Last week our son Jackson developed high fever and a headache. The fever and headache persisted; he became very lethargic and took very little liquid and no food for almost 3 days. We gathered our family together and asked God to touch him and heal him. We then asked a few of our friends to pray for him as well. What happened then was quite overwhelming. Immediately Dr. Russ arranged for him to have blood work. Our friend Vincent and David (both work in the theatre here at Tenwek) arranged for him to have a spinal tap if necessary. Dr. Steve (one of the long term missionaries here) offered to take care of Jackson for us and took the time out of his already busy schedule to come by our house twice a day to check on his little patient. My friend Dr. Andre went to the trouble to bring IV fluids down to our house and offered to start an IV for Jackson. Dr. Carol and Dr. Zach stop by to have a special time of prayer for Jack. Barbara (long term missionary friend and an instructor in the nursing school) stopped by every evening with little gifts to lift Jack’s spirit. Jenny and her son Isaac (long term missionaries) brought a basket of Popsicle trays and videos and children’s Tylenol and ibuprofen. And EVERYWHERE I went—all through the hospital, all around the mission compound—person after person asked me how Jack was doing and let me know they were praying for him. After 3 days of treatment for malaria, our little boy’s fever went down, his appetite and strength began to return and now he is totally healed and well.
As I thought about all the people that were so concerned about my child, about his health and his well-being and how they went out of their way to do what they could for him—this father’s heart was overwhelmed with gratitude. As I passed through the hospital, as I do every day and I saw all the patients lined up in their beds in the male and females wards, in the ICU, in the nursery and pediatrics, as they waited in the crowded casualty and lined the corridors under the awnings of the outpatient clinics, it was as if God gently reminded me that these are all His children. And if they are sick, He is as concerned about them as I was about my Jackson. And that He is equally grateful to all the people of this mission hospital who are doing what they can to care for His children.
Georgia and Jennifer went out to the villages with Community Health. They were able to help with immunizations, prenatal checks, vitamin distribution and well baby check ups.
One weekend when I wasn’t on call we had a special treat when one of the missionary families took us with them to visit the Aberdares National Park. We drove 5 hours across the Rift Valley, along the edge of the Mau forest then up the Mau escarpment to the national park. We travelled past beautiful mountains covered with bamboo forests. Our cabins were located on the edge of a mountain overlooking a valley full of game. We saw dukier (small antelope), bush buck and water buck (larger animals resembling elk). My kids are convinced they saw another rare animal called a bongo. All along the roads there was sign of elephant and water buffalo. Our cabins were located at an altitude of 10,000 feet—so trust me, without electricity and only a fire in the fireplace, we were COLD at night (all the while we were thinking of all you in Houston with 100 degree weather!). Each morning an attendant built a fire under a water tank so we could have a brief hot shower! What an experience it was to wake up, make a cup of coffee and sit on the veranda to read our Bibles as we overlooked the beauty of God’s creation. We visited several breath-taking waterfalls (see pics), hiked through trails, spotted game and fished in the streams. It was an incredibly refreshing time. In the evenings we would gather our families together, play games, sings songs, read books together, then end the night in prayer. When we left, at the game park exit, the park attendants showed us two tusks they had recently found from a 100 year old elephant that had died of natural causes (see pics). On the drive home, the missionary wife was ill and couldn’t drive one of the vehicles, so for 5 hours I was initiated into driving on the left hand side of the road! Not only did I have to deal with the steering wheel on the right, the stick shift on the left side, the blinker on the right side, I had to dodge pot holes, motorcycles and all sorts of animals! But God gave us “journey mercies” and except for a flat tire (not uncommon in Africa!) we arrived back at the hospital rested and refreshed.
During a busy clinic I was asked by one of the clinical officers if I would be willing to walk over to the medical clinic and see a patient with him. I was happy to help. He took me into a room where a young woman of 19 had been brought to the hospital by her family. Immediately upon entering the room there was the overwhelming odor of a terrible infection. The family said she had a chronic skin disease and four days before she had suddenly developed open, draining sores covering most of her body, sparing only parts of her head and face. When I examined her, 80% of her body was covered with open, draining, bleeding sores that were adherent to and soaking through her clothes. When I saw her for the first time, my heart went out to her. As I looked into her eyes I saw a combination of pain, and despair and a longing plea for hope and help I’ll never forget when the clinical officer asked me if I would be willing to take care of this patient. I remember thinking that I was not only willing, but honored to be asked to care for her.
We immediately took her to the ward, gave her some pain medicine, and slowly and gently several of the interns and nurses pulled her infection-soiled clothes off of her, ever-so-gently applied medical salve to all her wounds and carefully covered them with pure white, sterile bandages. As I watched the scene I was reminded of the Good Samaritan who “went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.” (Luke 10:34) When I saw her the next morning on rounds, she looked totally different, she was smiling and in no pain, still surrounded by her loving family.
Later that night I got a call from one of the resident doctors informing me that one part of her bandages had become soaked with blood (not at all unusual) and that she (Dr. Rosalind) had immediately attended her, making sure she was OK , changing and reinforcing her bandages. About an hour later we were stunned when the nurses said she had suddenly become short of breath and despite all measures to resuscitate her, she had passed into eternity. All of us where overwhelmed with sadness and grief.
I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night as I thought about the fact that I had never asked her or her family if she knew Jesus as her personal Savior. I had assumed that I would have many more days caring for her in the hospital, time to ask her about her faith and give her an opportunity to accept Jesus. But now, all I could do was grieve the opportunity lost.
The next morning at 6 a.m. rounds I discussed this patient with the residents and interns. We discussed the fact that we didn’t know her eternal destiny and that next time, we (myself included), needed to make sure we talk to our patients about their relationship with Jesus before it was too late. Dr. Rosalind gently interrupted when she said, “Dr. Osteen, when I changed her dressing last night, I asked her if she was a Christian. She wasn’t—so I had the opportunity to lead her in a prayer of salvation”—less than an hour before she passed into eternity.
So the lesson I learned, is to never assume that you have another opportunity to ask people if they know Jesus as their Savior. Take advantage of the moment, you may not have another. Thank God Dr. Rosalind was there to attend her; thank God she took the time to ask her if she was assured of her salvation, thank God she took the time to lead her into a prayer that allowed this sick little girl to pass from death into life. At the moment she prayed, Jesus removed the soiled, foul-smelling clothes (filthy rags) of her old life and had replaced them with new garments white as snow. And because of that we will spend eternity together in heaven.