people to gain precious opportunities to know Him for who He is.
Thank you for your faithful prayers and financial support as you help us to reach out in this place where so many are living out their lives in ignorance of their Creator God who loves them with an everlasting love.