Wednesday, November 30, 2016
“Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them. Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it.” ― Rabindranath Tagore
New plans today. I will not leave for Mwanza until Thursday with surgery the following day, Friday morning. Dr. Chris is flying to Dar Es Salaam today to do a favor in exchange for getting the best surgeon in Tanzania (studied in Cuba) to fly to Mwanza to do my surgery. Dr. Chris has also gotten me a different hospital where he knows all the doctors, so I will get the best treatment. This hospital, CF Hospital, was built by an engineer for his five children—one a surgeon, one an internist, one a pediatrician, one a pharmacist, and one a nurse—and Dr. Chris went to school with two of them. Hard to deserve such a good friend and kind man as Dr. Chris. He will fly back early Friday morning so he can assist with my surgery. Shaban will drive me down and stay with me as long as necessary. Recovery should just be three days, but it’s hard to know in advance. Thanks to the many kind and generous people from all around the world including family, friends, folks from my watch forum, former parishioners of mine, former students of Karen’s, and people I don’t even know, we raised all the money we needed to cover the costs of the tests, camera crews, surgery, doctors, and hospital bills. I don’t deserve such kindness but I gratefully accept it. While Dr. Chris is in Dar Es Salaam, his wife (who is also a doctor) will see to whatever I need by coming to my house. Again, how do you deserve such love and caring? While I am recovering in Mwanza, John will be flying to Dar Es Salaam on Saturday to continue working on his rural solar projects. So proud of that boy. I would worry about Karen being here alone, but she is surrounded by people who love her and would do anything for her—and she has her dog, Sissie. By this time next week, I should be back home and returning to normal or as normal as I ever get. There won’t be any blogs from Friday to Wednesday but as a famous Austrian movie star and former governor would say, “I’ll be back.”
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
When I was in seminary, a fellow student from Kuwait had started an illegal, underground church that had over 3,000 members—each one risking arrest and death for attending services which they did every week. The risks they took for their faith were just awesome. Yet, in Norway and England, where the state owns the church and hires the pastors, less than 5% of the people attend church. In Arkansas, the Lutheran church sent Arkansans as missionaries back to Norway to bring people back to Christ. During the Cold War, Rumanians were denied church yet when they got their freedom, over seven million were still Christian and had been attending secret services. It seems if you want Christianity to thrive, you suppress it. If you want it to become meaningless, you give it total freedom. There are Christians all over the world but not all would willingly accept death rather than give up their faith. Far too many Christians are hour-a-week Christians, just on Sunday mornings. I didn’t come up with this, but I like it. If going to church made you a Christian, going to McDonald’s would make you a hamburger. Your faith is defined by how you live, how you love others, how you give, the sacrifices you make as you pick up your cross. I know of a couple in Arkansas who went without air conditioning so that they could give more to Hispanic ministries. I have never forgotten them or their sacrifice. It costs about $100 a month to feed 100 orphan children for a month. How much in your church budget could be going to “I was hungry and you fed me.” I’m one of those Christians (too few in my opinion) who believe there will be a judgement day. We will all to have to answer some hard questions about how we treated those in need, those who were defenseless, those whom we turned away, those whom we didn’t welcome in our churches, those whose pleas fell on deaf ears inside our church walls. There is so much need for love and caring all around you. Christ is not going to feed and clothe those in your community, He is counting on you. Does your church only exist inside its four walls? Better read that 25th Chapter of Matthew again. Christ says there will be a judgement day and that we will be judged on how we cared for others. Mark Twain is reputed to have said, “It’s not the difficult parts of the Bible that keep me awake at night. It’s the parts that are crystal clear.” Christ exhortations to feed the hungry and clothe the naked are not obscure—they are crystal clear. Do others see Christ through your actions toward others? I pray that they do. I know I would never have become a Christian had I been unable to see Christ in others. They were the ones who ultimately led to my salvation. Be the path that others can follow to that peace that passes all understanding. Be the window to salvation for those who want to see. It’s not hard. It’s about being kind, caring, loving, and doing without for yourself so you can give to those in need. Crystal clear.
