As often as I have written about how happy we are here, I hope that me saying that does not convey the idea that we are without pain and suffering. Everyone, at some time, has to deal with pain and suffering. We are human beings, imperfect, and prone to the same ailments as all those who live as long as Karen and I have. Karen has fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, heart problems, and something that occasionally causes her leg to swell and create pain that no medicine we have here and make go away--only lessen. That is not to say that we don't have doctors who come to our house and who have taken all three of us (not at the same time) in their own vehicle to our little bush hospital. We are very well cared for with what is available locally, but Karen and I are always in pain of some sort and have had to been hospitalized locally and in Arusha and Nairobi, Kenya. John has also been in the hospital here in Bunda with a typhoid like illness that was cured. Our security guard, Amos, volunteered to sleep on the concrete floor of John's hospital room every night he was there. When I was having prostate surgery in Mwanza and hospitalized for eight days, Shaban slept in the room with me every single night. I suffered greatly that week and still do not speak of it. However, and this a big however, we do what we have to like so many others who know that our time here is temporary. We are not asking for pity, although prayers are helpful. I have had surgery with no anesthesia in a bush hospital and learned I could handle more pain than I ever thought I could. The Apostle Paul had his share of suffering and he wrote in Romans 5: 3-5 "3 And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." While I may have doubted this in the past, we all three know now how true it is. We will continue to serve, and our suffering is not without relief at times. We have come to accept these "windows" of overcoming our pain as true gifts from God and assurances that there will come a time when we are clothed in glory and will not be able to remember pain. You all know people who suffer and drag others into their pain. You also know people who suffer in silence and do God's work in spite of it. I found the following quote from Tim Keller that helps us understand our part in this. Mr. Keller wrote that:
“Jesus lost all his glory so that we could be clothed in it. He was shut out so we could get access. He was bound, nailed, so that we could be free. He was cast out so we could approach. And Jesus took away the only kind of suffering that can really destroy you: that is being cast away from God. He took so that now all suffering that comes into your life will only make you great. A lump of coal under pressure becomes a diamond. And the suffering of a person in Christ only turns you into somebody gorgeous.”
I think my wife is gorgeous as I watch her, sometimes with tears from the pain, continue to cut out and make the hats for the uniforms for Santa Caryn Pierce Academy. If she can put the needs of orphans that much ahead of her own pain, how much more beautiful she becomes to me. We are happy. We do hurt. We do love. We do continue to serve. All God asks is that every day, within its circumstances, we are obedient and available. Christ doesn't say to follow Him only when you feel good and have enough money and food. He suffered for us as we suffer for Him, and as Paul wrote, the ultimate relief comes in the hope that is there for us all. Amen.