J Walking

J Walking

The Uganda confession

Thanks for your comments and emails about my blogging problem.
Thank you too for the exhortations to keep talking and processing and exhorting and confessing.
There is a single moment I cannot get out of my mind.
It occurred on my last full day in country. I was at the hospital, with the kids suffering from cancer, walking back into the building bringing something inside.
When I walked in, I saw the lone nurse – the completely, thoroughly untrained nurse… the one who didn’t know how to change the dressing on a wound – injecting something into the IV port on a little girl’s hand. She screamed, screamed. I chased the nurse down to figure out what she had done and she just casually said she’d injected a cocktail of antibiotics into the girl.
I flashed back to a moment in 2003 when I was lying in the hospital after my brain surgery and the IV drip of my antibiotics was turned just a bit too high. The veins on my left arm burned, my arm ached, my fingers grew numb. And that was an IV drip.
The nurse had injected a powerful cocktail of drugs directly into the little girl’s veins. I had to steady myself against the wall. The blood had rushed out of my head. I walked outside to try and get air and my little video camera. I don’t know why I pulled out the camera. It isn’t that the moment was something I particularly wanted to watch over and over but I just wanted to record what was happening.
To my horror they brought in another little boy – a frail little boy who I had been playing balloon volleyball with moments before; a little boy who didn’t have the strength to stand.
The little boy was screaming so hard he threw up what little food and water he had inside of him.
I spun – I just spun. There was absolutely nothing I could do. The moments of happiness we brought with a few pillows or balloons were overcome by the darkness. I was in a hive of suffering and nothing I could do could change it.
The complicated truth of the whole thing is that that boy and that girl were the lucky ones. Somehow they had actually gotten the precious antibiotics that might ward off infections – that might save their lives. There were many in that place who probably longed for those moments of agony.
But that is so much a part of the desperation of the place – even the good is wrapped in the horrible.
This image, this experience as much – more – than any other moment in the trip has broken me.
It has broken me because I am so close to it. I know a bit of what it is like. It doesn’t require pure imagination I can feel it. I can put myself on the other side of the needle as both patient or parent to a child. It is a suffering I cannot bear and cannot understand. I can’t get beyond that moment and the reality that even now as I write and you read this is happening. This makes it hard for me to care much about who won the debate in Ohio.
Part of the other problem is that this is all so UN-original. It is, frankly, so very cliched. I’m not even the 1,000,000th person to have come back from Africa with these stories – with stories far worse. Nothing I write here is actually terribly unique.
It feels like I have traded in my 10-year-old big, think cashmere sweater and faded jeans for burlap. Not only can’t I get cozy, I just can’t get comfortable.

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posted February 27, 2008 at 12:27 am

i’m sorry david. i’m here, listening and knowing to the extent that anyone else can know. i’m here praying for you and for those kids, the lucky ones and the unlucky ones. i’m wishing i could say something that would help. peace my brother.

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Trish Ryan

posted February 27, 2008 at 7:16 am

I’m not sure what to say, but it seemed important to say something.
I’m reading a book right now about how we can/should live our lives as people who believe in Jesus. It’s interesting, in all the usual ways. But what you wrote today wipes all those pithy bits of advice away. I mean, How ARE we supposed to live, knowing what’s going on in the world around us? It makes so many things we focus on seem utterly ridiculous, and yet it’s not as if giving up the ridiculous things here helps remedy the suffering in other places. It just leaves us stuck. This can’t be what Jesus had in mind…

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Psalm 51, me too.

posted February 27, 2008 at 8:12 am

Living like we actually believe in Jesus, they way he wanted us to. Even Ghandi knew that that would help the world. David, we have to reject what has happened to our “western” world and what it has done to the Christian Community. When that log is removed, then we can finish the job you got involved in for the poor and needy, the widow and the orphan.
My friend, the children I have expereinced in THIS country, are suffering very badly as well. Their screams go unnoticed because they are are not thin and they are not poor. But they are abandoned, misled and mistreated all the same.
Keep writing about an important theme of the Bible: To care for the less fortunate in this world. There will come a time when it will end. That is another theme in the Faith delivered only once to the Saints.
The other theme of the Bible is Christ Jesus. According to Jesus they all run together. There is hope David. And that is not just a slogan.
May God continue to bless you David.

