Thursday, November 19, 2015

“God's command 'Go ye, and preach the gospel to every creature' was the categorical imperative. The question of personal safety was wholly irrelevant.” ― Elisabeth Elliot

Our good Dr. Chris came by yesterday to check on my latest skin cancers.  He found four that will have to be excised and set a date for Sunday afternoon, November 29th.  I haven’t been keeping a very accurate count, but this will be about the fourteenth or fifteenth excisions for skin cancer over the years.  I have had a large one on the back of my right hand (size of a quarter) removed by a Norwegian missionary doctor some years ago here in Bunda, another slightly larger one removed from the side of my head (just over my right ear) by a doctor in Mwanza, and Dr. Chris removed one from my jaw just about six months ago.  I’ve had them removed mostly from my head, and once had about half of my right ear removed in Rogers, Arkansas. That one was about a year before we moved to Africa, and the doctor was a friend of a doctor who was one of my parishioners, so he did the work for free.  I was very grateful.  I was perfectly willing to live with a disfigured ear as I was happily married, not dating, and my wife had never been attracted to me for my ears.  However, this doctor was intent on rebuilding the ear in spite of my protests about not being able to pay.  He said it was on him.  He did such a good job that sometimes I can’t remember which ear it was.  He took skin and cartilage from other places on me and built it better than before.  Sadly, I don’t even remember his name, but he was certainly one of my angels.  I also had so many in one spot on the top of my head that I had to have two months of radiation treatment (no hair and a target painted on the top of my head).  The hair grew back everywhere but where the target was painted.  All these cancers have been malignant (not a benign one in the bunch), but, so far, they have all been basil cell carcinomas or squamous cell carcinomas and therefore never fatal.  That one bad melanoma I had (see yesterday’s blog) means that I always have to have skin cancers that change shape or color removed—just in case.  It also means all three of my sons have to do the same.  John has had the most removed, I think, because I remember having to hold him when he was small and the doctor removed four from his head.  Now you might be asking yourself, what in the world is someone with such a propensity for skin cancer doing living in equatorial Africa where even the locals say that “jua mkali” the sun is fierce?  It’s quite simple.  I didn’t decide to come here to live, I was called here by God to expand His kingdom.  You don’t get to have exclusionary clauses in your contract with God.  When you say, “I will go for you,” you have said all you need to say.  Yes, it is annoying, and yes, it is painful, but nobody promised me a fun-filled, pain free time as a missionary.  There is a female missionary about an hour north of us who had breast cancer, flew back to her home country and underwent surgery and chemotherapy, but she is right back here, continuing to serve God and His children.  She’s one of my heroes.  Nobody said it was going to be easy—just that it would be worth it.  The former dean of my seminary once said, “I wish I could say that serving God would always be fun, but it won’t.  It will always be important.”  I agree.  As Paul says, “We fight the good fight.”  We don’t give up, and we don’t go home when things don’t work out.  God has seen to all our needs so far, and I don’t see anything changing that.  He said, “Who will go?” and we said, “Here we are, send us.”
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