The cottage where we are staying is about 200 yards from the hospital. The walk ‘home’ is winding, parts are rocky and even though there are a few lights along the way, it is very dark at night. Last week I was walking home in the middle of the night. It was cool, almost cold and perfectly clear, not a cloud in the sky. There were more stars than I have ever seen blanketing the African sky. The moon was about a quarter and two stars (maybe planets) looked so big that I felt I could almost reach out and touch them.
I had just done a complex operation on a small baby. The case had gone well. The baby did fine. And as I reflected on that little patient, I was so grateful that over 20 years ago I had spent 6 months of my life at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. I was so thankful that Dr. Steve Golladay had shown me how to diagnose children with surgical problems, so grateful that we spent countless hours in the operating room together. First he showed me how to do the operation (that I had just done), then he patiently watched as I did the surgery, then he trusted me to do the operation alone. And now over 20 years later, in a remote part of Africa, that investment has made a difference in a small child’s life.
And then my mind was flooded with all the people who have taught me so much—about surgery, about life, about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. I’m so grateful to Dr. Everett Tucker and Dr. Hugh Burnett—my partners for many years in Little Rock. Countless times I’ve been doing cases this month, and small technical “gems” that they gave me many years ago has made all the difference in a case going well. Yesterday I was dissecting the superior mesenteric vein off the backside of the pancreas (a difficult and dangerous part of the operation) and their wisdom and instruction guided me the whole way. I’m so thankful to Dr. Kent Westbrook who instilled in me principles of surgery that are still a part of what I do everyday here in Africa.
I’m so grateful for my dad who planted the seed of missions inside of me as a small boy. His example and his passion to ‘reach the unreached and tell the untold’ is still a big part of who I am today. I’m thankful to my mom who taught me, by her example, the love and compassion of Jesus toward people who are in need. I’m grateful to my pastors and friends in Little Rock who reached out to me when I was hurting. They taught me to run TO the wounded, not away from them. I’m grateful to my brother who taught me the power of my thoughts, and my sisters and sister-in-law who show me how to passionately follow Jesus. And I’m grateful to Duncan and David and Wendell and Simone and JT and MA (I could go on and on) who have demonstrated to me what it is like to walk side-by-side as friends for the long haul. And grateful for Jenn, words aren’t adequate to convey what an impact you have made in my life.
I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to operate on that small child last week and I’m so glad that during a walk home under a starry African sky God reminded me to be thankful for the people who have made an investment and had a lasting impact on my life.
From Africa with love,