Knowing that you have a disease that might kill you and that has killed neighbor children and loved ones of every staff member gets you to thinking about death—and life. Aristotle said that a life unexamined “isn’t worth the living.” It is good and necessary to think about life and death rather than just “going through the motions” of living. I did that for much of my life primarily because I didn’t want to think about what I was doing or more importantly what I wasn’t doing. Now, as I near my 70th birthday (in November, same day as Prince Charles), I find myself knowing that I could have lived a much better life, yet even as I analyze things, I realize that many of the things I did for the wrong reasons still did good things for other people. I don’t know how God counts doing the right things for the wrong reasons, but I hope it’s better than doing the wrong things whatever the reason. My wife and I were talking the other day about for whom we would “take a bullet” as it were. I discovered that for me the answer is just about everybody who still has a chance to do some good in this world. I know I have wasted much of my life and am truly blessed to have been given this opportunity to spend the last of my life doing as much good for others as I humanly can. However, when we came here, I really didn’t expect to live more than a couple of years. Most of you don’t know that I have an implanted defibrillator sewn into my chest with wires hooked into the bottom of my heart so that if my heart stops (as it did on February 16, 1996, and several times since) the computer will shock my heart back into action. These things have limited lifespans and the one I had when I came to Africa only had two years left. We had no insurance and the operation cost over $50,000, so I knew that I couldn’t replace it and just figured if I got two good years here that would be enough. At least my kids could say their dad died as a missionary in Africa which I thought would be better than say, dying in a retirement home. Sadly and happily for me, a friend got the company that made my device to put in a new one in Nairobi in 2006 for free. The old one just had two months left when the new one went in. It will run out in 2016, so we will see. Maybe now, I really do just have two years left, but the thing is, my heart hasn’t stopped in the last nine years, so maybe I don’t even need it anymore. It seems that God wants me here, alive, to work until He decides I’ve done enough. Well, when He asked me to come here, I did say, “Yes” with no reservations. So, I will serve until God decides the party is over for me. This doesn’t mean no more malaria or other physical or emotional problems, but I’ve dealt with them all so far, and feel confident I can continue. Mitch Albom (who wrote “Tuesdays with Morrie”) says it well,
“We get so many lives between birth and death. A life to be a child. A life to come of age. A life to wander, to settle, to fall in love, to parent, to test our promise, to realize our mortality- and in some lucky cases, to do something after that realization.”
I’m one of those “lucky” cases. Maybe you are, too.