Thursday, July 2, 2015

"Bittersweet" - Revisited by Frank Black

“BITTERSWEET” – Revisited  (Medical Missions)

(F Black – July 2015)

I was reminded of my article, entitled “Bittersweet”, written upon return from serving at Chimala Mission Hospital last year.  Here I am one year later having again just returned from serving there. After re-reading the article from last year, I thought I’d just have it reprinted.  Not really. But little has changed in the interim – in fact, little has changed in the Hospital and the Village in the 20 years since Lou Ann and I lived and served there (1992-1997).  This is one of the distinctions in answering, “What is Third World?” àCHANGE: LITTLE and very SLOWLY!!”  The only glaring exception is the presence of the cell phone.  Even Masaai men, cattle herders from deep in the “bush”, have cell phones.  They’re cheap, and people pay for their minutes of usage. -- I always wonder, “Who calls them?”

       First of all let me tell you what I didn’t miss during our month in Tanzania.  We had no TV, no internet connection, etc. Beginning to get the point?  No politics; no info about bombings and other distant tragedies; no incessant info leading up to the Supreme Court’s decisions of last week. Very refreshing!  We could totally focus on our quite challenging tasks at hand. This brings me naturally to the question, “Why do you go there?”  The one word answer is NEED.  So many people are so sick and have basically no money and no access to even limited medical care.  Our medical team is able to provide good quality care at no cost to as many as possible.  At the same time we endeavor to show people the love and compassion that Jesus showed in His healing.  He gave us medical missionaries what I call our “marching orders”:  Jesus sent them out (His disciples) to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9:2).

       I’ll give you just a few examples of the galactical differences in your world and the world of the people of Chimala:

       The evil spirit world (animism) is all too alive and well.  One morning there was a disturbance at the hospital.  It seems the uncle of a three year old albino child had come during the night to steal the child from his mother.  Why? He planned to sacrifice the child and sell his body parts for witchcraft activities (apparently in the evil spirit world the genetic difference of albinism holds some “special power.”).The boy’s mother and some other family helped fight off the uncle.  The child was uninjured but his mother was admitted for some injuries.  The uncle had been apprehended and was taken by the police. My comment to the people there was, “Mungu amekuwa na uwezo zaidi.” (God has more power). 

       We had a seventeen year old girl die from complications of “local medicine” she took to cause a miscarriage. Abortion is illegal in Tanzania, plus it is a disgrace to a girl’s family if she becomes pregnant out of wedlock. [How refreshing! – and it’s called “Third World”]. At this same time we had another young girl who took the same ‘medicine’.  She survived but did lose the baby. 

       They sound much less dramatic and almost mundane; but trust me, we save more lives treating malaria, dysentery, and pneumonia than the much more ‘exotic’ sounding diseases. 

       Difficult decisions:  The first thing one morning I was checking Obstetrics as usual. There were two women in labor with their first pregnancies. Both women were having difficulty, and both babies were showing signs of extreme distress.  I sent the lady for a C-section first whose baby seemed in the most distress. Shortly after surgery, the baby did well.  There was about an hour between the two C-section cases. The second baby was severely depressed – not breathing on its own for about 45 minutes.  The baby died the next day.  Why am I telling you this?   We have one operating room. A decision had to be made as to who went first. The extra hour was just too damaging to the baby.  Two simultaneous C-sections were needed.  Just not possible. Add this to the list, “What is Third World?” Can you just imagine the ramifications of such a situation in the USA!!?

       On a much lighter note:  We had a hippopotamus bite one day.  Fortunately, the man was able to outrun the hippo and was bitten on ye ol’ bohunkus. - Not something you’re likely to see in the St. Francis ER.


       Of course most of my time was taken up being a doctor, but I was able to give devotionals at the hospital, pray with patients, speak at church, and give a series of talks on HIV/AIDS – some for the hospital staff and some during a Seminar for young adults held at the church on the Mission.  In addition to dispelling fallacies about the disease I always emphasize that God’s Laws of Sexual Behavior are the best prevention. [As per my article last year, HIV/AIDS is a huge problem in Chimala where it is spread heterosexually]


       It was a special pleasure for Lou Ann and me to have our granddaughter, Hope Faidley,with us.  She’s mature well beyond her 16 years.  She didn’t just “tag along” but pitched right in and helped us medically, just like the Harding senior nursing students.

       I conclude with the same quote used last year:

              “You have the blessing of location.

             They are the victims of location.”

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