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Linda Sue

posted February 27, 2008 at 8:37 am

Amen to Donny’s post. I have not physically felt the pain but had a beloved husband go through agonies of excellent medical care in treating his (eventually) terminal cancer. I don’t have answers. Believing this is a temporary world, we are strangers here and not supposed to be comfortable but I fear right now you are on the extreme end of that scale. Doing what we can is all we can do. I’ve edited this about half a dozen times – trying to say something that doesn’t sound like a raving maniac – I do believe that God is sovereign, He is working through His plan in the world and we’d best be prayin’ thy kingdom come. Bless you – don’t turn off the faucet because it isn’t a fire hydrant – some is better than none.

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posted February 27, 2008 at 9:25 am

Life is hard, God is good and more is beyond our power than within it. I think this is why we are called to compassion and not to problem solving. I’ve always wondered if this was Christ’s message when the woman anointed his head and he rebuked the apostles for criticizing her.

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posted February 27, 2008 at 10:27 am

I can’t go there but I can “see” and “feel” through your writing.
Thank you.

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posted February 27, 2008 at 10:46 am

You don’t have a blogging problem.

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posted February 27, 2008 at 11:09 am

I’m thinking about Donny’s comment that there are children suffering here … we don’t hear their screams because so often they are mental screams. I’m thinking about how mother Theresa used to say Calcutta is everywhere … find your Calcutta. And I’m thinking about a little boy I know whose 19 year old mother just died in a car accident and I can’t help but think that this tragedy might have just saved his life …
We don’t have to go to Africa to see suffering. Some of us are called to go and some of us are called to stay, but all of us are called to Matthew 25.
What’s the Edmund Burke quote? Nobody makes a greater mistake than he who does nothing because he could only do a little.
Ride the wave of your discomfort. Be suspicious of comfort when it comes. In my reading of the bible very little of what we are called to do and be seems comfortable.

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Anne Jackson

posted February 27, 2008 at 3:35 pm

There are those tears. Thanks.

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posted February 27, 2008 at 10:11 pm

“I ran out of answers, a long time ago
So I treasure the questions; some day I will know”
-Martyn Joseph in “Treasure the Questions”

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posted February 28, 2008 at 8:59 am

Thank you for sharing this. Even though it may be unoriginal, it’s what it takes. Your story is personal and important to share.

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posted February 28, 2008 at 12:36 pm

I don’t think you can speak what is on your heart enough times. Until Jesus comes, these stories must be told over and over; because we are His hands. I so admire the courage and selflessness it took to make this trip. I’m still one of those people saying, “one day…”

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Amber Dykes

posted July 24, 2008 at 5:28 am

Hi there! I really appreciated your comment. It is exactly what I needed tonight! It’s good to know I am not the only one that aches for these people. I got back from Uganda June 16th, and it still keeps me up at night (obviously since it’s 5:15 am!). Everyone wanted to hear about my trip when I got back, and I feel like I just can’t speak of it. Mine was not a medical mission, but it became one. God used me to get medical help for two children while I was there that saved their lives, but I felt helpless to save the rest of them. I have been inspired to go to nursing school so that I can do more. I don’t know what the answer is, and it frustrates me! Shamefully I must say I came back from my missions trip more angry with God than closer to Him. I couldn’t wait to come back and talk about my trip and tell everyone what I saw. When I got back, I realized…it WAS unorigional. The disinterest and boredom I experienced from just the first few words I muttered has silenced me for the last two months. I haven’t even had my cell phone on in two weeks now in general. Did you experience this? I look at people with big $500 handbags with letters all over them and can’t help but calculate how many lives the $ for each “C” or “L” printed on the fabric…would have saved. I can’t make sense of where I came from and where I’m at. I’d love to hear how you’ve adjusted to being back? I believe this aching is a life sentence of always seeing their faces in my mind and knowing they are still there, and a gift…a fire inside of me to change things…a curse and a blessing. I even debated going to a counselor…or therapist…something to get me past this… but I can’t imagine anyone here ever understanding. I worked for Compassion Intl for over a year talking about poverty 8 hours a day…and I never truly knew until I went…so how could they?

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