February 28, 2018
It’s incredible to think that we are now at the end of this month. Today marks 6 months since I’ve been here, and in about 6 more months I’ll be heading home. Time surely does have wings! I’ve actually reached my halfway mark. This month has had its share of trials. Just this month alone we’ve heard of 7 deaths within our surrounding villages which could have totally been prevented. One of the challenges we face here in these mountains is encouraging people to come and seek help in our clinic. Fear of evil spirits are quite strong here. Many seek help from witch doctors and traditional medicine first before coming to us. Or, being a very shame-based culture, many people are embarrassed or ashamed to come to our clinic for whatever reason. Many times they don’t even come to us, which has been the evident case this month. This month, people from as young as 6 months to the very elderly have died with causes that could have very much been prevented had they just come. A 6-month old passed away from what their villagers say was a bad fungal infection on his head. Another toddler, who was faithfully on our malnutrition program too, passed away from falling off her porch. Then there’s Bayna, one of our students from Emrang. She was one of the top in her class, but because of her father’s refusal to allow her to be seen at our clinic, she died. Hearing these deaths frustrates me a little, because we know these things are completely preventable! I almost came to believe that we were overcoming this obstacle already. Apparently not. Even if we couldn’t have seen them in our clinic, we could have well sent them down to the hospital quickly to receive further treatment at no cost for them. People know our clinic is right here at their very hands, readily available to them for free. They know that our medicines work, and that we are more than willing to take anybody in, no matter what has happened in the past or what the talk down the grapevine is about their family. Patients like our toddler, whose been on our malnutrition program, have come regularly for check-ups and malnutrition support; but when it comes to something as severe as falling off a high porch, her mom refused to bring her. The 6-month-old’s mom was an inpatient in our clinic this past September. Although her family left AMA, she was still able to recover from a very resistant malaria. But apparently she was ashamed to return, because she left AMA. Bayna’s parents refused to believe our medicines work, and chose traditional medicine instead. Earlier last week, I had a patient whose blood pressure has been increasingly climbing. Although she’s willing to change her lifestyle, she’s unwilling to return for blood pressure checks regularly for fear of “andads” or “aswangs,” which are a class of evil spirits that are on the trail. Even though she’s been warned of the danger of high blood pressure, and knows of people who have died of strokes due to high blood pressures, her fear of evil spirits is enough to keep her from coming. It’s examples like these that drive me to my knees all the more, pleading for God’s mercy on our people. Many are breathing their last, though they didn’t have to, without perhaps the chance of even knowing Jesus’ love. And if I’m frustrated, imagine Christ’s frustration! I can almost see Him begging, hear Him pleading: “Can’t you see, my child? Don’t you know? You have something amazing right at your very fingertips! You don’t have to be ashamed, you don’t have to be afraid. My salvation is readily available to you, if you will just accept it. Just believe Me, please! Stop doubting. Don’t think you have to make yourself better before you come to Me. Don’t think you have to fix your family. Don’t be afraid of anything, for My love protects you from things far worse than death. Please, just come.” This seemingly unending challenge has unveiled a picture of the very heart of Jesus and the struggle He’s been enduring with humanity for thousands of years. Here at our very hands is the amazing, life-saving gift of salvation. And yet humanity has clung to fear or shame. We have chosen temporary happiness over what’s eternal. We have broken the heart of our Savior over and over again. Yet He still patiently waits, and pleads, and with open arms readily receives us when we decide to come to Him—even after we’ve refused His offer before. So I patiently wait. And plead. And with open arms readily receive my patients, though frustrated I may be. I freely give of myself, so that my patients can experience what Jesus is so willing to do for them. I forgive and love, and give what little of the gift of physical healing that I can give, so they can experience the eternal gift of spiritual healing that flows abundantly from my Savior’s heart. What else can I do? If that’s what my Jesus did, then I will gladly do it too.