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Published: February 5th 2012
Last week was a bizarre week. Nothing specific happened that made it so bizarre. Nor did I have any specifics emotions/reactions that made it bizarre. Which is exactly why it was so bizarre. I'm in South Africa. I'm in a rural village at a district hospital. I see patients with AIDS, drug-resistant TB, worms, etc... Diseases which I would never see in the US. It is 80-90 degrees in January. I am sunburnt in February. I just went on a game drive and saw lions, zebras, giraffes, elephants, rhinos, wildebeast, water buffalos, etc... I should have some emotion/reaction. The thing is I didn't/haven't. I'm not entirely sure why. The only explanation is that I've kind of already seen those things before. They aren't exactly new. They aren't exactly mysteries. I kind of expected all of those experiences. I haven't had that enthusiasm you get when seeing something for the first time. It is kind of like I'm watching one of my favorite movies for the second or third time. I still enjoy the movie, but I know the ending. No surprises. Am I learning things? Tons. Am I being pushed and stretched? Sure. Is it new? Yes and no. It's more just kind of bizarre.
Thinking about it in terms of "mystery" made me think about something which I've thought a lot about in the last 12 months -- the mystery of faith. You know the one that is said in most liturgical services -- "Christ has died, Christ is risin, Christ will come again." That is a true mystery. No matter how many times I repeat that or how long I dwell on it it still remains a mystery. I suppose that is something which differentiates between things which are temporal and things which are eternal. We can kind of figure out most temporal things and they cease to be mysteries. Not so much with eternal things.
Enough of that, you don't want to hear my rambling, shoddy theology. You'd rather hear about our dinner last Thursday night. So all the doctors (who are all about 27-35 years old) invited us students to join them for dinner and a campfire out at a nearby lake. Brilliant. We arranged to have one of our friends (from Germany) who has rented a car to drive us all out there. Well, the car the German rented is a tiny, Korean import without 4x4. The good South Africans all loaded up in their 4x4 trucks and jeeps. On the way out to the lake we got stuck and had to dig the Korean import out of the sand no less than 3 times. We made it but only with the manpower of half a dozen rugby sized South Africans and probably ruining the undercarraige of the rental. Oh well, at least it's a rental. Dinner and the lake and the company was fantastic.
You probably should know about Sipho (pronounced "See-poe"). He's my patient who has AIDS and disseminated Kaposi's sarcoma (basically a cancer of the blood vessels). Sipho's leg are about twice what they should be due to swelling. Siphos can barely breath because he has fluid around his lungs. Sipho is in constant pain. Sipho is probably going to die before I leave. I don't think Sipho knows he is going to die soon. I don't know how to tell him and I probably shouldn't be the one doing so. Sipho's story is sad, but the worst part is that it is a story shared by many patients here. I don't tell you about Sipho to make you feel guilty or depressed. I tell you because God is teaching me through Sipho. For some reason only God can explain, Sipho trusts me. We can only communicate very basically in English and I can do very little to relieve his pain and suffering let alone extend his life. Yet he trusts me. Why I will probably never know.
I'm exactly where God wants me to be, doing what I love, learning a lot. It's time to go take some fluid off of Sipho's lungs.
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