Day 6

Picture“Okay, we’re finished!  We just saw the last patient.”  Surprisingly, my heart sunk when I heard those words.  There is so much more work to do… so many people whose physical lives are in bondage due to a chronic illness and poverty fueled by a broken political system.  The day’s patient load had been relatively light, and I think my sense was that if I had worked harder I might feel better about the injustice oppressing the clients we came to serve… as if I could even come close to helping them bear their burden.   My goal had been to “figure things out” in the week that I visited, which would lead to a lasting pen pal relationship with the Prime Minister where we discussed the various ways to fix this mess.   I wanted to love the Lord with my whole heart, soul, body, and mind, but my mind was not cooperating!   I am failing!!!  At that moment I was comforted by the words from 1 John 3 that Sally shared in our morning devotional:  “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.  Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God.  Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.  Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence.”  We discussed that we need only to redistribute the love that we had already been given.  If we earnestly tackle one small task at a time, we are doing what we need to do.   In fact, if we all tackle one small task at a time, we make a big difference.  This is certainly demonstrated by Ethiopia ACT Project with whom we are partnering, but their baby steps are evolving into giant, empowering steps.

PictureThe Ethiopia AIDS Care and Treatment (ACT) Project cares for nearly 500 families affected by in AIDS in Addis Ababa.  Beneficiaries receive individualized support to meet their needs on distribution day, which happened to be today.  (This will humble you: an average family’s needs include a bar of laundry soap, a liter of oil, the teff grain necessary to make enough injira “bread” for the month, and at times money for housing rent).  They help the beneficiaries begin income generating activities, and they make sure the children have all their school expenses covered.  They have three tiers of beneficiaries that are aimed to lead to graduation of the beneficiaries to self sufficiency.  ACT facilitates referrals to the appropriate doctors and clinic in the area, and they help cover the cost of medications when needed.   This is all supplemented by visiting teams of medical professionals like ours, who treat both acute and chronic illnesses.   (www.mtwact.org if you are interested….)

PictureAs it turns out, though, sometimes the patients were incredibly forgiving when we could not “fix the problem” (less forgiving than I was).  I saw a patient today who had a new tremor and weakness.  She likely had a benign tremor, but I had two problems. 1)The early stage of illness could mean that this was the beginning of something more serious, and I would not be around to keep an eye on the patient.  2) I had only one medicine in my Ethiopian pharmacy that could treat this tremor, and it was not appropriate given her other medical problems.  PictureWhile I was able to address a few of her other issues, I profusely apologized that I could do nothing for this tremor, that could eventually jeopardize her profession washing clothes and potentially threaten her ability to care for her family.  Instead of walking away upset, she grabbed both of my hands, proclaiming, “I love you!”. My patient then kissed my hands four times.  I was stunned.  When recounting this with the team tonight and dwelling on my guilt of being unable to help, Sally commented how wonderful it was to be loved for who I was instead of what I could produce or what I had to give.  What a concept!  My patient gave one of the most wonderful gifts I’ve ever been gifted, and her spirit reflection the affection and humble acceptance I saw in most everyone I met during my stay.  It’s too bad we are going home… I still have a lot to learn…