Monday, November 28, 2016
“Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust and hostility to evaporate.” — Albert Schweitzer
Doctor Chris had to come two more times yesterday. He gave me an IV injection to attempt to stop the internal bleeding that has become a problem. While he waited to see if it was going to work, we had an opportunity for some real conversation. We both agreed that the most important thing in life is not what you have or what you have achieved, it is the relationship you have with Christ and with others. When the chips are down, it will not be your car, your house, or your position in the community that will support and sustain you, it will be your relationships. If you have people who love you, people who will do things for you, people who will pray for you, people who will hold your hand while embarrassing things are being done to your body, people who will drop everything to come to your side—those are your true riches. First, of course, you need a good relationship with Christ for comfort, strength, peace, and ability to withstand the pains and complications from serious problems. That is essential. If you have that, then you will probably have the other relationships you need because that is what Christ preached and lived. You are defined by how you treat others, no exception. If you are kindness personified, then that kindness will be reflected back upon you like bright sunlight off a window pane. If you want people to love you, you have to love people. It’s just that simple. Why do you think a man would ride his bicycle in the middle of the night knowing bandits were out to go to the doctor’s house and bring him to me? You think it’s because he wanted a raise? You think it’s because he wanted better working conditions? It was because he had been the recipient of so much kindness over the last seven years and was proud to be able to do what he could to show his love. I am certainly not in the best of health at the moment, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I have people around me who would do anything for this fat old ugly man. They don’t see me as the mirror does—they see me as they have been treated by me, and this is no aberration. It’s what Christ preached and lived over and over again. It’s the story of good Samaritan, it’s the story of the end times in Matthew 25, it’s Christ forgiving those who hurt Him as He hung on the cross. If you live kindness, you will be surrounded and sustained by it. Want to change your life so that no matter what happens, you will be all right? Be kind. Love kindness. Live kindness. Nothing will so change your life. Christ will be with you every step of the way—the way which leads only to Him.
Sunday, November 27, 2016
I am home for a few days until next Wednesday when I go back for surgery. A specialist, Dr. Mpalumbe, is coming to do the surgery first thing Thursday morning. If all goes well, I will be back in Bunda the following Monday. Things have not been going swimmingly. It was difficult to find the hospital (not like hospitals in the first world, more of an old building remade into a hospital with paint peeling off the walls and windows open to the outside). We started our journey by picking up my doctor here in Bunda who insisted on going with me. We had to dodge vervet monkeys and baboons to get to his house (we do live in the African bush). Once we got to Mwanza, we had to drive on dirt roads that got narrower and narrower until we were stopped behind a small truck that had gotten stuck. We were there for an hour as both Shaban and Dr. Chris helped get the truck going again. The entrance to the hospital you can see in the picture at the right. After the camera crew went in (the light was the biggest thing and really hurt as the medication hadn’t started working yet), the results were good in that we now knew what had to be done. I spent another night there in a hotel so Dr. Chris could monitor my recovery which was a good thing as he had to do some emergency work there. I have no idea what the hotel will think of the bloody towels and sheets we left behind. Then back to Bunda. Things were all right for a while but around four this morning, I had an emergency and one of our workers (all of our workers are so much more than that), Francis, rode his bicycle in the dark to get the doctor from his house (Dr. Chris turns off his phone at night). He came quickly and got things back to near normal for now. He is going back with me next Wednesday to make sure they treat me properly. We have already raised $3,000 of the $4,000 we need and have high hopes that will come in in the next few days. People have been so wonderful. This particular problem has been one of the most painful in my life, but pain teaches so many things, and I still have a lot to learn. I have learned how many people care about me and our mission and that has filled me with hope and enthusiasm for the future and my work here. When you answer God’s call, you don’t make conditions and deal the obstacles as they arise. We don’t only do mission when it’s convenient and painless for us. We do mission because not to do it is not be a follower of Christ. Picking up that cross is a necessary thing. If you haven’t done it, get ready. When the time comes, you must. Remember that Christ is always with you and you will be supported and encouraged by the saints (strugglers for Christ) that surround you—as I am. God bless each of you who struggles to be the best Christian you can be.
