So much has been happening here in the last couple of days that has our hearts and our minds spinning. Not so much things that have just recently happened, as things that happen all the time here that we’re just beginning to learn about and understand. It’s a lot to fit into one post, but I’m going to try.
The work team that came in with us left yesterday. The amount of work on that building that they accomplished in the week and a half of being here is truly amazing. Also, in the limited amount of time we got to spend with them, friendships were made, and they will already be missed. And yes, I’ve already established that I am not quite cut out for doing construction work, and that I’m now working on the website for the hospital which is much more up my alley, but I can’t help but feel like I’ve missed out on something by not being down there with the team everyday. I feel pulled in two different directions, one in using my gifts to make a wider difference through creating a new website that will hopefully drive more people to an interest in helping and supporting the hospital, and another in being down among the people of Gabon, the patients, and the hospital staff, forming relationships, and doing what I can to help tell their stories. While I work on the website, I am isolated, seemingly missing out on the adventure of being here. But being down with the people, I am uncomfortable, limited by the language barrier, and outside of my giftings.
Meghan is trying out surgery for a few days at the hospital, and so far it’s been really challenging. She is not used to standing all day long, not to mention wearing all the hot garb, the mask, the gloves, the scrubs in operating rooms that are not truly air conditioned. She came back for lunch yesterday at 3 p.m. dripping in sweat. Also the cases are not at all like those you would normally see in the states. Yesterday, they removed a 20 lb. mass from a woman’s uterus… she looked pregnant going in, but it was definitely not a baby. There’s also very little to protect a patient’s privacy, as they had to fight a local news crew from coming right into the OR as they were operating on a man who had gotten into a fight with someone with a glass bottle! It also seems that there is sometimes a lack of compassion among a few of the doctors and residents at the hospital towards their patients. Many of the patients are terminally ill, but no one comes to inform them on their situation. Sometimes, the doctor callously strips away a patient’s hope without offering words of comfort, such as the African resident who removed the woman’s uteran mass and told her that she would never have kids (which is a big deal in this culture), then asked why she was crying. Other times, a patient’s needs are greater than what the surgeons or the hospital can provide, so they tell them to go home (which is usually several days’ journey) and come back in several months when another surgeon may be visiting who may or may not be able to help the situation.
But before your opinion of this hospital started to cloud over, let me just say that the work that this place does is amazing. Everything over here is extreme compared to what we’re used to seeing back home, and thus it is difficult to handle each case perfectly. And compared to any other hospital in this country or in those surrounding, this place is a beacon of light. The missionary doctors and nurses who began serving here and continue to serve here are following God’s call to help the poor and impoverished. The cost of care here is significantly less than hospitals in Libreville, and the quality of care is exponentially greater. Bongolo is a hospital for the poor, while other hospitals only cater to the rich. There is a boy here who got treated for an ankle injury at a Libreville hospital where they injected some medicines into his butt which then became so infected (probably from dirty needles or improper medicine) that all the skin on his back side and up his back died. Now he is here at Bongolo being treated, although it has already progressed beyond his chances for a normal recovery, all because of negligent, uncaring doctors at a government hospital who failed to treat a simple injury. The doctors who work at Bongolo are not here to make money, but the hospital is in danger of going under in future years (after the missionaries retire) because none of the African doctors are willing to give up the large government-paid salaries to come live out in the jungle and serve poor people. Which brings me to my final point…
Our hearts are heavy for the people of Gabon and Africa as a whole. It seems as though they’ve never been taught how to live Christ-led lives, only that they should be born again so they don’t go to hell when they die. Sadly, the Christian & Missionary Alliance has stopped sending missionaries to Gabon because they’ve deemed it evangelized, after all, there are churches in every town and village, and Gabon is technically a “Christian nation” (sound familiar?). However, the gospel message stops tragically short of discipleship, and many of the people merely add Jesus to their list of spiritual practices, including witchcraft. Satan is not stupid, and I can easily see how he has dismantled the power and effectiveness of the Gospel in this way. We feel helpless to be able to make a change in these situations that are enormously bigger than us, but we know that we serve a God who is even greater than these demonic strongholds. At the least, we can begin to get the word out to start praying and shedding light on some of the spiritual darkness that exists here.
Please take a few minutes and pray for the people of Gabon, and Africa, and those called to serve here that they would not only bring the Gospel message, but also the message of the Kingdom of God, that His Kingdom is not just for the afterlife, but was meant to be lived out right now, here on earth in places of deepest darkness.