Saturday, June 30, 2012

Life in Africa!

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.  You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good words and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 5:13-16

There are many things in this world that influence people’s perspectives and opinions.  Usually people aren’t swayed too easily; however there are cases when one’s view can change in a moment.  I have been in Africa only one week; and yet this one week has impacted me greatly.  Each night I lie in bed dumbfounded at life.  Life, what is life?  As this question is answered clearly in my mind I have missed the importance of it and the wonderful gift it is.  You could say that in the last week my eyes have been opened immensely too how much I take for granted.  I honestly can’t express in words what I have seen.  African’s have so little and yet they value life and more importantly each other.  They aren’t all about themselves, but rather are more concerned for the well being of others. 

Eight days ago I traveled with a team of nine to Togo, West Africa. For the first few days we became acclimated to our surroundings.  We had much to observe.  You could definitely say culture shock.  All I can say is American’s are spoiled rotten, even the poorest of the poor. To put it into perspective a C-section in the area of Africa I am in costs $5-15 depending on the hospital one goes to.  To be honest sometimes it makes me sick in my stomach just thinking about how much I have complained and what I take for granted.  African’s walk miles to go to school, work or get water.  Women will carry two huge bowls of coal or wood on top of their head (30-50lbs) with a baby strapped to their back for many miles.  When is the last time you saw that in the States – never!  They are the hardest working people I have seen, especially the women and children; and they always have a smile on their faces.   They are very friendly, honestly there are few instances when I pass people where I don’t here them say Bonjour to me and ask me how I am even though all I know how to say back is bonjour. 

My first day here we went on a tour of the hospital.  For the past week our team has mainly been working in the Warehouse, we call it the Magazine.  We basically have been organizing and inventorying all the medical supplies.  It is very overwhelming because they have had no one to manage it so when shipments come in boxes basically get thrown into storage.  The hospital really doesn’t know what they have so it is our job to organize it all.  It has definitely been a test for all of us because it’s not the first job I would sign up for if you know what I mean.  In any case we are making progress, slowly. 

Yesterday was my first full day at the hospital.   I followed an American PA in the morning and then followed a Togolese PA in the afternoon in the clinics.  I greatly enjoyed working with both of them.   My first day was definitely difficult because you never know who will walk through the door.  The hardest thing is that almost all of the patients that die in the hospital would not have died had they been in America.  There was so much I saw yesterday, so much pain and yet happiness mixed within.   I saw children and adults with malaria, meningitis, surgery patients, and premature babies.  One premy baby is called Koku and she is a miracle baby.  She was born a month ago and weighs 408g, so tiny and so adorable.  Seventy-five percent of the children were admitted due to Malaria.  For Africa this is the season for Malaria because of rainstorms, which means many deaths.  The average kid in America probably doesn’t even know what malaria is and it is one of the number one killers of children in Africa.   Thus far while being here there have been five deaths in the hospital, two within the last 24hrs. One was an elderly lady who I actually worked with yesterday, she died early in the morning from congestive heart failure.  The other was a girl only the age of 15.  I was actually viewing a surgery when we heard of her death, which was difficult because this morning she was walking and seemed to be recovering well.  African’s take death extremely hard.  In fact they view it as the most important event in one’s life, especially if you are old because you would have made a name for yourself.  You almost always know when someone dies in the hospital because of the mourning.  There has been so much to take in within the last week, just even the last day.  At night my brain runs a million miles a minute, which is good except for when I need sleep. 

Briefly the thing I have loved most is working with Believers.  In the hospital the very first page of everyone’s medical chart is their spiritual state followed by their medical records.  For every patient we see we will pray with them before we go to the next patient.  This has been very compelling.  Also the staff is absolutely wonderful.  There are many short-term missionaries here as well as long.  Our team stays in the guest house along with other short-term doctors who stay in guest rooms.  We all have breakfast, lunch, and dinner together, which I love.  I have met some incredible people. 

Well that is my short update, haha, there is so much more to tell.  God has been so good and our team has remained relatively healthy, a few upset stomachs.  My knee hasn’t given me many problems thanks to a fantastic African stationary bike that one of the missionaries made for me.  Please continue to keep our team in your prayers and the work we will be doing here.  These last two days have been hard but good just with everything we have seen in the hospital.  Also remember the Togolese.  Animism is very prevalent in Africa.  Each village has a ‘god’ that they believe protects them along with the wind, earth, sun, etc ‘god’.  If something bad happens they believe it is because they have disobeyed the ‘gods’ and thus have an evil spirit upon them.  There is a great need for the truth of the One True God.

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”  Psalm 27:1 

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