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
“Whenever you feel a little stricken down in pain, think about this. The knife has to be sharpened by striking and rubbing it against something strong before it can become useful! You are going to be great after the struggles.” ― Israelmore Ayivor
Had a rough night with the doctor here for over four hours, but the main problem has been temporarily resolved. I have been confined to bed until the properly sized medical equipment can be purchased in Musoma. Seems I am a tad larger than the average Tanzanian (okay a lot bigger than a tad)—which is hardly news to me. Was supposed to meet with the oncologist today, Dr. Masumo, but he had an emergency in Italy, so that meeting has been postponed. Notice that I wrote “the” oncologist and not “an” oncologist because there is only one in this country. Happily, he lives and works in Mwanza, just a three hour drive from here. Unhappily, he is out of the country at the moment. We have to postpone any surgery until he gives the all clear because under certain conditions, surgery would be the worst thing we could do. I may be facing chemo-therapy and possibly radiation. I don’t think my body can absorb any more radiation since I had a two-month daily dose for cancer on my head years and years ago. I would go early in the morning and get treated and then go to work at the church. I had lots of problems with my memory during those months and missed meetings and services which did not go unnoticed. Only found out with three days left in my treatment that I was not supposed to be working but going home to rest. Ah well, what can you do? Around that same time, I had to have some extremely painful surgery to correct a problem that most doctors said was inoperable. I was on powerful pain killers that also caused me problems at work, but no one there ever knew. When I found a doctor who did do the surgery, quite successfully, the only person from the church who visited me in the hospital was a singer in the praise band. Thank you, Mimi Vines. You always need to be kind to everyone even those who seem to be causing problems because you never know what quiet pain and struggling with which they have to deal. I was blessed that there were many who were kind to me during that period and have forgiven all those who were antagonistic—they just didn’t know. Hey, that sounds familiar, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” Many, many thanks to those of you who have already sent financial contributions. Some came from folks on my watch forum, some from seven different countries, and even some from grown ups who were five-year-olds when they had Karen as their kindergarten teacher. Our spirits rise from such gifts. God bless you all.
Monday, November 21, 2016
“Never pity missionaries; envy them. They are where the real action is -- where life and death, sin and grace, Heaven and Hell converge.” ― Robert C. Shannon
The good news is I can have surgery to correct my current problems with my prostate. The bad news is the only urologist in Tanzania (a very good, Christian man) is out doing surgery with people who can’t afford to go to the hospital in rural Tanzania until next Thursday, but he will be back. He did the surgery I had in February of 2013 and is a very good doctor. His father was also a urologist and he owns his own surgical equipment so he can operate on those with no money with no interference from the hospital. The only downside to all this is that the bill for all he is going to do for me will be about $4,000.00 USD. Here, as in other very poor countries, the hospital wants full payment before they will even admit you as few have insurance and many cannot pay. We have no insurance and are running our mission on our Social Security and retirement. I would rather have a root canal than ask for money for myself, especially since so many helped me just last January. Still, if you do want to contribute, you can do so through the One Book Foundation at 1910 Old Wire Road, Fayetteville, Arkansas, 72703. They will give you a tax deduction number for your contribution, but please note that the money is for medical expenses. If you want, and for small donations that don’t need tax write-off, you can donate through PayPal. Please no donations through PayPal of $500 or more as they become convinced I am running a scam if you do and will freeze the funds. You go to PayPal, then to contributions, and then, when they ask for an email address, you put in firstname.lastname@example.org which is an account my son set up. If no one donates anything, we will still go through with this as we have no other options if I am to have another Christmas. God has always provided and we are confident that this is no exception. Surgery will be as soon as this Friday or maybe next Monday, but it will be soon. My doctor here assures me he will make sure I live to keep my appointment in Mwanza, and he, too, is a good Christian man who serves the poor as well. If, and it’s a big “if,” we get more money than we need, all the excess will go to buying mosquito nets, Bibles in Swahili, breeding goats for widows, food and clothes for orphans, or any of the other projects we currently have underway. You have been so wonderful to us for the past eleven years, we really can’t expect any more from you. Of course, prayers every day for the next couple of weeks are really needed, probably more than money. Yes, I know this is right before Christmas but the timing was God’s, not mine. Whatever support you can give from prayers, messages of encouragement, or any financial assistance you can afford—whatever, we are grateful. We love you and could never have done anything here without you. You are God’s children and are blessed. There probably won’t be any blogs for several days from next Friday on, but Karen will post updates on Facebook, so check there. Again, God bless each and every one of you for we could have never answered God’s call without you.