February 03, 2018
It was busy as usual one Sunday morning, with patients filling our front porch as early as they could come. From minor wounds, to birth control pills, to the dizzying spells of malaria, people came from far and near to be seen. We had gotten word from one of the local witch doctors that a man in his village was complaining of severe stomach pain for several weeks now. It was so painfully distended that he could hardly walk. We were so busy that morning, however, that we couldn’t take the time to go that moment over to his village and assess him. They would have to bring him here.
As the carriers of the bakid (a sort of pack that is carried on their heads used to carry people and heavier loads) approached, the grimace on our patient’s face made it evident that he was truly in a lot of pain. His jaundiced eyes and severely distended abdomen began to clue us in that this was probably not a case we could handle with our limited supplies. Upon assessment we discovered that not only did he have a minor case of typhoid, but also some sort of liver involvement that needed further investigation. We quickly wrote a letter of reference, called the receiving missionary in the lowlands to expect a patient, and sent them off to receive further treatment at the city’s hospital.
Not long after, we received word that Maman (Palawano for uncle) Aring, our patient, had returned back to the mountains. Carrie and Justina, two of our other missionary nurses, went to visit him one day. “It’s bad,” he said, “the doctors deemed me inoperable because of my age and low likelihood of survival. I have a tumor in my liver.” With tears streaming down both his and his wife’s face, he reported, “The doctors say I only have 6 months to live. It’s true, I am going to die.” Choking back tears at the realization of their hopelessness Carrie replied, “Oh maman, you don’t have to be afraid. There’s no need to be sad. We can have hope, because we know that if we accept Jesus as our Savior, we can live again forever with Him. Maman, would you like to have bible studies? Would you like to learn about Jesus?”
“Yes,” replied Maman Aring, “I would really like that.” Oh my friends, what could rend our hearts more than this? That people are dying, literally dying daily, without the knowledge of Jesus love for them, without the hope that they could live forever with Him—oh what a wrenching thought! By God’s grace, two of the elders of our church were able to visit him and (as we later found out) re-start his bible studies. Later that week, I also decided to pay him a visit and see how he was doing. He showed me all the medicines he needed to take, and talked of how he was doing. He reported what the doctors had said, and how much weaker he was feeling lately. I shared with Him Revelation 21, and how we don’t have to be afraid of death. We can have hope, that one day all this pain, sin, and sickness will be gone. God will wipe away all tears from our eyes, and we can live in happiness forever with Him one day. “Yes,” he affirmed, “that’s right.” Just last Thursday, Maman Aring went to sleep in Jesus. He unfortunately didn’t last the 6 months that the doctors, his family, and even we thought he would have to live. The news pierced my heart. Oh, if I could have only been more earnest! Oh how I would have loved to hear from his mouth his acceptance of Jesus as his Savior. Though I am comforted to know that God knows his heart, what more of a sobering reminder than this of the brevity of life. Daily, people are breathing their last. Hopeless. They don’t know that there is a God that loves them, and promises them life eternal if they would just accept His free gift. Maman Aring’s burial service of animistic rituals to appease the spirits and care for his dead spirit drove the nail harder—many are truly lost. The following Sabbath I accompanied Kildit, a young Palawano girl, to her Sabbath outreach. Every Sabbath she visits a lady who is well-acquainted with the truth, but refuses to accept it due to strong familial bonds. As Kildit finished her bible story, the subject arose about Aring’s burial service. “Oh no,” replied the lady, “I absolutely was not going to go to that burial service. I don’t want to see any dead body. I won’t be able to sleep at night if I do. I would have too many bad dreams.” How strong the bondage of sin is to those who don’t know or refuse to accept Him! How deep their fear, how great hope is lost. Oh how desperately our Redeemer desires to show them His love, and give them the life of freedom only He can give. Oh the hopelessness and despair that plagues the minds of God’s children. My friends, won’t you now pray? Won’t you pray desperately for the salvation of the lost? Won’t you see the plentiful harvest that is waiting, even dying, without yet being reaped? Won’t you go and share with them the good news that has saved us? Won’t you now give “the things that have been freely given to us by God?”